(I was seriously impressed how he remembered so many of them. Later, though, Larry Gelbart told me that Caesar actually spent a lot of time watching the old shows. As a result, they were fresh in his mind.)
The other time that I was in a theater with Sid Caesar was when, sadly, Larry Gelbart passed away. There was a huge, and wonderfully affectionate memorial evening for him held at the Motion Picture Academy Theater. It was jammed-fulI, perhaps 800 people or whatever the Academy holds. Throughout the night, speakers would come up on stage to talk about Larry, and it was all richly entertaining.
Sid Caesar was there among them, but in very bad health. So poor, in fact, very weak, that he couldn't make it on stage. Instead, he stayed in his seat in the audience and a microphone was brought to him. He started to tell some reminiscences -- at least that's how it seemed, or started to be. But it was so rambling and got worse. It was difficult to tell the point of what he was saying, and clear that there wasn't an end to this in sight. After all, how do you tell Sid Caesar to sit down? You could palpably feel the discomfort of the audience -- loving Caesar, thrilled he was there, but awkward at seeing him a shell of himself and out of it.
But then --
But then, came the miracle. Someone in the back of the audience -- I don't know who, but he should get some sort of award for brilliance -- had one incredibly amazing idea. What he did was shout out over the crowed in a booming voice, so loud that Sid Casar, regardless of his condition, could hear -- "Do it in Italian!!!!"
And Sid Caesar heard him. And knew exactly what was being asked of him -- to perform. And Sid Caesar loved to perform. And immediately he stopped rambling and turning on a time instantly began speaking in fake Italian double-talk. And it was freaking brilliant. Absolutely hysterical. The entire theater was uproarious. Laughing in utter joy, and doing so for two reasons.
One, because it was pure funny. And the other, because we all knew we now had this memory now given to us, and the old, bad one wiped out: not of an elderly, feeble Sid Caesar, but of the brilliantly funny man we all loved him for.
But mainly because it was pure funny.
And the cheers he got when he was done was the biggest joy of all.