Mel Brooks: Why? Why did the producers get to Broadway? How did they get the. Every day a guy by the name of David Geffen who at that point may not be known to the public, but was certainly known to everybody in show business as a great music maker, music, a record mogul. I mean, he came he came from poor beginnings, but because he knew good music and he found good music and he found great artists and he and he marketed them. And he and he was very loyal and stayed with them. He was able to create a company called Geffen Records, which he sold for. Idato. A billion dollars to Universal Music or something. And then he thought he had done a show on Broadway. He put it together. It’s a bit of a genius. He put it together, called Dreamgirls. Wonderful show, because it had to do with the Supremes and such great music. And so out of the blue one day calls me. He says, Mel, I think the producers would make a great Broadway musical. Doesn’t need a lot. Three or four songs. It’s really it would be the funniest musical ever, ever done on Broadway. And I said, OK, let me think about it. I didn’t. I said, I it is what it is. I did not enjoy it, you know. And, you know, it was like the Carrie Grant story, which David Geffen I’m not. You know, he’d call every day. Finally, after two weeks, after two weeks, I I met with him and he he really lectured he lectured me. Chapter and verse about why it should be successful. And I said, OK. He had some caveats. And one of the caveats was that maybe Jerry Herman, who is a brilliant guy who writes music and lyrics, that everybody writes music and lyrics. Frank Loesser writes music and lyrics. Irving Berlin writes music and lyrics. Cole Porter writes music and lyrics. Harold Rome writes me very few. Out of grit, hundreds of composers and hundreds of lyricists, very few have the talent to put them together. I am fortunate that I do that, too. So anyway, he thought Jerry Herman would be perfect. I saw Jerry Herman. I said, look, he’s talked me into this Broadway Tablers Burbridge. Nobody’s nobody writes better Broadway than you do, Jerry. So, Jerry. So Jerry goes to the piano. And he sits down and he plays Springtime for Hitler. And stops and says, that’s a great song. That’s your centrepiece. That’s that’s your second act peak. Springtime for Hitler. It’s a great song. And NBC played Prisoners of Love. Then he played Hope for the best. Expect the worst. He said, you’re great. You’re a good songwriter. You’re. You should you should write the score. You write music. You write lyrics. And you know, you know, you know the producers better than anybody in the world. You know, you would know where it burst into song and how and you would write the songs. So he got while I’m there, he calls Geffen. He said, get me David Geffen, Jeffrey Hermes and David, it’s Jerry. I’ve just sat at the piano. I’ve played Mel’s music. I’ve sung his lyrics. You’re crazy. You’ve got a diamond in the rough. Nobody knows that. He’s a wonderful lyricist and composer. And you’ve got to use him for the producers as a musical. You’ll be OK. You promise? Yeah. He got me the job. So Jerry Herman got me the job. And David said yes. And we were on our way. and it went, you know, we got Mike Okrent as our director. And he had leukemia. But he had in those days was called the good kind of leukemia that you could live with. And unfortunately, for some reason, he took a turn for the worse than it was. It was really kind of accidental that while he was being treated is is resistance is immune system was really low and out of the blue. He died. And Stroman, his wife, Susan Stroman, who had done crazy for you, for him. Great show. She’d done the brilliant choreography. And she had just finished her own little production of cut contact with a beautiful girl in the yellow dress. And and but he died and she just folded up. She didn’t want to. She didn’t. But she didn’t want to live. So Tom Mann and I went over every day and we’d sit with her. And finally, I just grabbed him by the shoulders and I said, Cry in the morning before you come to the studio, before you come to the rehearsal. Cry in the morning. Do your work. Go home. Cry at night. But in between, you are going to direct the producer. She said, I can’t. I can’t. I said, cry in the morning. So finally she called me and she said, OK. I finished crying in the morning here. She came in, she directed the producers and. And then she went home and cried and Gaffin. Everything was going well. And then Gaffin hit me with the bad news. He said, I’ve got. So many hours in the day. I love what you’re doing. I think it’s going to be good. Very good. But I’m being torn into pieces time wise with creating this. Katzenberg and Spielberg and I are creating this. This thing is DreamWorks, and it’s just struggling to get off the ground and we’re struggling to make animated films and was struggling. And it’s just taking twenty five out of the twenty four hours in a day for me. So he said he couldn’t, he couldn’t stay with it, but he kissed me and wished me all the luck in the world. And he was always there for us. And he was always and I always give him the initial credit for having seen the producers as a musical in his mind. That’s that’s part of his talent and and and the success of it.

Interviewer: Was this your happiest professional experience to have a hit show on Broadway?

Mel Brooks: Yes, it was my happiest professional experience because I got paid first time in my life. I got paid. Oh, they given me money. But that’s not getting paid well.

Interviewer: What do you mean you got paid emotional or.

Mel Brooks: Audiences laughing, their heads off, audiences applauding at the end of the show. Audience standing up, standing and cheering with tears in their eyes. I said, my God. First time I ever got paid. 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. What movies you got? Twenty seven other guys doing, you know. Look, look around. There’s a guy just adjusting focus. What do I do? I him in my life, you know, I’m telling you, it’s all. It’s a personal burst of creative freedom. And look. And the audience tells you right away that they like it. Sometimes you go out of town, they don’t like it so much. You hear more boos and stuff. You know, but but it’s a great, great payoff. It’s the great it’s the most rewarding thing an artist can do. Is is the Broadway stage.

Interviewer: It’s important to note. You’ve got to tell us that as you took the advice of one of the characters, you did not invest in the producers, right?

Mel Brooks: No, I didn’t.

Interviewer: Say it as a statement.

Mel Brooks: Oh, I. I had Max Bialystock giving lessons to Leo Bloom about producing. He said the two cardinal rules of being a producer are one, you never put your own money in the show and blooms. And two. And he says to you, never put your own money in the show. So those are the cardinal rules. So I listen to myself and I didn’t put any money at all into the production staff who would have made a fortune. I never put my my own money in the show.

Interviewer: The what that show, which is not does not happen very often. It not only was it a hit on Broadway, it became it entered the national consciousness. It became a national phenomenon. That show is on the cover of The New Yorker. They did something. It was it became national news. This Broadway show.

Mel Brooks: It hasn’t died yet. It’s still only three weeks ago, 17000 people at the Hollywood Bowl saw. So they saw a production of the producers and they and they leaped to their feet and cheered. I mean, that’s really a great pair. I came on stage. There was such screaming. I said maybe I could run for president. You know, a lot of people, you know, I got a good start right here.

Mel Brooks
Interview Description:
Selections from the documentary's fourth interview with comedy legend Mel Brooks, reflecting on his life and career.
Robert Trachtenberg
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Mel Brooks , Mel Brooks: Make a Noise" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). September 24, 2012 ,
(1 , 1). Mel Brooks , Mel Brooks: Make a Noise [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Mel Brooks , Mel Brooks: Make a Noise" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). September 24, 2012 . Accessed March 21, 2023


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