Punch Lines, But Little Punch

Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor recalls his writing for Sid Caesar and his own early comedies, sans higher ambition

When Neil Simon and other such budding comedy legends as Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart wrote for TV comic Sid Caesar in his 1950s heyday, they rarely put anything on paper. Instead they sat in a room trying to top one another, shouting out situations and one-liners. Periodically Caesar would halt the schoolboy jockeying to read aloud what they had so far. "Read what?" Simon recalls asking. "We haven't written anything yet." But Caesar had culled the best of their ideas as he heard them and, by a wink or nod, had ensured they were recorded by the most...

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