Isaac Sidney "Sid" Caesar is an American comic actor and writer known as the leading man on the 1950s television series Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, and to younger generations as Coach Calhoun in Grease and Grease 2.
Caesar was born in Yonkers, New York, youngest son of Max Caesar and his wife Ida Raphael, Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire who ran a restaurant. Caesar would wait on tables and learned to mimic the accents, something he would use throughout his career. He first tried his double-talk with a group of Italians, his head barely reaching above the table. They enjoyed it so much that sent him over to a group of Poles to repeat it in Polish, and so on with Russians, Hungarians, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Lithuanians, and Bulgarians. Despite his apparent fluency in many languages, Caesar can actually speak only English and Yiddish. Sid's older brother David was his comic mentor and 'one-man cheering section'. They created their earliest family sketches from then current movies like Test Pilot and Wings.
At fourteen, Caesar went to the Catskills as a saxophonist with Mike Cifichello's Swingtime Six and would also occasionally perform in sketches. When he graduated from high school, he left home, intent on a musical career. He arrived in New York City penniless and tried to join the musician's union. He found work at the Vacationland Hotel in Swan Lake in the Catskills. Under the tutelage of Don Appel, the resort's social director, Caesar played in the band and learned to perform comedy, doing three shows a week. In 1939, when World War II was just staring, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard, and was assigned to play in military revues and shows in Brooklyn, New York. Vernon Duke, the famous composer of Autumn in New York, April in Paris, and Taking a Chance on Love, was also at the same base and collaborated with Caesar in musical revues.
During the summer of 1942, Caesar met his future wife Florence Levy at the Avon Lodge. After joining the musician's union, he briefly played with Shep Fields, Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak, and even Benny Goodman. Caesar's comedy, however, got bigger applause than the musical numbers, and the show's producer asked him to do stand-up between his numbers. While still in the service, Caesar was ordered to Palm Beach, Florida, where Vernon Duke and Howard Dietz were putting together a service revue, Tars and Spars. There he met the civilian director of the show Max Liebman, later the producer of his first hit television series. Tars and Spars toured nationally, and then a film version was made at Columbia Pictures. He also got a part in The Guilt of Janet Ames. He married Florence Levy on July 17, 1943. They are the parents of three children.