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Ed Sullivan (3) vs. Sid Caesar; DJ Jazzy Jeff advances

Yesterday’s battle (Philip Roth vs. DJ Jazzy Jeff) was pretty low-key. It seems that this blog isn’t packed with fans of ethnic literature or hip-hop. Nobody in comments even picked up on my use of the line, “Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?” Isaac gave a good argument in favor of Roth: “Given how often Uncle Phil threw DJ Jazzy Jeff out of the house, it seems like he should win here,” but I’ll have to give it to Jazz, based on Jrc’s comment: “From what I hear, Roth was only like the 14th coolest Jew at Weequahic High School (which, by my math, makes him about the 28th coolest kid there). And we all know DJ Jazzy Jeff was the second coolest kid at Bel-Air Academy.” Good point.

Our next contest features two legendary TV variety show hosts who, at the very least, can tell first-hand stories about Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and many others. Should be fun.

The full bracket is here, and here are the rules:

We’re trying to pick the ultimate seminar speaker. I’m not asking for the most popular speaker, or the most relevant, or the best speaker, or the deepest, or even the coolest, but rather some combination of the above.

I’ll decide each day’s winner not based on a popular vote but based on the strength and amusingness of the arguments given by advocates on both sides. So give it your best!


  1. Jonathan (another one) says:

    An interesting contest. In my experience, comedians are great when they’re on-stage and morose and unappealing off-stage. Sullivan, on the other hand, was morose and unappealing on-stage, and witty and charming off-stage, or so I’ve heard. This comes down, then, to deciding whether the speaker treats the seminar as a stage or not. I don’t think Sullivan would, because it’s not a “rilly big shew”… Caesar would be, I guess, touched and earnest, so I’m going with Ed.

  2. I was tempted to pick up on the spooks line (The Human Stain is one of my favorite novels), but I couldn’t figure out where to go from there… and then I got absorbed in a Roth interview with Hermione Lee ( So while I didn’t manage to enter yesterday’s battle, I am happy for the reading it sparked.

  3. Sid Caesar is really rare to me, and I mean that as a compliment. So I’m sticking my neck out for him. Ed Sullivan has the disadvantage that Elvis appeared on his show. Some people probably think he IS Elvis in disguise. So instead of earnest seminar-goers, people genuinely interested in the topic, whatever it might be, you’d have busloads of Elvis-is-still-alive-in-the-guise-of-Ed-Sullivan-who-isn’t-alive-either-but-has-to-be-because-he’s-leading-a-seminar types. And then controversy would break out: is Elvis leading the seminar or not? People would be quoted out of context. Not a good prospect. Granted, Sid Caesar could run into an uncomfortable situation or two as well, but then he would just pull out his double talk. So Sid it has to be.

  4. Two from the same category? Can we exchange Sid for some other Caesar?

  5. zbicyclist says:

    Your Show of Shows -> Your Seminar of Seminars.

    Render unto Caesar.

  6. jrc says:

    *jrc Presents: Sponsored Content*

    Sid sings. And he does it his way.

    Our august and distinguished (e-)institution of higher learning has always encouraged — required, really — a certain radical physical element. But the new media can encourage a certain amount of uncurated, unfiltered denigration. Vote Sullivan!

    *This post was paid for by Sinatra4Sullivan*

  7. Person says:

    Help where are the comments?

  8. Jeff says:

    I’m a little chagrined to admit that Sid Caesar has always been little more than a name to me. I wasn’t around in the 1950s so it’s hard for me to say what was “normal” at the time, but judging from the videos I can find he does seem to deserve the accolades for being a creative innovator–he’s playing around with the medium of TV and figuring out what to do with it. It would be great to see what he’d do with our current media, given the chance to get up to speed.

    I don’t get that vibe from Ed Sullivan, legend that he is. It would be interesting to see a witty-and-charming Ed Sullivan, but there are plenty of people who are those things and I don’t think it would stay with me.

    A vote for Caesar!

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      As someone who was around in the 50’s, I remember Sullivan as being blah, but Caesar as at least sometimes being very funny. And Jeff makes a good point with his comment “judging from the videos I can find he does seem to deserve the accolades for being a creative innovator–he’s playing around with the medium of TV and figuring out what to do with it. It would be great to see what he’d do with our current media, given the chance to get up to speed.”

  9. Phil says:

    I was all set to pile on the Sid Caesar bandwagon, but then I read the section of Sullivan’s Wikipedia page that is devoted to his personality, and now I’m not so sure. “Ed brought to his feuds a hunger for combat fed by his coverage of, and devotion to, boxing,” that sounds pretty good. And: Joe DeRita, who worked with the Stooges after 1959, had commented that Sullivan had a personality “like the bottom of a bird cage”. If we could get him to talk about his feuds, maybe amp them up a little, he could be pretty fun.

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      Phil’s argument for Sullivan sounds like an argument against Sullivan to me. Someone who can be very funny is far more interesting than someone who has “a hunger for combat” and a personality “like the bottom of a bird cage”.

    • Jeff says:

      I stand by my vote and reasoning but I admit that the fact of Ed Sullivan having a multidimensional personality is a little interesting.

  10. Ethan Bolker says:

    Can the seminar speaker bring a guest, or guests?

    Ed Sullivan would come with the Beatles, but you can hear the Beatles all over the place. Riffs with Imogene Coca are rarer – that’s what I’d come for.

    If no guests then it’s a choice between sleeping through Ed or laughing with Sid. I’ve slept through enough seminars already.

    [Meta strategy thought. If I want X to win the whole thing I have to save some good reasons for later rounds. I never was a bridge player …]

  11. Dzhaughn says:

    Because I always think of Cyd Charisse when I hear Sid Caesar.

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