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Comedy Legends Revisit TV's Golden Era

7 Sep, 2001 By: John Jimenez

Comic legends like Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon all join Sid Caesar on Creative Light Entertainment's release of The Sid CaesarCollection — The Fan Favorites on VHS and DVD Sept. 4.

The three-video release contains sketches from “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar's Hour,” topped with interviews with many of the writers andstars, including Allen, Brooks and Caesar himself. On VHS, it sells as a set for $49.95 or $19.95 each. On DVD, it's $69.95 for the set or $24.95 each.

It's great, Caesar says, because “you can go back 50 years and see a sketch, and talk to the person who wrote it. Can you imagine if youcould talk to Beethoven?”

“The sketches are picked for laughter,” says Rich Tackenberg, CreativeLight's president of production, but the interviews add a little bit ofhistory.

Many of the celebrities who agreed to do interviews are generally tight-lipped, especially Allen, who refuses to do commentaries even forhis own movies.

“But Woody said, ‘Anything for Sid. You name the time and I'll be there,’ Tackenberg says.

The collection is the second of its kind by Creative Light. The Sid Caesar Collection came out last year and a third three-video release is planned.

The first collection contained some of Caesar's biggest sketches, and e-mail feedback from fans influenced the selection of sketches used in The Fan Favorites.

“It's wonderful. It's like a rebirth,” Caesar says. “It came out better than I envisioned because they digitalized it,” making for clearer picture and sound than the original presentation 50 years ago.

Caesar didn't want to put it on television, he says, because there are far more advertising minutes now than when the shows aired. “Those guys would chop it to pieces [to make it fit],” he says. “And they don't knowwhere to cut.” All the sketches were originally done live.

The great thing about the collection is, “You put it on, and you don't have to worry about your kids sitting there. When we did these,‘pregnant' was a dirty word,” he says.

Tackenberg agrees. “Grandparents who remember watching it for the first time can enjoy watching it with their grandkids,” he says, adding that it doesn't even approach subjects not appropriate for children.But it is hilarious, he says. “Sid set the standard for comedy in the golden era.”

“The main thing about writing comedy is you have to believe what they're doing. It can't be totally off the wall,” Caesar says. “We had atremendous, tremendous staff. I was very lucky.”

The DVD version contains some extras not on the VHS, including one extra sketch on each disc, an original script, photo galleries and a Caesar audio commentary of a signature sketch on each disc. Perhaps the mostimportant thing, however, is scene selection, Tackenberg says, because it offers viewers instant access to each individual sketch.

The collection is available at retail and online at www.SidCaesar.com. Anyone who orders from the Web site will receive a fourth bonus videowith two movie parodies.

The marketing will mainly be a grassroots campaign, highlighted by Caesar appearances on “Larry King” and other talk shows.

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