American Masters

Full Episode


[Tires squealing] [Drums beating] Mel is a fascinating combination of elements.

He is so above the fray, and he's able to take all that and shake it down into something so simple and so funny.

We always felt the world was, you know, his oyster.

And so he -- he felt special, and he was special.

Mel was not interested in a little laugh.

He literally wanted you to like collapse and fall on the ground and can't breathe.

My blanket, my blue blanket, give me my blue blanket!

His narcissism is hilarious.

It's like -- it's like the sun.

Piss on you. I'm workin' for Mel Brooks!

Not in the face!

[Dancers gasp] Thank you.

Well, there's no one like Mel.

He is one of a kind, and the characters that he writes, they are one of a kind.

He was my boyfriend!

Mel is not afraid to go up to the line, you know.

Occasionally he'll cross it.

Jesus! What?

Yes? What?

Y-you said 'what?' What?


[Tires screech] [Cymbals clashing] Here I am. I'm Melvin Brooks.

♫I've come to stop the show♫ ♫Just a ham who's minus looks♫ ♫But in your hearts I'll grow♫ ♫Tell you gags, sing you songs♫ ♫Happy little snappy tunes that roll along♫ ♫Out of my mind, won't you be kind♫ ♫And please love...♫ ♫Melvin Brooks!♫ [ Horns blow fanfare ] Okay, I'm nine years old.

Uncle Joe drove a taxicab. One day he said, 'Hey, Mel, I got two tickets to a brand new show called 'Anything Goes'.' And he said, 'Well, it's a musical, it's on Broadway, and we've got two seats -- the last two seats in the last row of the second balcony.'

It's thrilling, Broadway theater, I'm nine years old.

♫Why, it's Gabriel, Gabriel playin'♫ ♫Gabriel, Gabriel, sayin'♫ [Gasps] I couldn't catch my breath.

There was Ethel Merman, no microphones, and she was still too loud, you know, and it was two miles away.

One incredible number after another.

I was literally crying with happiness.

I was tap dancing all over my stoop at 365 South Third Street and singing all these songs, top of my lungs, you know.

I said to myself, 'One day I'm gonna have a show on Broadway.

No factories for me. No driving a cab.

No working, renting bicycles.

I'm gonna write things that are in my soul, and in my heart, and I'm gonna be in show business,'and I knew it.

And I was gonna enjoy my life and have fun.

Live that kind of life.

And I did.

Being rather bizarre looking and being very short, I needed another tool so that I would be accepted.

So that I used comedy.

And I didn't -- I had no idea that it would lead to a living of any kind.

There was a guy called Don Appell, who was an actor and a director, and I would do impressions, and I would try to, you know, make him laugh, and I'd tell him jokes, and he thought I had something.

And he called somebody at the Butler Lodge and said, 'Give him a shot at it.'

I was 50 in a play called 'Uncle Harry.'

They made me up, they gave me a wig, they gave me a beard, 'cause I'm supposed to be a little older -- a mustache, a goatee.

I was very nervous, and... comes the time, when I said, 'Won't you have a little water?'

the glass slipped and broke, shattered, there was water everywhere -- on Harry, on me, on everybody.

And I didn't know what to do, so I walked downstage, faced the audience, I took off my wig and my beard, and I said, 'I'm 15, I never did this before!

I'm not really an act--' and they screamed with laughter.

And the director of the play, I think, grabbed a knife and followed me through the mountains wanting to kill me, but I knew then that straight plays were not for me.

I did do gigs as a drummer in the winter.

I think I became a drummer because you made noise.

You know, you made the most noise.

I wanted attention, obviously.

I could've become a flutist; I could've played the flute.

Nobody pays attention to you.

I could've been a trumpet player, a little more attention, but... I mean, who's gonna -- what the hell is that?

People are gonna stop.

He has rhythms in his head, and all of his jokes are great, they're great structures of rhythm, they're -- you'll laugh at the rhythm of the jokes sometime.

I used to work the pool. I was a pool tumbler.

That's where you go out and be silly and crazy.

After lunch you amuse those people hanging around the pool.

I had a derby, a big black alpaca coat.

It's a hundred degrees up there in the summer.

A suitcase, a cardboard suitcase full of rocks.

And I'd go to the end of the diving board, and I'd say... 'Business is no good! I don't want to live!'

And I'd jump in the pool.

They'd all go, 'Ha, ha, ha, oy, Melvin, Melvin!'

And nobody would help me.

You ask, I talk, some good, some dull.

Once in a while wow, pfft, good.

MAN: Mel, let's start talking about World War II.

BROOKS: I was 17 entering my senior year, and I enlisted in the Army Specialized Training Reserve.

At 18 you become a member of the Armed Forces.

At one point I was near Saarbrucken and the Germans were only a few miles away across a creek or a river, and that night I could actually hear them singing something in German.

♫Ja, ja, ja, ja♫ So I picked up a big bullhorn, and I said, 'Well, I'll sing to them.'

So I sang... ♫Toot-toot-Tootsie, goodbye♫ ♫Wait for the mail, I'll never fail♫ ♫You don't get a letter, you know I'm in jail♫ Ha ha ha!

♫Goodbye, Tootie, goodbye♫ ♫Don't cry, Tootsie, goodbye!♫ And I actually heard... [Speaking German] They really liked it, you know.

I think I could've ended the war right then and there, but General Patton or somebody kept going.

I got home in 1946 and pretty quickly switched from Melvin Kaminsky to Mel Brooks.

It would be natural for him to become a stand-up, but he never did.

I think because I think he wanted to be a writer mainly and he went for that, and luckily he did.

BROOKS: Don Appell also had worked with people like Sid Caesar, and through Sid Caesar I got this job, you know, on 'The Admiral Broadway Revue,' which segued into... Your Show of Shows!

It starred Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca.

There was only a few writers.

There was Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, myself, and then, in a little while, Tony Webster.

WOMAN: And they were a whole different generation of American writers.

They were educated, and they went through the Second World War -- it's a different mind set.

They had great language, they were really well read.

It was just fabulous sketch comedy to me because it really came from the heart, and it was really about playing the reality of a situation.

It wasn't just a glib sexual innuendo, it meant something.

We make it a musical and we get the greatest, greatest composer there is.

We get Beethoven!

Now, you call up Beethoven's agent, and you tell him -- Professor, Beethoven is dead.



Ludwig is gone?

This is a shock.

You don't pick up a paper a couple of days, you don't know what's going on.

All right, we can't get Beethoven.

Call up Mozart. Get Mozart, call his agent.

Professor, Mozart is dead.

Wolfgang gone?

Wolf-- Moz-- I'm sick already.

I was so close with him.

What was it, an accident, they were both in the same bus?

BROOKS: Sid Caesar was so good that he was actually a vehicle for all my love, my passion for comedy.

That son of a bitch held me back because of his Promethean talent, held me back for about eight or nine years where I could've been out front doing it.

But never as funny and as incredibly moving as Sid Caesar.

MAN: Mel had such gall.

He would be running around the room, and he says, 'We do this, we do that, and so and so,' and he would yell at the guys, 'No, that stinks, that's dreadful.'

He could drive you crazy, and he drove some of us crazy.

BROOKS: The truth was that -- that Max Liebman was not exactly thrilled to have me around.

When he saw me, he -- he assessed my character and personality immediately.

He was absolutely right, you know.

He saw a very arrogant, obnoxious little [bleep] head who thought he knew everything and had patience for nothing but his own thoughts.

As a matter of fact, we had had a big fight.

Once in a while during rehearsal, when the girls were dancing or something, there was a beautiful smooth floor... He'd run across the room, slide like you're sliding into second base again, and hit the wall with his foot.

And I yelled 'Safe!'

And Max Liebman threw a lit cigar at me 'cause I was interfering with the rehearsal.

I began with $50 a week, and when I was a kid, when I was 23 or 24, I was making 5,000 bucks a week.

What if you said to your mother, 'Mom, I'm making $5,000.'

Heart attack. Her heart would attack her.

I was having a nervous breakdown, I was having anxiety attacks.

I was jogging around New York and puking between parked cars.

We wrote sketches that had to do with what was au courant to New York and what was au courant forever, the human condition.

We were writing life sketches.

Emotionally it was very costly.

Mel Tolkin, he convinced everybody on the writing staff that there was such a thing called psychoanalysis and that we should all be in it for the safety and sanity of our brains.

Dr. Montague, I'm curious.

What exactly is the rate of patient recovery here at the Institute?

The rate of patient recovery?

I'll have that for you in a moment.

Once in a blue moon.

I did go into psychoanalysis, and it did help me a great deal in making sense out of phantoms and emotional insecurities.

And after that I went to 'Caesar's Hour,' and then we went on to do 'Sid Caesar Invites You.'

But we were running out of steam.

We're being beaten by Lawrence Welk.

You never heard such square music in your life.

But it was beyond that, it was rhomboid.

And yet they were doing twice as much in terms of ratings that Sid Caesar was doing.

C. REINER: When he was on 'The Show of Shows,' the Hamilton Trio had two wonderful girls.

One girl named Florence Baum. Mel went up and married her.

For some reason the marriage didn't work.

I was divorced.

I had child support, and I had alimony, and I was kind of broke.

MAN: As a writer, you found success with 'Show of Shows.'

I mean great success.

And yet then that all went. I mean, how did that affect you?

Um... I cried.

I cried. I mean I cried for two years.

Thanks, Lee.

All I did was cry, for two years I did nothing but sob.

C. REINER: He was so anxious, he actually was suicidal at times.

You know what it is when you know you got something and you don't know how to peddle it.

He knew he had something, he didn't know how to market it.

I got all this -- what do I do with it?

I kill myself, that's what I do.

MAN: Mel's at a bit of loose ends.

You're doing 'The Dick Van Dyke Show.'

Was there ever any talk of, 'Come write an episode'? I didn't even think of offering him the chance to write.

I knew he didn't write that kind of stuff, it's domestic comedy.

It's always this satire.

He sees the big picture and makes fun of big things.

Marie Antoinette has always fascinated me.

What a cutie!

Did you know her?

I went for that doll. Yeah.

We used to go to dances together.

Marie Antoinette?! She had a big wig with powder.

I used to sneeze all night from the powder.

You went with Marie -- I knew her well.

Now, the day the tumbrel brought her to the guillotine.

The tumbrel, yes.

When that guillotine fell and chopped her head off, how did you feel?

Terrible. I felt awful about it.

Killed my whole day.


Killed her day, too, you know.


I couldn't eat my dessert that night.

You felt that bad?

I love rice pudding, turned it down.

Wouldn't eat it? How could you?

They chopped the head, it's not nice.

BROOKS: He always made me something, and I had to become that.

And one time, it wasn't the first time, somewhere down the line -- he always did this in the writer's room of 'The Show of Shows.'

I turn to Mel, who was sitting on the couch, 'and here's a man who was actually at the scene of the crucifixion 2,000 years ago.'

And Mel, I'll never forget his first words were, 'Oh boy.'

I said, 'You were there?' Yes, yes.

'You knew Jesus?'

I knew him, we all knew him, he was thin, he was nervous, wore sandals, came into the store, never bought anything.

He came in, he sat around.

He asked for water, we gave him water.

I don't mind that he came in, but he brought 12 guys with him.

R. REINER: Mel works best when he's put in a corner.

My father has a way of leading him to places that put him in places that are so uncomfortable and awkward for him that it forces him to have to figure out a crazy, funny way to get out of it.

And Mel, I think, is his best when he's with my dad.

You know, comedy, we all know, you know, it's this way, and then you take the other path.

And he leads you right down to something you think is gonna be so wonderful, and then bang, he brings it back to something so stupid and funny.

MAN: You said that your job is spotting the insane or the bizarre in the commonplace.

Did I say that?

Yes. That's very good.

I'm proud of that.

I don't remember saying it, but I'm glad I said it.

Spotting the insane and the bizarre in the commonplace.

I'd give myself a pat on the back for that.

Of all the discoveries of all time, what would you consider the greatest?

Would you say it was the wheel, the lever, fire?

Fire. Fire, far and away fire.

Fire was the hottest thing going, you can't beat fire.

Fire used to warm us and light up our caves so we wouldn't walk into a wall, so we wouldn't marry our brother Bernie.

Fire. Yes, fire.

And cooking, oh, fire, you can't beat fire.

When did they first learn to cook with fire?

It was an accident. That was an accident.

A chicken walked into the fire by mistake -- pfft! -- and over.

Burnt -- burnt up.

Pet chicken?

Yes, we kept them around the cave as pets.

We loved to hear, ehhhh!

So we took it out to give it a funeral, you know, and bury it 'cause it was our pet, and we all went... [sniff]... 'Hey, that smells good!'

So we ate him up, and since then we've been eating chickens.

You know, I've heard this story, but I've heard that the animal that wandered into the fire accidentally was a pig.

Not in my cave.

There is no Jewish kid, no one interested in comedy, that that is isn't a seminal album for.

LEVINSON: He took this historical thing and reduced it to something so simple in a way, and then letting it expand into his films is brilliant.

[Large crowd murmuring] Occupation?


Did you kill last week?


Did you try to kill last week?


Now, listen, this is your last week of unemployment insurance.

Either you kill somebody next week, or we're going to have to change your status, got it?


Sign here.



Stand-up philosopher.


Stand-up philosopher.

I coalesce the vapor of human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.

Oh! A [bleep] artist!

[Groans] MAN: He actually, I think, respects the audience's intelligence, you know.

He doesn't go into long background, he doesn't.

He doesn't draw particularly deep back stories with these characters.

They come on, you know who they are or you don't.

♫The Inquisition, let's begin♫ ♫The Inquisition, look out sin♫ ♫We have our mission to convert the Jews♫ ♫Je-je-je-je je-je-Jews♫ ♫We're gonna teach them wrong from right♫ ♫We're gonna help them see the light♫ ♫And make an offer♫ ♫That they can't refuse♫ ♫That the Jews just can't refuse♫ There's a bit of a myth about me and Jews.

I was never religious, but always terribly Jewish.

I don't know.

I would say socially, societally, I was always very Jewish.

I like being Jewish.

WOMAN: You will address me in the proper manner as 'Your Royal Highness'! I am Princess Vespa, Daughter of Roland, King of the Druids!

Ohh... That's all we needed, a Druish Princess.

Funny, she doesn't look Druish.

OBAMA: As you can tell, he was born to entertain.

Or as Mel Brooks explains it, look at Jewish history -- unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable.

So every... every ten Jews, God designed one to be crazy and amuse the others.

[Laughter and applause] Let me have a swig of water. You can watch me drink water.

[Show theme plays] Danny Melnick called me from Talent Associates, said, 'We need a show.'

I'd known Buck Henry, one of the funniest guys that ever lived, so I said, 'Well, get Buck.'

I know when you said, 'Let's call him Maxwell Smart.'

'Why?'I said.

'Because then we can call the show Get Smart.'

I know that you said that.

I know that I said 'Cone of Silence,' I know that you said 'shoe phone.'

I remember that stuff.

Really? You're amazing.

Isn't this top security?


Well, shouldn't we activate the Cone of Silence?

The Cone of Silence?


All right, Max.


Yes, sir?

Activate the Cone of Silence.


[Device whirring] First of all, how much -- How much do you know about KAOS?

What did you say, sir?




Oh, KAOS, yes, of course.

Well, that's an international criminal organization that was founded... oh, I think in 1957.

How's that?

MAN: The network wanted you to add in a mother, right?

Buck Henry and I thought that's just gonna slow things up.

And so we said, 'No, no mother.'

They said, 'We insist,' and we said, 'He was immaculately conceived,' as far as I was concerned.

We wrote this show, and they got it sold; then I knew I would be getting a couple hundred dollars a week because NBC had picked it up.

You could go out to dinner.

So, I was able to get married.

♫No wedding gown for this silhouette♫ ♫Married I can always get♫ BROOKS: She was on the 'Perry Como Show.'

I came to watch her rehearse.

She was singing 'Married I Can Always Get' in a beautiful white gown.

A guy from way over on the other side of the theater said, 'Hey, Anne Bancroft, I'm Mel Brooks.'

I want you to know that in two years, no man had ever approached me with that kind of aggression because I had just done 'Two for the Seesaw' and 'The Miracle Worker,' you know, and people were very scared of me, especially men, like, 'What she must be, you know, this strange creature!'

And this aggressive voice came out from the dark, and I thought it would be a combination of Clark Gable and Robert Taylor and Robert Redford.

Turned out to be Mel Brooks.

And he never left me from that moment on.

He would say, 'Where you going?'

I said, 'I'm going to William Morris,'he said, 'So am I.'

'Where are you going?' 'To that delicatessen.'

'So am I!'

No matter where I said I was going, he said he was going there.

'I'm going to the Bonsoir tonight.'

'So am I!'

It just went on and on, the man never left me alone.

Thank God. [Laughs] BROOKS: August 5th, 1964.

City Hall.

Nobody there but Anne and I, and there was a black kid who had stood up for his friend to get married, his name was Boone -- Samuel Boone -- and I said, 'Sam, we don't have a best man or anything, could you stand up for us?'

He said, 'Yeah, sure.

But I want to warn you... don't break up because the clerk who marries you has an insanely funny voice!'

So we get in front of this clerk, and the clerk says, [EMPHATICALLY] 'Do you, Anna Marie Louise Italiano, take Melvin Kaminsky Brooks --' and we were on the floor.

We had to rise up again and face him, and look away from each other, and we couldn't look at Samuel Boone because he was... and anyway we got married in that fashion.

I was in love with him instantly.

MAN: Really? Then both -- Instantly.

Because you see he looked like my father, and he acted like my mother.

And so for the next five years, money was coming in.

And then I said, well, maybe I can finish a book.

I showed it to some friends, and I showed it to some publishers, and they said, 'Too much dialogue, not enough narrative.'

They said, 'Maybe it's a play.'

Good, so I turned 'Springtime for Hitler'into a play.

And I took it to Kermit Bloomgarten, who did 'Death of a Salesman,' and he said, 'It's too many sets.'

So I said 'What do I do?'

He said, 'I think it's a movie.'


It's absolutely amazing.

But under the right circumstances, a producer could make more money with a flop than he could with a hit.

Let's assume, just for the moment, that you are a dishonest man.

MOSTEL: Assume away.

WILDER: You simply raise more money than you really need.

If he were certain that the show would fail, a man could make a fortune!

Hello, boys.

If you only knew what I went through for you.

BROOKS: I said to Joseph E. Levine when I was doing 'The Producers,' he said, 'Who would direct it?' and I said, 'Me.'

And he said, 'But you've never directed.'

And I said, 'I wrote it, I see it.

I see the rooms, I see the people.

I know how they act, I see the lights.

I wrote it, I see it.'

MAN: Tell me about directing Gene versus directing Zero.

BROOKS: It was difficult to direct Zero Mostel.

I had never directed before, and he simply wasn't taking direction from anybody.

I really had to be careful about not hurting his feelings and still getting what I want.

MAN: I would've thought that a watershed in your career came when you met Mel Brooks.

You were playing in 'Mother Courage' with Anne Bancroft, in fact.

Did you see it as an important meeting right away?

[Laughs] What's so funny?

[Laughs] When God spoke to Moses the first time, if you ask him, 'Was that significant in your life...?' It was like that, was it?

Yes. When the bush actually went on fire -- I would say it had some minor importance, yes.

Everything Gene did for me was angelic and supreme.

There was one night, it got to be 5:30 or 6:00, and I said, 'I want you to do the wacky scene.'

I thought at first it was a joke, and I said, 'You mean tomorrow, don't you?

We're gonna do this tomorrow?'

And I said, 'No, I need it -- I really need it tonight.'

And I said, 'But I've been blowing my guts out, I thought we were doing this scene tomorrow.'

I said, 'Well, what would give you some spirit?'

He said, 'Well, chocolate.' I said okay.

He hollered, 'Get me a dozen Hershey bars!'

He got to be finished with it, and I said, 'Have some black coffee.'

He said, 'I don't drink coffee.' I said, 'Drink it tonight.'

He said, 'I don't drink coffee, I don't like coffee.'

I said, 'Drink it tonight, do it.

Drink the coffee.'

[Wilder screeching] Will you get ahold of yourself?! Don't touch me! Don't touch me!

[Muttering incoherently] What's the matter with you?! I'm hysterical!

I'm having hysteria because I'm hysterical!

I can't stop when I get like this.

I can't stop, I'm hysterical!

[Muttering] I'm wet!

I'm wet!

I'm hysterical and I'm wet!

I'm in pain!

And I'm wet!

LEVINSON: 'Springtime for Hitler,' I mean, that was pretty 'out there'comedy.

I remember seeing it at the time and just going, 'Oh, my God.'

♫And now it's♫ ♫Springtime♫ ♫for Hitler and Germany♫ ♫Deutschland is happy♫ ♫And gay♫ ♫We're marching to a♫ ♫Faster pace♫ First you get a really bad review in The New York Times.

'The worst picture in the world,' and 'in very bad taste with Hitler,' and 'the leading man was too fat.'

That's the end of my career.

But then Gene Shalit came up and said, 'No one will be seated for the first 88 minutes of this movie, they'll all be on the floor laughing their head off.'

And it ran.

♫Springtime for Hitler♫ In a million years, there would be no way for me to win original screenplay against 'The Battle of Algiers.'

And certainly Stanley Kubrick's '2001,'I mean, no way to win.

There's no way to win.

And the winner is Mel Brooks for 'The Producers.'

[Orchestra playing 'Springtime for Hitler'] I didn't trust myself in case I won, so I wrote a couple of things here.

I want to thank the Academy of Arts, Sciences and Money for this wonderful award.

Uh, well, I'll just say what's in my heart.

Bu-bump, bu-bump, bu-bump, bu-bump... [Laughter, applause] But seriously, I'd like to thank Sidney Glazier, the producer of 'The Producers' for producing 'The Producers.'

Joseph E. Levine and his wife Rosalie for distributing... the film.

[Laughter] I'd also like to thank Zero Mostel.

I'd also like to thank Gene Wilder.

I'd also like to thank Gene Wilder.

I'd also like to thank Gene Wilder.

Thank you very much.

[Applause] [Orchestra plays 'Springtime for Hitler'] Anne once said to me, 'Very often the stories are father/son stories, you know.'

In 'The Producers,'the older man takes the younger man under his wing, you know, and corrupts him.

And then 'The Twelve Chairs,' the younger man takes the older man under his wing and corrupts him.

You know, Mel stays up a lot at night, you know that?

I don't get to sleep till after 3:00.

I just -- I mean I have a different -- what is it, diurnal clock in me.

I was late today when I saw you, didn't I?

I was late today.

I'm late -- I'm always late.

But when he stays up, he reads classics.

He is truly an intellectual, which astonishes people when they sit down and talk to him because they're waiting for like, 'Hey my wife is so fat, when she sits around the house, she sits around the house.'

And suddenly there is a man that is talking about Strindberg and Chekhov and Tolstoy, and Arthur Laurents directing, and you go, 'Who am I talking to?'

BROOKS: 'The Twelve Chairs,' it was written by two guys, Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov.

A Russian aristocrat by the name of Vorobyaninov now, because of the revolution, he's flattened out, very sad.

And his mother-in-law is dying.


My jewels.

My diamonds!

I sewed them into one of the chairs.


It's as simple as that.

It's the most simple, beautiful plot for a movie.

[Romantic soundtrack plays] It's that wonderful, incredible mixture of history, heart, and bizarre comedy.


It's feta cheese.

It's what?

Feta -- F-E-T-A. Greek cheese, goat cheese.

Did they have that in Yugoslavia when you were making your film?

Wood. We ate wood.

I see. [Chuckling] There was nothing to do at night, there was no fun.

Tito had the car.

He's an astonishing wordsmith because it really did incorporate much more than just a set-up and a punch line.

It had to do with history, and literature, and philosophy, and religion, and life, and death, and... The difference between comedy and tragedy is, if you walk... into an open sewer and die, to me, it could be comedy.

Didn't happen to me, what do I care?

Who gives a [bleep]? But tragedy is, if I'll cut my finger, a paper cut, I'll look at it for hours.

What I think I'm trying to illustrate is the innate incredible selfishness, the love for ourselves in every human being.

We like other people, we do, but if we look in the mirror or think about ourselves, it's a deep love.

I'm head over heals in love with myself, I gotta tell you that!

Every night before I go to bed, I try to kiss myself, it's hard.

I'm gonna stop and do it for a minute now.

Mwah! Mwah!

Who could be better? No one.

You're so cute, you're adorable. I love you!

'The Producers'made a penny, 'Twelve Chairs'made a halfpenny.

I mean it made nothing, you know.

And I figured, well, I'm out of show business, I might as well say what I have in mind.

You know, I just flung myself into the Netherland.

No, that's Holland -- into the Netherworld.

I was walking down 59th Street approaching Fifth Avenue.

I heard a voice say, 'Hi, Mel, looking for change?'

I guess my head was looking down at the street.

Yeah, I looked up, and there was David Begelman.

He said, 'I want you to come to my office and see kind of a precis of a script.'

And I previously said to him, 'David, I only do my own stuff.

I don't do anybody else's ideas.

The ideas have to come to me, and I have to fashion them in my own way.'

Then he said, '100,000.'

I said, 'I could change, people change, you know.'

Excuse me while I whip this out.

[Women scream] [Crowd sighs] It was Mel and I and Norman Steinberg, who at that point had a writing partner named Alan Uger, and Mel said, 'We can't do this, we can't have four Jews sitting in a room writing a movie about a black sheriff.'

MAN: Funniest black man I know is Richard Pryor, with whom I'd worked on 'Flip Wilson Show.'

So I called Richie.

Richie was a bit of a wild card.

And we sat down, and he -- Mel said, 'Let's tell you where we're at.'

And Richie said, 'Uh-huh, uh-huh.'

And then he put out a little vial and opened it up, and, 'Uh-huh, uh-huh,' [Sniff]... Then he passed it to Mel, and he said, 'Brother Mel?'

And Mel said, 'Never before lunch.'

Two great bounces -- one was I wanted Richard Pryor to play Black Bart, and I couldn't get him because Warner Bros. said, 'Richard takes drugs, we can't take it.'

And Richard approved of Cleavon, so that was a bounce.

I didn't get Richard Pryor, but I got Cleavon Little.

And I hired Gig Young to actually play the Waco Kid because Gig Young was ostensibly a recovered alcoholic.

The first scene Cleavon Little is supposed to say, 'Are we awake?''cause he's hanging in the bed.

Gig Young says, 'Are we bla...'? [Slurps] A little spit coming out.

I turned to the assistant director, I said, 'Gee, this guy is --' 'I told you he's a great actor. Look at what he's giving.

Recovered alcoholic, look at this.'

And he says, 'So are we awake?' and [slurp]... So now we begin spewing stuff like in 'The Exorcist,' a lot of green stuff is spewing.

I said, 'He's giving me too much, you know.'

And I said, 'Cut,'you know.

And we took him to the hospital, and he was having the DT's, it was just terrible.

That night I called -- who do I call? Gene Wilder.

He flies out the next day, he's in a cowboy suit, he picks a horse, he gets into the jail.

Are we awake?

We're not sure.


And that's, boom, we were in.

And it was a bounce, that was the second great bounce I took.

And after that I said, 'No more typecasting.'

Good morning, ma'am!

And isn't it a lovely morning?

Up yours, nigger!

The engine that runs it and makes it work and stays on track throughout the whole picture is racial prejudice.

The new sheriff of Rock Ridge.

I'd be delighted.

Wow! [Whistles] I've gotta talk to you. Come here.

Have you gone berserk?

Can't you see that that man is a ni-- [Chuckles] Wrong person, forgive me. No offense intended.

Have you gone berserk?

Can't you see that that that man is a ni-- I gotta admit something, I don't really do anything for the audience ever.

I always do it for me, and most of the time the audience joins me.

The campfire scene certainly opened -- opened the doors to all kinds of gross-out comedy, which I thought wasn't as funny because the campfire scene wasn't simply about farting, it was about this Western tradition.

Everybody saw these guys sitting around slurping beans, and -- and there's the unpleasant side effect.

Now it's just farting just for the hell of it.

[Cowboys farting] BROOKS: He said, 'Okay, farting scene out,' I said, 'Farting scene out.'

That was Ted Ashley.

He saw a screening and he said, 'No punching horse.'

How stupid of me, how silly.

'Can't hit a horse, horse punch. Mongo punching a horse -- out.'

16 notes about 'Blazing Saddles.'

By now he should realize, he's running a film studio, we've got about 11 minutes of film left, you know, to play 'Blazing Saddles.'

I took the yellow pa-- you know, I crumbled it up -- and John Calley was there -- and I threw it in the wastepaper basket.

And Calley said, 'Well filed,'you know.

The basis of this movie, and I think what made it the hit that it became, was that you really believed that Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder loved each other at the end of the day.

You really felt a tremendous kinship between them.

Where you headed, cowboy?

Nowhere special.

Nowhere special?

I always wanted to go there.

Come on.

LEVINSON: 'Blazing Saddles' opened the door for all modern comedy that followed in terms of that for all the years, you know, after.

That literally broke all of the boundaries that were in existence at that time.

And Mel every once in a while is a little taken aback on how far things have gone.

Once you broke open Pandora's box, that's what happens.

You started with the farts and everybody took over from there.

You started it, so don't complain.

See Mel Brooks' 'Young Frankenstein,' starring Gene Wilder as the Doctor, Peter Boyle as the Monster, Marty Feldman as the Hunchback, Cloris Leachman as the Lady with the Cigar, Kenneth Mars as the Inspector, Teri Garr as the Woman, Madeline Kahn as the Other Person.

[Thunder] 'Young Frankenstein!'

BROOKS: Gene Wilder's idea.

He was sitting down, writing something, and I said, 'What are you writing?'

And he told me, and I said, 'I like it.

I like it, 'Young Frankenstein,' I like it.'

We made this deal with Columbia on a handshake, but as I was leaving, I said, 'Oh --' I just popped my head into the meeting room again and said, 'Oh, by the way, I don't know if we discussed this, but I'm gonna make it in black and white, as a tribute to James Whale.'

Ehhhh! Pfft! Whooo!

'Come back! Deal breaker, deal breaker!'

There were sirens going off in the office.

If you make 'Frankenstein' in color, already it's too silly.

You can't get the verisimilitudiness quality of James Whale's 'Frankenstein.'

So they said, 'Wait a minute, we got an idea.

We'll make it with color stock, and then we'll diffuse the color, we can do that, and it'll be in black and white.'

I said, 'No, because then when you get to Peru, you're gonna color it again, and I don't want you to do that.

So I'm not gonna give you that opportunity to recolor it.'

And they said... 'We simply can't make it in black and white, we won't make it.'

So I then took the project to some friends, Alan Ladd at 20th Century Fox.

Alan Ladd, Jr. calls Mike at 3:00 in the morning and says, 'I love it!

And it should be in black and white.'

We shall mock the earthquake!

We shall command the thunders and penetrate into the very womb...! What the hell is 'Frankenstein' all about?

Here's a man who wants to make another man.

Well, women do that; well, men don't do that.

Well, men can try doing that.

The whole Frankenstein, Promethean legend has to do with man's inability to make a child.

This is a nice boy!

[Sobbing] This is a good boy!

This is a mother's angel.

And I want the world to know once and for all and without any shame that we love him!

[Sobbing] It was born out of childhood memories, and those memories were mostly ones of being scared.

Then, years later, being able to see the humor came.

So to do the picture without the scary part, it would've been a waste.

It's what comedy should be, a salute and respect to the original movie, and just move it -- move it over two inches here to the right or the left, and you get all the comedy you need.

MAN: What is Mel Brooks like to work for?

For me?



and he understands me somehow, and loves me somehow, and allows me to be myself to a greater degree than a lot of people do, and that's wonderful.

That's a great feeling.

I feel very liberated around him.

He accepts my raunchier humor.

Come over here, you hot monster!

[Snarls] [Distant violin] What is it?

What's the matter?


Is it that music?

It's probably just from some nearby cottage.

Nothing to worry about.

Where are you going?! Oh, you men are all alike!

Seven or eight quick ones and you're off with the boys to boast and brag.

You better keep your mouth shut!

Oh, I think I love him!

FELDMAN: He violently directs you.

He would say, for instance, to me in a scene, 'A little more pfft-pfft and less krrr!'

And then say, 'Action.'

You must be Igor.

No, it's pronounced 'Eye-gor.'

But they told me it was Igor.

Well, they were wrong, then, weren't they?

FELDMAN: I seemed to know what he means, because after, he said, 'Yes, but maybe there was a little too much tweet... Yeah. and so can we do it again with pfft and krrr and no tweet?'

And I would say, 'Fine, Mel.'

And we'd do another take, and he'd say, 'Great.'

So, obviously I understood, but I don't know what I understood.

And then the craziest one of all, Cloris Leachman, who really glued the movie together with her intensity, her insanity.

I am Frau Blucher.

[Thunder, Horses whinny] LEACHMAN: 'Young Frankenstein,' I lived in that castle, that became my castle.

Would the Doctor care for a brandy before retiring?

No, thank you.

I'd turn, he'd turn, we'd walk, I'd take a few steps, I'd turn back, he'd turn back.

Some warm milk... perhaps?

No, thank you very much.



Thank you!

It threw me a little bit, so that's why my performance is what it is, I'm reacting to Gene.

You mean the laboratory.


Ha ha ha!

Oh, Gene, don't laugh!

I didn't have to have any discipline, it was Gene who couldn't control himself.

After lunch in the commissary every day, Mel and I ended up being the only people there who were cleaning up, and I just thought, we're two Jewish mothers.

He's a darling guy.

I pretend we're married sometimes, just to myself.

GRUSKOFF: 1974 was a major year for him because 'Blazing Saddles'was released in February or March and then 'Young Frankenstein' was released in December, and we were up against huge pictures when it -- you know, 'Towering Inferno.'

And we were like, we like snuck in, you know, really.

And to have those two movies in one year, as he says, he wasn't Mel Brooks, he was MEL BROOKS!

[Carefree soundtrack plays] 'Really? A silent movie? ' I said, 'Yes. Nobody talks.'

And this is a tribute to Charlie Chaplin, and to Buster Keaton, and to Harold Lloyd, all the great, great silent movies.

So Laddie said, ''Young Frankenstein' you take away color, and now you're coming to me and you say you want to make a movie and you want to take away sound.'

The business had changed in a way that you no longer could do what Chaplin, how they did it, because he knew what he wanted to do -- or Keaton -- they knew what they wanted to do -- they didn't write it with like, 'And so-and-so as he lifts his hand, it touches the so-and-so --' you know, like trying to write that out to make it sound interesting to read was an exhausting experience.

BROOKS: It proved very difficult because in the middle of making this silent movie, I said, 'Oh, no sound, I can get rid of the boom, I'm so free, I don't have to worry about, you know -- Later I just put some title cards.'

And I was in a morass, I was in quicksand.

LEVINSON: It was very difficult for Mel who's extremely verbal, his language and the way that he talks and everything else, and now you're saying okay, now this is Mel Brooks, silent Mel Brooks.

[Game ball whacking against paddles] [Game SFX continue] BROOKS: Sid Caesar was a studio chief.

I was able to pay Sid back and give him an important role in a movie that I had made.

Mel has this intensity, and this great mind for comedy, and it's great to see him flower out.

I'm a little jealous, I'd say that, but that's human.

I directed him with all the love in the world 'cause I loved him, and I was so grateful to him for teaching me what was important in comedy.

MAN: Let's talk about your private life.

Let's talk about...? Your private life. My private life?

You can attempt -- you can try, and I don't blame you.

If I were you, I'd ask a lot of questions about my private life.

Well let's try. Tell us where you were born.

Actually I was born in Paris in the 16th arrondissement.

I played the accordion when I was three.

I used to dream by the river Seine about coming to America one day.

I think I'm going crazy.

I was born in Brooklyn, Williamsburg, wishing I had been born in Paris, and wishing that some of the girls in Brooklyn were as relaxed and easy as the girls in Paris.

My brother Bernie was a pitcher, mostly underhand.

My brother Lenny was a hero during World War II.

My brother Irving was an intellectual, gave me wonderful stuff to read, and we were all kind of pups in a cardboard box growing up together in real poverty.

I wonder if there's such a thing as fake poverty, but anyway... We are so poor, we do not even have a language, just a stupid accent!

She's right, she's right!

We all talk like Maurice Chevalier.

Hunh, hunh, hunh!

ALL: Hunh, hunh, hunh!

BROOKS: My mother was a saint that raised four boys without a husband.

My father died when I was two, and in those days, you had to wash diapers, you had to cook for four boys, you had to clean the house, you had to make some money somewhere.

My Aunt Sadie used to bring home work, and my mother would have a big bundle of bathing suit sashes and work until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and these were heroes.

I was in analysis six years and I could not launch a decent attack against my mother.

I like my mother.

I love my mother.

If I could, I would go skinny dipping with my mother.

Not until I was about four did I realize, four or five, that other kids had fathers and I didn't.

And then I don't know how that affected my -- my psyche, but, you know, it... it was a brush stroke of depression that really never left me.

Not having a father, another great wellspring source of love that every child is entitled to.

Did becoming a father help at all?

Yeah, it helped, it helped a little, yeah.

It helped a little being -- being a father, and giving as much as I could.

Can you tell us a little about your first marriage?

Well, my first wife was a wonderful gal.

We were too young to really appreciate what our -- our real desires and needs were.

I think the word 'more' comes into it.

I think my first wife needed more.

I needed more attention from the world, with less attention from a wife.

And there was nothing wrong, there was nothing -- She's a wonderful gal.

She's, to this day, a good mother and grandmother.

I just -- it was in a way, you know, unfortunate, and in another way I met Anne, and, you know, and that took.

You know, it took because Anne and I both grew up during the marriage.

We both grew up, we both knew what was really important, and what love meant, and what -- what doing for each other meant.

With Florence I got three wonderful children.

And then Anne gave me Max.

I'm giving you the truth.

Now, you ask questions, you get the truth.

♫High anxiety♫ ♫Whenever you're near♫ ♫High anxiety♫ ♫It's you♫ ♫That I fear♫ I called Hitchcock when we had a rough draft of 'High Anxiety.'

'My next genre film is I want to do Hitchcock.

You, sir, are an entire genre.'

And I brought him what we had outlined anyway.

And he looked through it, and he said, 'Interesting, very interesting.'

He said, 'I think this will work.'

[Gasping] I know a lot of the other girls are turned on by these sort of kinky phone calls but I really couldn't care less.

[Gasping] How did you, um... get my room number?

[Gasping] [Gasping continues] I am not going to listen to any more of this.

I mean, I've had just about enough!

[Gasp!] What are you wearing?

Ge--ge-- Jeans?

[Gasping] Ooh, you're wearing jeans?

I bet they're tight.

Most of the women in movies were to give the men some reality, and were not let loose and were not encouraged.

They could be as funny, and sometimes funnier, than men.

Mel gave sexy ladies a chance to be funny, and he allowed Madeline Kahn to be sexy and funny.

There's a big difference. -- Teri Garr, sexy and funny.

He likes women a lot, and there's a real difference between directors and men in the business that like women, and get women, and are comfortable with women being funny -- 'cause there's a hell of a lot of men that aren't, but pretend that they think women are funny, but they're threatened by women, and Mel Brooks loves women.

BROOKS: When she showed up on the set for the first time, she had pointed breasts.

[Chuckles] I said, 'I don't know if I -- I'm gonna be blamed for this,' you know.

And I had been made up, and I had my costume on, I was all ready to go, and there was a black pencil in my hand.

I'd just put on some eyebrows, a little too close together and curled, and just waiting there, and I started to pencil on a little... Allow me to introduce Nurse Diesel, my right-hand man -- woman.

Dr. Thorndyke, how do you do?

Dinner is served promptly at 8:00 in the private dining room.

Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup.

LEVINSON: We were able to make fun of certain kind of visual setups he had, how his camera was moving, et cetera, and so we were able to play with the film language.

[Crash!] I was making fun of the shower scene in terms of Bernard Herrmann's music.

'Hya-hya-hya--' Here! Here!

Mel said, 'If we do this, you've got to do it, that's insane!'

Happy now?! Happy?! Happy now?! [Shower running] That kid gets no tip.

So I finally got a real rough cut of 'High Anxiety,' so I invite Alfred Hitchcock, who has become my friend.

And then we went through the picture, and he didn't -- you know, every once in a while, he'd... [Imitates Hitchcock] he'd laugh -- that was Hitchcock laugh.

So we get to the shower scene, when the newsprint from the paper he killed me with, or tried to kill me with, went down the drain and looked like blood, and he said, 'Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.'

And then he said, 'You got one thing wrong...' [Door slams] 'Shower rings -- you have 13, we only had 10.'

I had to live with that. I had 13, he only had 10.

You're making too much noise!

I can't help it. You're hurting me.

You're going too hard tonight.

Oh, get off it!

I know you better than you know yourself.

You live for bondage and discipline!


One of the things about Mel is that he's not afraid.

He will literally go for it, you know, because he believes that, and he'll, like, take it as far as you can take something.

And that's a hard thing to do.

It's very easy to pull back, and say oh, it's just gonna be nice over here, we'll be nice or whatever.

He's literally swinging for the fence.

I said to John Calley at Warner Bros., when I was making 'Blazing Saddles,' I said, 'John, can I really beat the [bleep] out of a little old lady?'

[Throwing punches] Ohhh!

Have you ever seen such cruelty?

Oooh! Oooh!

He said, 'Mel, if you're gonna go up to the bell, ring it.'

And I never forgot it.

My God, now she's dead.

No, she's not!

She's alive?! She's Nosferatu.

She's Italian?! If you're gonna do a Dracula movie, there's gotta be 20 gallons of blood somewhere flying around.

Ohhh! My God!

There's so much blood!

She just ate!

Aah! She's still alive!

Hit her again!

No, no, I can't.

How much blood can she have left?




Uh-ha-ah. Uh-ha.

[Sighs] She's almost dead.

She's dead enough.

It's like the Lincoln Center fountain, it's just amazing.

His point of view has to do with being as funny as he could make anything.

That's a very liberating way to be.

It doesn't even occur to him really that that's gonna be offensive at some point.

All pay heed!

The Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these 15... Oy!

10! 10 commandments for all to obey!

Look, there's a light right in your face.

Isn't it getting into your lens?

There, that's better.

Okay, what do you want to know?

MAN: Brooks Films.

None of your business.

Okay, why Brooks Films happened started with Anne Bancroft.

She was at AFI, and she had made a little film called 'The August,' beautiful little film, and then she'd made a second film.

It was a story that she wrote specifically for Dom DeLuise.

It was called 'Fatso.'

I wanted to produce it, but I had a problem.

I saw that if I used 'Mel Brooks,' they would expect less heartbreak and a lot more, with Dom, a lot more comedy.

So I said, ah, I got it, I got it!

I will be Brooks Films.

When I first initiated Brooks Films, I really had a motto -- 'Give talented people the room to express their talent.'

The first movie that I completely handed over to a first time director, a newcomer, was a movie that would cost under five million.

But it was a risk.

MAN: Mel, he saw this thing in 'The Elephant Man' that nobody else saw.

BROOKS: Strange guy, you could only meet him at a Big Boy, Bob's Big Boy.

I wasn't crazy about cheeseburgers, but I just had a lot of faith that he could realize his vision.

And in 'The Elephant Man,' he did.

John Merrick.

'ohn 'errick.

No, John -- That's very good, but say, 'John Merrick.'


'Hello. My name is John Merrick.'

Hello, my naaame... is John Merrick.

You can speak.

BROOKS: Seems to be a running theme of Brooks Films, that all our characters are outside the normal mainstream of civilized activity.

They're all oddballs, but incredibly human, incredibly gifted, all of them.

They all really count.

STEINBERG: I got a call from Mel.

He said, 'It's Mel Brooks meets Errol Flynn on 'The Show of Shows.'' I said, 'I'm not gonna write Mel Brooks, because it'll come out -- I'm gonna write myself as the Benjy character.'

He said, 'No, I can't pay you enough.'

And then I said, 'You can't pay me enough, or you won't pay me enough?'

There was a pause and he said, 'One of those two.'

Monologue's in.

Good morning, King. Hello, Stan.

Yeah, good morning.

King, about the monologue!

What's that? Do you smell something?

[Sniffs] It's coming from the script!

[Sniffs] Oh, it's your monologue!

Oh, what a stinkburger. K.C.! Pull!


I hate it, it's not funny, it's out!

Hey, babe, we're not married to it.

Monologue's out.

MAN: Michael Gruskoff was one of the producers, said, 'You only get Mel when you need him.'

I didn't want to step all over it because I was basically the producer.

I mean I don't micromanage.

We were doing the budget, and I realized, 'We need more money.'

And I called him and I said, 'Mel, I need you. We need $300,000.'

So I said, 'We have to meet with David Begelman,' who was the head of the studio.

'and try and get this money.'

So I said, 'Let's call him and make an appointment in his office.'

And he said, 'No, no office, we don't go into any office.

You go into an office, you don't get anything.

They take phone calls, they don't pay attention, they go to another meeting.

We're going to meet him in the hallway.'

I said, 'What are you talking about?'

He said, 'You get them in the hall.

When they're going somewhere or coming back.

I'll show you.'

So, I said, 'Okay. When is that going to be?'

He said, 'Around lunchtime.'

I said, 'On his way to lunch?'

He said, 'No, you dope! Not on his way to lunch.'

He said, 'He's gonna be hungry, he's not going to listen to us.

Wait till he has lunch, he's eaten a nice big lunch.

We get him on the way back.

We ambush him.'

I said, 'Okay.'

I hadn't heard about this in film school or anywhere else.

So here comes Begelman down the hall.

Mel grabs him -- 'Hiya, David, how you doing?'

Tells him three or four jokes, David is laughing, having a nice time.

We're moving all this time.

We know that this has to happen before he hits the office.

Then, just as we hit his office doorway, he says, 'David, you got any cash on you?'

And he said, 'Why?'

He said, 'Well, the kid --' that was me, the kid -- 'the kid here needs $300,000 to finish the picture.'

'Really?'George Justin, the production guy, is in the hall, he says, 'Is that true?'

And he says, 'Yeah.'

He said, 'All right, give them the money.'

And he's laughing and then he's not laughing quite as much, and he's got a look on his face like, 'what happened here?'

And he's in his office.

And Mel says, 'You need anything else?'

And I said, 'Hm, not now.'

He said, 'Okay, just call me.' He's gone.

It's like Lamont Cranston, The Shadow -- and he's gone.

He was there, now he's not there.

It's the Mel school of how to make movies.

[Jazz band plays] BROOKS: For years, I've been looking for a vehicle for Anne and Mel, for my wife and I, to be in.

I thought it might be a Dodge.

Didn't turn out to be a Dodge, turned out to be a movie.

'To Be or Not To Be.'

SHALIT: What was it like to work in a movie with this person?

Well, it was a lot like being pregnant.

Some days were good and some days you felt like throwing up.

You get two bouquets of roses, and I get to watch!

Well, I have to get some appreciation!

Appreciation? What are you talking about?

You are not only my wife, you happen to be the costar of this company.

Mr. Bronski, here's the new poster from the printer's -- Is it okay?

It's fine, Bieler, fine.

Fine? Just a minute. Come back here!

Look, I don't mind my name in smaller print, I don't even mind it under the title, but in parentheses?! I like it. It sets your name apart.

Well, set yours apart.

I'm a half-assed actor and a smart... comic personality.

I know who I am and I know what I can do.

I know what my limits are.

And I know voids of... personalities I can fill.

I don't want war, all I want is peace!



♫A...♫ ♫Little piece of Poland♫ ♫A little piece of France♫ ♫A little piece of Portugal♫ ♫And Austria, perchance♫ ♫A...♫ ♫Little slice of...♫ When did you first become aware of Hitler?

What a crazy question.

What a really crazy -- when did I -- When I was 14 or 15, Hitler got to be very popular in Germany in 19-- in the 1930s.

I was aware that he was not a nice person.

Strangely enough I didn't know anything about concentration camps.

When I found out as a soldier in Europe, it took a long time to make any kind of human sense out of that.

And I never thought of doing anything about Hitler until after I got back.

[Shouting 'Sieg Heil!'] C. REINER: I love the fact that Mel Brooks dared to do to Hitler what Hitler did to the Jews.

He decimated him by making fun of him.

RIVERS: Well, there are always gonna be people that, when you do a Hitler joke, you make a Jewish joke, that are going to say, 'You shouldn't do this.'

He has my philosophy, so I think he's right, obviously.

You bring it around with humor, you remind everybody with humor what's happened, what's been done, and that makes it palat-- If you laugh at something, you've won already.

You only have half of me.

Look, I'm going to do my famous 'Heil' and you're not going to get my arm in.

'Heil me, heil me, heil me, heil me!'

I'm not in, just this part!

His little grandson was backstage the other night in the dressing room, he said to Mel, 'Yes, is Hitler a good man, or a bad man?'

And Mel looked down at him and said, 'Well, Hitler's a bad man.'

He said, 'Why did Hitler make me laugh like that?'

And then Mel said, 'Hitler didn't make you laugh, I made you laugh.'

[ Orchestra playing 'Blue Danube'] BROOKS: The great thing about dictators is you have to know if you get on a soapbox with them you're gonna lose 'cause they have a way of spellbinding with their oratory.

But if you can reduce them to ridicule, then you're way ahead.

I was looking for another genre to destroy, and I was lucky that I hadn't done science fiction, so I figured I'd plow into it head first, and be irreverent and crazy, but who likes sci-fi?

Well, every kid from 9 to 20, 9 to 18.

I took off my artistic glasses and threw them away.

This humor is gonna be shotgun humor.

You have the ring, and I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.

BROOKS: I called Lucas and he said, 'I only have one caveat.'

Tell me, I'll do it.

He said, 'No action figures because I read your script and they're gonna look exactly like my action figures.

You'd be robbing me of an income from --' I said, 'You're right.'

Merchandising, merchandising!

Where the real money from the movie is made.

Spaceballs the t-shirt.

Spaceballs the coloring book.

Spaceballs the lunchbox.

Spaceballs the breakfast cereal.

Spaceballs the flame thrower!

Whoo! Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!

The kids love this one.

Last but not least, Spaceballs the doll -- me!

[FALSETTO] May the Schwartz be with you!

When it came out, it was not a success.

Critically, it wasn't well-received.

You know, it was kind of lukewarm, and most people said, 'This is Mel Brooks kind of at the end of his game.'

But then once, you know, we had a kid over for supper, and I happened to mention an hour or two into it something about 'Spaceballs,' he goes, 'Oh, can we talk about 'Spaceballs'?' And he knew every line and everything, and I realized, wow, something's happened here.

The DVD sells more than my artistic triumphs like 'Young Frankenstein' or 'Twelve Chairs.'

To this day, it's the biggest hit I've got.

How much film have you got? When is it over?

You got 400 feet? What have you got left?

About a couple hours, an hour.

Oh, it's one of those, oh, okay.

I forgot, we're in the 21st century, right?

Such an unusual name, 'Latrine.'

How did your family come by it?

We changed it in the 9th century.

You mean you changed it to 'Latrine'? Yeah. Used to be [bleep]. Why would I not want to play that part, though, do a cameo when you're called 'Latrine'? You know, I mean it was a -- what a credit for me.

He just wants everyone to feel comfortable and to be as funny as they can be.

There's no angst with working with him, it's just about being as funny, and having positive energy, and there's so many people that make the whole 'being funny' business miserable.

MAN: I was almost done with the film, I had one scene left, and I got Hepatitis A, and I was hospitalized.

I was like -- I looked like a Jewish sardine.

I had 106 fever, I'm in Cedars.

So Mel calls my room, he says, 'Richard, it's Mel, look.

We love you --' I'm doing a bad Mel here.

He says, 'Listen, here's what we're gonna do.

We're gonna pick you up in a stretch, we're gonna get you right to the set, and we're gonna lean you against a piece of wood, and we're gonna paint you so you don't look yellow.

You'll do your two lines, we'll carry you right back into the stretch, you'll be back at Cedars in 20 minutes.'

I go, 'Mel, I'm dying. I think I'm dying.

I have 106 fever, I'm jaundiced, I can't.'

So I hung up on him.

He called me about 15 times with the same riff.

He's like a funny mobster -- Jewish mobster -- when he wants to be.

The reviewers, most of them reamed it.

And it was disappointing.

How do I insulate myself against it?

I can't -- you can't.

Every bad review is a knife plunging through your heart.

It must be an enormous burden to be the funniest man on earth, and he has to live up to so many people's expectations, maybe including his own.

'Dracula: Dead and Loving It,' I think, felt more like a Mad magazine parody.

Not bad in itself, but not necessarily a -- but it wasn't a Mel Brooks, it wasn't enough of Mel in a way.

If you keep doing something, after a while, the public will get tired, the critics will get tired, the world will get tired.

So I made a lot of mistakes making up my own mind, but never displeasing yourself in the feeding of the public.

Always have your... your sacred values intact.

LANE: You know, it was an interesting time in his life.

You know, he had sort of fallen out of favor a bit, as everybody does -- at a certain point, you know, huge string of successes, and then, you know, and then somebody else comes along.

Most people sink when they have failures.

These rare individuals that are sort of comic geniuses like Mel are buoyant.

BROOKS: David Geffen called me at my office and said, 'You know, I got a great idea.

I just saw 'The Producers' on television, and it was meant to be a musical.'

I said, 'No, it's a good movie, let's leave it alone, forget about it.'

And he said, 'No,' and he was like a terrier.

He grabbed the cuff of my trousers with his little terrier teeth, and chawed, he wouldn't let go until finally I said, 'Okay, okay, we'll make it a Broadway musical!'

At one point he thought about, should someone else write the score, went to Jerry Herman, and Jerry was the one to say, 'You've already written two great songs, you should do it.'

And that was really the right idea.

I think it had to be Mel.

STROMAN: He had his good friend Tom Meehan.

Tom suggested that Mel connect with me and my husband, Mike Ockrent.

There he was bang on time at 6:30, and instead of saying hello, he just launched into the song 'That Face.'

♫That face, that face...♫ And he went right by me, right down my long hallway, dancing to this song that I'd never heard of, and he jumped up on top of the sofa, and he looked down, and he said, 'Hello, I'm Mel Brooks.'

We started to work, and it was shortly after that, sadly, my husband became ill with leukemia.

And we lost him.


He wanted me to go on as the director and choreographer.

I didn't think I could do it just because of how I was feeling.

But, you know, Mel said, 'Stro, you will cry in the morning, and you will cry in the evening.

You'll cry before you see me, and you'll cry after I leave.'

He says, 'But you will laugh all during the day.'

And, you know, it saved me. It really did.

It was meant to be that Mel came into my life.

I got something I want you to see.

Oh, no!

This is a contract.

It's for 'The Producers,' we're taking it to Broadway, and I want him.

[Cheering, applause] It was that rare thing that happens in the theater where all of the right people came together at the right time.

♫We can do it♫ ♫We can do it♫ ♫We can do it♫ ♫Me and you♫ ♫We can do it♫ ♫We can do it♫ ♫We can make our dreams come true♫ BRODERICK: The cover of the Daily News was a picture of this line, huge one.

It felt like it was 1938. It was like Broadway was back.

Tony night for 'The Producers,' you were in the audience, and you couldn't believe how they kept saying, 'The Producers,' 'The Producers,' 'The Producers.'

And the 2001 Tony Award goes to... Gary Beach, 'The Producers.'

Cady Huffman.

Nathan Lane!

[Crowd cheering] They've broken the record -- 'The Producers.'

BRODERICK: It was surreal.

It was like I was imagining it, the amount of Tony's it kept winning, and the amount of times Mel kept coming up.

It's been wonderful being here.

I'll see you in a couple of minutes -- goodbye!

And that's when Nathan said, 'We gotta stop him somehow.'

And trying to get Mel to stop, which is very difficult to do without a tranquilizer dart.

♫You and me, oh, we guarantee, oh♫ ♫You're looking at Leo♫ ♫And Max!♫ ♫The Producers♫ ♫Leo♫ ♫And Max!♫ ♫Ahhhhhh!♫ [Applause] STROMAN: The success of 'Producers'opened up a whole new genre of shows because after 'The Producers' opened, then you saw shows like 'Spamalot' and 'Book of Mormon.'

I think 'Producers'allowed people to be more outrageous and more... and funnier.

BROOKS: This is what I was meant to do.

That's what I started doing in the Borscht Belt, in the mountains.

And I left it for movies.

It's a personal burst of creative freedom.

It's the most rewarding thing an artist can do is the Broadway stage.

LANE: You know, I can remember Anne coming over after some run-through and her saying, 'Thank you so much for what you've done for the show and for getting my husband out of the house.'

Then she said the greatest thing ever about him, you know.

'We're like any other couple, we've had our ups and downs, but,'she said, 'every time I hear the key in the door, I know the party's about to start.'

BROOKS: Anne died at 73.

She could've certainly gone on to 83, 90, you know, would've been wonderful.

[Applause] [Applause] MAN: You've pretty much gotten every award there is to... BROOKS: Not every award.

Woman of the Year, I have not received that award.

I don't know why.

I mean, you know, if they want me to go get in a dress for that award, I would do it.

To begin with, I'm very honored and I'm very happy and bitterly disappointed.

[Laughter] I thought I was going to become a doctor.

I don't even know if I'm talented.

I'm not sure.

But I've told so many people that I'm talented so they believe it, and then they tell me I'm talented so I agree.

It's good to be da king.

I think we're good for today.

We're good for today, we're wonderful for today.

Do I get paid for this?


If this program was called 'Dutch Masters,' I'd have boxes of cigars, but I had to be foolish and settle for 'American Masters.'

No money in it, no cigars, no nothing.

Anyway, we'll talk again. Bye-bye.

Thank you.

[Dramatic soundtrack plays] ♫Hope for the best♫ ♫Expect the worst♫ ♫Some drink champagne♫ ♫Some die of thirst♫ ♫No way of knowing♫ ♫Which way it's going♫ Why is fruit so important? Fruit? Uh... I do like fruit. How do you know that?

Fruit, because it tastes good, it's fresh.

And it helps you go.

Don't... Don't eat candy bars.

And don't eat too much sugar anyway.

Eat all the fruit you want.

Citrus fruit is perfect because it has a lot of fiber.

To learn more about Mel Brooks and other American masters, visit... Or find us on Facebook.

'Mel Brooks: Make a Noise' is available on DVD for $19.97.

To order, call 1-800-336-1917 or write to the address on your screen.

Pear is okay. I have nothing against the pear.

A d'Anjou pear, I lo-- You know, very nice.


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