Your Show of Shows

For the 1929 movie, see The Show of Shows.
Your Show of Shows

Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar in a 1952 skit.
Genre Variety show
Created by Sylvester L. Weaver Jr.
Directed by Nat Hiken
Max Liebman
Creative director(s) Charles Sanford (music)
Starring Sid Caesar
Imogene Coca
Howard Morris
Carl Reiner
James Starbuck
Narrated by Ed Herlihy (announcer)
Theme music composer Mel Tolkin
Clay Warnick
Max Liebman
Opening theme "Stars Over Broadway"
Composer(s) Irwin Kostal
Johnny Mandel
Alex North
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 139
Producer(s) Max Liebman
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 90 minutes
Original network NBC
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original release February 25, 1950 (1950-02-25) – June 5, 1954 (1954-06-05)
Followed by Caesar's Hour

Your Show of Shows is a live 90-minute variety show that was broadcast weekly in the United States on NBC from February 25, 1950, through June 5, 1954, featuring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. Other featured performers were Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Bill Hayes, Judy Johnson, The Hamilton Trio and the soprano Marguerite Piazza. José Ferrer made several guest appearances on the series.

In 2002, Your Show of Shows was ranked #30 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.[1] In 2013, it was ranked #37 on TV Guide's 60 Best Series of All Time.[2]

Production notes

The 90-minute live series was produced by Sylvester "Pat" Weaver and directed by Max Liebman, who had been producing musical revues at the Tamiment resort in the Pocono Mountains for many years prior. Caesar, Coca, and Liebman had worked on Admiral Broadway Revue from January to June 1949. The series originated as the second half of the two-hour umbrella show, Saturday Night Review,[3] with the first portion hosted by comedian Jack Carter in Chicago, Illinois,[4] and the remainder telecast from the since-demolished International Theatre (also known as the Park Theatre) at 5 Columbus Circle and the Century Theater in Manhattan, New York City.[5] The Chicago portion was dropped at the end of the 1950-51 season, and the series became the 90-minute Your Show of Shows.[3]

Writers for the series included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Selma Diamond, Joseph Stein, Michael Stewart, Tony Webster (the only Gentile among the show's writers), and Carl Reiner who, though a cast member, also worked with the writers. (Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen joined the writing staff for later Caesar ventures.) The series is historically significant for the evolution of the variety genre by incorporating situation comedies (sitcoms) such as the running sketch "The Hickenloopers"; this added a narrative element to the traditional multi-act structure.[6]

As author Ted Sennett described, stars Caesar, Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris

...appeared in a series of superbly written sketches that poked fun at human foibles and pretensions. Alone onstage, Caesar would depict a befuddled Everyman trying to cope with life, or a blustering Germanic 'professor' being interviewed at an airport and vainly trying to conceal his abysmal stupidity. Alone onstage (or with a partner), Imogene Coca would make us laugh at a passion-ridden torch singer, or a daffy ballerina, or a sweet, wistful tramp. Together, Caesar and Coca would take us through the hilarious marital tribulations of Doris and Charlie Hickenlooper, or show us two strangers exchanging cliches when they meet for the first time.[7]

Coca recalled,

There was a special chemistry to Your Show of Shows, I think, because [producer-director] Max [Liebman] wasn't afraid to throw out material at the last minute. And I think when you do live television — well, we stopped for nothing. We had no cue cards, no TelePrompTers, and no ad-libbing on the air, because Max would have died if anybody had ad-libbed. It would have been utter disgrace, and you would have been drummed right out of the corps.... Nobody ever forgot a line, and that was the amazing part of it.[8]

A common misconception is that Larry Gelbart wrote for Your Show of Shows; in fact, he wrote for its successor program, Caesar's Hour, which was broadcast from 1954 to 1957.[9] Likewise, Woody Allen did not write for Your Show of Shows, as he only worked on several Sid Caesar TV specials that debuted after it.[10]

Carl Reiner has stated that the time he spent on Your Show of Shows was the inspiration for The Dick Van Dyke Show. Your Show of Shows also inspired the 1982 movie My Favorite Year, produced by Mel Brooks, and the 1993 play Laughter on the 23rd Floor written by Neil Simon.

By the 1953-1954 season, even though the ratings had slipped a little, "Your Show of Shows" remained extremely popular with viewers. However, in the spring of 1954, it was decided to break up the comedy team of Caesar and Coca and, beginning in the fall of 1954, sign them to star in their own individual variety series on NBC. As a result, "Your Show Of Shows' ended its network run on June 5, 1954. At the end of that episode, NBC president Sylvester "Pat" Weaver came out at the curtain call to congratulate the cast on their five-year run and to personally wish Caesar and Coca great success in their future endeavors.


Episode status

The kinescopes of the series were retained by Max Liebman; from those shows, a 1973 theatrical film titled Ten from Your Show of Shows was compiled which featured ten sketches. In 1976, this was followed by a half-hour syndicated series.

The Paley Center for Media in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, California holds an almost complete set of the series, and a set of master tapes of the 1976 syndicated series.

In 2000, a cache of original scripts from the show were found in a closet of producer Max Liebman, in the City Center building in New York City. The find made the front page of The New York Times. A former employee of Liebman, Barry Jacobsen, told The New York Times he had left the scripts in the closet and was holding onto the key, planning to come back and retrieve them once City Center decided what to do with the papers; he was never contacted by City Center, and the scripts stayed in the closet until being found in 2000.[11]

After the program ended Imogene Coca starred in her own one-year NBC comedy and variety show, The Imogene Coca Show. Thereafter, Sid Caesar changed his format and initiated Caesar's Hour.

Syndication and DVD release

Reruns of the 1976 syndicated "best of" series were aired on Comedy Central during the early 1990s. Skits from the series which are from Sid Caesar's personal collection are available on The Sid Caesar Collection DVD set.


The show featured several regular musical sketches, such as the mock rock group The Haircuts which achieved a surprise novelty hit with "Going Crazy" in 1955.[12][13][14][15][16]


  1. TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows
  2. TV Guide Magazine's 60 Best Series of All Time
  3. 1 2 Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present Eighth Edition. Ballantine Books. p. 13. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
  4. Fireman, Judy (1977). TV Book: The Ultimate Television Book. Workman Publishing. ISBN 978-0894800023.
  5. International Theatre in New York at
  6. "Television in the United States." Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2011. Web. 06 Jun. 2011.
  7. Sennett, Ted, "Dear Your Show of Shows" in Fireman, p. 169.
  8. Coca, Imogene, "Coca on Coca, as told to Linda Gutstein, in Fireman, p. 172.
  9. "Comic Legend Larry Gelbart's Last In-Depth Interview"
  10. Lax, Eric (2000). Woody Allen: A Biography. Da Capo Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0306809859.
  11. Collins, Glenn (November 19, 2000). "Key's Holder Unlocks Mystery of TV Treasure". The New York Times. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  12. Billboard - 18 Jun 1955 - Page 3 Surprise action on Sid Caesar's Three Haircuts record has sparked a big push on the comic as a recording artist by ... far were co-written by him, including both sides of the Haircuts' disks) and into the management field on a supervisory basis.
  13. Elaine Colton The Newport Girls: A Memoir 2010 Page 8 "We brought down the house with our pantomime and lip-synching to “You Are So Rare to Me” and “Going Crazy (bahbadobabado),” made famous on Your Show of Shows by The Haircuts; Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris."
  14. Karin Adir The Great Clowns of American Television 2001 p.84 "Sid was now in control; there was much less song and dance — the emphasis was on comedy. One of the delightful ... several reincarnations of the Haircuts, particularly in later network specials that reunited Caesar, Coca, Reiner and Morris."
  15. Billboard - 11 Feb 1956 - Page 32 "The jock played Sid Caesar's satirical rock and roll platter "Going Crazy" by the Haircuts over and over and asked for contribution.' to stop the record. Then after a substantial contribution was offered, he asked for a higher bid to hear the disk ..."
  16. On the air: pioneers of American broadcasting Amy Henderson, National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian Institution), Museum of Broadcasting (New York, N.Y.) - 1988 - Page 78 "Your Show of Shows" premiered on ... sketches featuring regular characters like the Hickenloopers or the rock group "The Haircuts," and one-shot pieces such as ..."
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