most people talk about Sid Caesar, they are compelled to mention
Imogene Coca's name in the same breath. Their comedic teamwork
on the "Admiral Broadway Revue," "Your Show of Shows," and numerous
night club acts made them one of the most famous television
couples that ever graced the small screen. From 1949 until 1954,
almost everybody who owned a television in America reserved
Saturday nights for Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca.
Coca passed away recently, Hollywood lost one of the true legends
who helped pioneer television comedy. On a more personal level,
Sid Caesar lost the friend and actor with whom his career is
forever linked. When Sid first learned of Imogene's death, he
fondly remembered, "All the wonderful times we shared together
meant the world to me. It was a pleasure working with her. I
will miss her dearly." That was the official statement Sid released
to the press.
fans of Imogene Coca would like read some of the memories we
gathered about her when we were interviewing Sid and his dream
team of comedy for the Sid Caesar Collection and "Hail Sid Caesar!
The Golden Age of Comedy."
I first met Imogene Coca, it was up at NBC. We all got together
to take a picture for the Admiral Broadway revue. I had never
heard of her. I wasn't in show business that much and I'm not
a show business person, but as soon as I started to talk to
her and we started to talk about sketches she was right there.
For some reason there was very little conversation between us.
When we weren't working, we wouldn't say that much to each other.
However, when we would rehearse, she would almost feel what
I was going to do and I would feel what she was going to do.
"If I found
something, she would stand there and let me go and if she found
something I would stand there and let her adlib. We complimented
each other. We weren't in competition and that was real."
was a tiny lady. She must have weighed 85-90 pounds, she was
about 4'5 or 6, she was very petite. She loved the musical theater
and actresses like Helen Hayes. Imogene was something that was
special and when we worked together it was just magic and you
don't question the magic. There was no one like her back then.
She was one of a kind. Imogene was one of the first female comediennes
"Imogene was the perfect foil for Sid Caesar. They never spoke,
never conversed off camera but as soon as they were on camera
they knew who they were, it was an incredible symbiotic thing
that happened. I used to call Coca the strongest human being
I ever met. She was a frail little thing. She could work longer
and harder. While we did our sketches she was in most sketches
we did, She was also doing dance numbers. The full chorus of
dancers behind her and singing and never got tired. She was,
is a phenomenon."
"Imogene was a true lady. Even though we all in the room would
say anything that came to our minds, a lot of times it was language.
She would never join in that language. However, when she got
into character she could mix it up with Sid, Carl, and/or Howie.
She was hysterical!"
"Imogene was wonderful. She was a lady who was a real pro. She
had had three careers before she ever met up with us. She had
been in films and on Broadway. Sid and her had instant chemistry.
Whenever Sid and Imogene played the Hickenloopers, there was
a chemical and personal involvement between them. They were
both bringing their sadness about marriage to the screen with
each other. There was a deep connection between them that audiences
fell in love with."
"I can tell you that Imogene Coca was enormously talented, but
I can also tell you I didn't work with her. I was a fan of her
work with Sid on "Your Show of Shows." She was the Mary Pickford
to his Douglas Fairbanks. They were ideally suited. The proof
is in the kinescopes. The proof is in the tapes. What they did
a half-century ago now still holds up. What they did is beautiful
as I recall, wasn't truly funny in the room. She was a great
laugher and appreciated all the material. She shined once she
got out on the stage. Give her a pantomime like a ballerina
and she would do a classic ballerina with everything wrong.
All the pantomimes, so many pantomimes she and Sid, they were
brilliant in that. She was a classic."
"I saw Sid and Imogene at Michael's Pub, a place where I used
to play the jazz clarinet, and they were doing a show. This
was not that long ago, within the last ten years or something.
They were both dazzling. Really hilarious."
choose a clip for the website, we ask Sid to pick his favorite
sketch that he performed with Imogene. While he had so many
favorites, he particularly loved performing pantomimes with
her. The 1812 overture is probably their most famous pantomime.
Sid and Imogene play the percussion section of an orchestra
performing the Tchiakovsky epic. We hope you enjoy.
Overture (high quality)