Pioneering comedian par excellence Sid Caesar died yesterday. Generations of comics who've dabbled in the awkward, the slapsticky, and the absurd owe much to Sid. But he's got another thing on 'em: Well into his seventies, Sid Caesar was buff as fuck.
How do we know? Because he once did a celebrity workout video that's been preserved—and, blessedly, truncated from an hour to eight minutes—by film artist Aaron Valdez:
Titled "Shape Up!", Sid's VHS opus is like the man himself: jokey, weird, and a little creepy. "Make friends with yourself, you're the boss of you," he proclaims, a lot. On its release in 1985, the Chicago Tribune described it thusly:
Video quality is surprisingly amateurish, filmed entirely by one hand-held (none too steadily, either) camera that follows Caesar through his series of exercises. When the camera circles around Caesar during his sit-up exercises, the camera operator`s shadows are visible. And when the camera moves in for close-ups of Caesar doing chin-ups, it gets so close that Caesar has to wave the camera operator away.
According to Caesar, it was all by design. He says that the technical flaws make the video—and its message—more accessible to viewers.
But "Shape Up!" gets the point across, and it comes from an honest place: Caesar was once addicted to alcohol and barbiturates, and it was his workout regimen that helped keep the chemical demons at bay. "I have an addictive personality," he told the Tribune. "So I took that addiction, and changed it. Now I'm as addicted to working out as I was to pills and booze."
It worked. When the old man kicked off yesterday, he was 91. And probably harder than you.