Nightly News   |  February 12, 2014

Brian Williams Pays Tribute to Comedy Giant Sid Caesar

It’s safe to say that without Sid Caesar, there would be no “Saturday Night Live” or “The Carol Burnett Show.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> sad word arrived from the west coast today, we lost a giant in the world of comedy, sid caesar has died, he practically invented comedy, and his writers became giants themselves, starting with mel brooks , and car reiner, who called sid caesar the greatest single sketch comedian that television has ever known.

>> reporter: it is safe to say there would be no saturday night live, no carol burnett show , and way fewer people taking chances if there had never been a sid caesar . it was called "your show of shows ." no one had seen anything like it. television was brand-new, sid caesar understood it early on, his co-host, emma jean cocoa, was there. it was 90 minutes of live and often improv tv, good enough to make people stay home on saturday nights.

>> i think sid caesar 's legacy will be changing what comedy means on television, from more of a vaudeville radio style comedy to the tv we know today.

>> reporter: sid's parents were from poland and russia, and given the last name of caesar, in new york, sid learned how to mimic and speak in accents, in the cadence of immigrants, nbc later created a show called "caesar's hour" which lasted a while. so did his movie career, including it is a mad, mad, mad, mad, world and "grease".

>> after the slaughter is over, we're going to come back here.

>> reporter: a few tv roles followed, as well. but it turns out some stars shine brightly and briefly and that was sid caesar . he paid a price for his fame and struggled with alcohol and drugs before pulling himself out with a lot help later.

>> if you can be honest with yourself, oh, you got it licked.

>> reporter: sid caesar used to say dying is easy, and comedy is hard, it is now clear that what he built in life is a comedy legacy that lasts to this day. sid caesar , the architect, we enjoyed so much of