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Where Did Sid Caesar’s Writers Eat Lunch?

Mel Brooks. Woody Allen. Neil Simon. They were the greatest comedic minds of the 20th Century. And they also ate.

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox / Everett Collection | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

Last night’s series finale of 30 Rock hit upon a very important topic: What do comedy writers eat for lunch? We spoke recently with Mel Brooks, and asked him what the writers for Sid Caesar—who included fellow geniuses Neil Simon, Woody Allen, and Carl Reiner—would do for lunch. The shows were taped in Manhattan out of the International Theater at 5 Columbus Circle and the Century Theater at 232 Seventh Avenue (both now demolished), so the “murderers' row” of funny would eat near those spots. Brooks explains what it was like.

“We broke for lunch, and we took that hour to get out. We’d go to the Stage Delicatessen a lot and get corned beef or whatever. Another place we would go is Longchamps, a very famous restaurant about 50 years ago. I remember one time we were there and we all ordered spring lamb. We had this head writer named Mel Tolkin, who was from Russia by way of Canada and had a crazy Russian accent. Anyway, I’m beginning to dig in, and Tolkin turns to me and says, ‘Mel, could I just have a bite of your spring lamb?’ And I said, ‘Are you crazy? You just had a whole dish of it. You just ordered it right next to me and you just finished it.’ He said, ‘Yes, but I ate it so fast that I didn’t really taste it.’ And he meant it, so I said, ‘Sure you can have a bite.’ So, he took a bite and said, ‘Hey, this is good! I’m gonna have another plate.’ And he did. That’s how crazy everybody was.”

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