Before “Saturday Night Live” and “The Carol Burnett Show,” there was Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” the pioneer of television sketch comedy. Here are five classic moments that featured Caesar, who died Wednesday at age 91:
— The Clock: A sweet, crazy fable about a Bavarian clock that sputters and speeds up, acted out with unfaltering precision by Caesar and company as a quartet of mechanical village figures waddle out from the clock at the top of the hour.
— This Is Your Story: An unforgettable spoof of the hit TV and radio series “This Is Your Life,” which featured unsuspecting studio audience members (famous and non-famous) being spontaneously honoured and reunited with old friends and relatives. Carl Reiner plays the ever-smiling host and Caesar an ordinary man who would prefer to remain ordinary — slapping Reiner away upon hearing he’s been chosen, smacking him with his coat and fleeing up the aisle, where a gaggle of ushers drag him to the stage.
— Argument to Beethoven’s Fifth: Live on national television — a mime sketch in which Caesar and Nanette Fabray are a couple who bicker in perfect rhythm and counter-rhythm to the famous classical composition, their hands, mouths, entire bodies jutting and slashing like the strings themselves.
— Mozart is Dead: Caesar as a befuddled professor who grieves upon hearing that Beethoven is dead, and really breaks down when he’s told the same about Mozart. “Moose is gone? I’m sick from that. I was so close with him. What was it an accident? They were both in the same bus or something? Beethoven and Mozart, verklumt.”
— Professor Houdini Von Hoffmeyer: Caesar as a supposed master of illusion who appears at an amateur magicians’ convention. He is stumped when his host (Carl Reiner) performs the most elementary trick: Sweeping a handkerchief over his hand and making a finger disappear. “Where’s the finger?” Von Hoffmeyer asks, helplessly, like a frightened child. “Would you make the finger come back?”