From Publishers Weekly
In the 1950s, Caesar was to comedy what Marlon Brando was to drama. Gifted in dialects, double-talk, linguistic logistics, mime, music, monologues and satirical sketches, all executed with razor-sharp timing, Caesar created "comedy based on truth" and received acclaim as a comic genius. His fade-out from the tube by the end of that decade left many wondering where he went. Caesar answered that question in his autobiography, Where Have I Been? (1982). Now, collaborating with film critic Friedfeld, he offers a satisfying salmagundi of memoir mixed with a probe into the mechanics of merriment. He opens with memories of saxophone lessons during his Yonkers, N.Y., childhood, followed by comedy in the Catskills. After studying at Juilliard, he played in several orchestras, and his WWII Coast Guard shows led to Hollywood, Broadway and TV's Admiral Broadway Revue (1949). On his legendary Your Show of Shows (1950-1954) and Caesar's Hour (1954-1957), he worked with the era's top comedy writers (Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon), and one chapter echoes the chortles and chaos of the famed Writers' Room (later recreated in films by Brooks, Reiner and Simon): "The energy in the Writers' Room was like a cyclotron.... No one ever finished a sentence that I can remember." Detailing many of his classic routines (some with script excerpts), Caesar's prose is appealing, informal and fun to read. Chapters like "The Art of Sketch Comedy" make this required reading for directors, writers and performers. Eight pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
More than twenty years ago, Caesar delivered a memoir ("Where Have I Been?") that detailed his rise to comic stardom in the fifties and the addiction to alcohol and tranquillizers that obliterated the next two decades. This volume revisits much of the same material, but with greater focus on the sources of Caesar's style—for instance, he learned his trademark "double-talk," a stream of nonsense sounding plausibly like a foreign language, from listening to the immigrant clientele at his father's luncheonette. Some of his influences are more predictable than others. He admires the way Chaplin and Keaton worked "both sides of the street," playing humor off against pathos. Caesar was a professional saxophone player before he moved into comedy, and he feels that that skill "was integral to my performing."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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