Archive for August 23rd, 2017

by John Greco

Your Show of Shows premiered on Saturday, February 25th 1950. It was a live 90 minute variety show consisting, for most seasons, of 39 episodes. It was the equivalent of putting on a new Broadway show every week. The show starred Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris as regulars. James Starbuck would join the cast in 1951.    Among the show’s writers, were Mel Brooks, Neil and Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin and Lucille Kallen. One of the misconceptions is that Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen wrote for Your Show of Shows. Gelbart actually wrote for Caesar’s Hour and Woody Allen worked on a few episodes of The Sid Caesar Show.

The man behind the idea was Viennese born Max Liebman who for years before the show’s premiere was in many ways priming himself for his big moment. In the 1930’s Liebman worked at the Tamiment Resort in the famed Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. He worked as a social director and on Saturday night, he along with the aid of plenty of talented performers, and backstage folks, put together original shows every week. He wrote, directed, produced, worked on scenery, costumes and more. Liebman said, “I was doing what you might call television without the cameras.” For four years Liebman did the writing for all the Tamiment shows. In 1938, Sylvia Fine[1] joined his staff.  It was through Fine, Liebman would meet a young Danny Kaye who would join his group.  Around this same time, a young comedic spirit by the name of Imogene Coca also joined the Tamiment gang. With the show consistently receiving excellent reviews, the best skits and music were compiled and taken to Broadway under the title The Straw Hat Revue.

Liebman would leave Tamiment and join Fine working on routines for Danny Kaye, whom Fine soon married. He would join Kaye as one of his writers in Hollywood for various MGM films. During the war years Liebman had the opportunity to work on putting on a revue called Tars and Spars for the Coast Guard. The revue was a recruiting tool, and had Victor Mature as the show’s big attraction. However, more importantly, a member of the group was a guy named Sid Caesar. It was the first time they would work together. A few years later, after the war, Liebman would work with Caesar again on his act when he opened at the Copacabana. (more…)

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