One of TV's very first stars is dead at age 91, reports Variety. Sid Caesar hosted the groundbreaking variety program Your Show of Shows beginning in 1950 and, later, Caesar's Hour. As most of his obituaries quickly point out, among the writers who got their start with him were Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Rob Reiner, and Larry Gelbart, the latter of whom adapted MASH for TV. News of Caesar's death first came via tweet by Larry King. Caesar was "at once one of the greatest improvisors and one of the most rigorous sketch-comedy artists in television history," writes Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly.
The New York Times echoes the sentiment in its obituary, calling him a "comedic force of nature." And the AP calls him an "innovative, influential comedy genius" whose "sketches lit up 1950s television with zany humor." But it came at a price: Caesar famously admitted to a "20-year blackout" thanks to alcohol and drugs. “When I was awake I’d think of nothing but ‘I must do it faster, kill myself faster," he wrote in his autobiography Where Have I Been. "I’d get up to take pills just to go back to sleep. I had no friends. My life was over.” He kicked his addictions in the 1980s.