When thinking of sketch comedy on television, there aren’t many shows to choose from, but there are two shows that have definitely made an impact. The beginning of sketch comedy as we know it came from Your Show of Shows, and the modern sketch comedy that everyone knows now comes from Saturday Night Live. There have been a handful of other sketch comedy shows, but if it weren’t for these 2, they wouldn’t exist. Your Show of Shows was on the air from 1950-1954 during TV’s first Golden Age. Saturday Night Live started in 1975 and has been going on ever since. Your Show of Shows is definitely an influence to modern day sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live, but both shows bring something different to American culture and both had a huge impact on sketch comedy on television.
Your Show of Shows (1950-1954) was a sketch comedy show filmed live in front of an audience. The sketches were longer back then, usually in the 5-10 minute range, and sometimes even longer. Sid Caesar was the star of the show, along with Imogene Coca, Howard Morris, and Carl Reiner who had his first breakout gig with the show. There were many more hilarious comedians that performed and wrote for Your Show of Shows. Everything they did was original comedy written by some of the greatest talent in television, film and other entertainment. One big name that might surprise you is Mel Brooks, who worked with Sid Caesar and wrote for Your Show of Shows. The show was broadcast on NBC every Saturday night. The length of the show was 90 minutes long. To make a long story short, Your Show of Shows is such a monumental show because it redefined television.
Redefining television isn’t an easy feat. A show must be extremely amazing and really make an impact to achieve such an honor, so lets start from the beginning and go from there. Your Show of Shows was created by Sylvester "Pat" Weaver and directed by Max Liebman. Caesar, Coca, and Liebman had worked together previously on The Admiral Broadway Revue from January to June 1949, which was a huge hit but ended due to a loss of financing which happened a lot back then. Writers for the show included Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin, the previously talked about Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner who, though a cast member, always sat in with the writers . A huge social impact that Your Show of Shows made was actually part of the writers’ room. Caesar and Liebman hired funny women to work for them. This was an unusual occurrence at the time. It’s nice to know that they looked past gender boundaries, and instead focused on what was the most important aspect of their show: the comedy.
The writers were great, but the real foundation of the show was the cast. Without them, nothing would have been possible. For example, even though Your Show of Shows was heavily written, everything was performed live and all of the actors had to be gifted improvisers, ready to jump in at a moment’s notice if somebody dropped a line or forgot what was happening...