I was of two minds about categorizing this interview of Mel Brooks. (Why do I suspect that Brooks would take delight in not being easily categorized?) Mel Brooks: Make a Noise originally aired as an episode of American Masters on PBS. I happened to see it on Netflix as a stand-alone documentary.
The show/documentary reintroduced me to Brooks. I grew up watching some of his most famous films. Silly, goofy, irreverent at times, his lines still pop up in conversation from time to time—similarly to the lines of Monty Python that pepper interactions with others. “It’s good to be the king.”
I learned about Mel’s background, of which I was ignorant. Cutting his teeth working with Sid Caesar during the early days of TV, he branched out into making what became his trademark movies. I learned fascinating tidbits, such as his relationship with Hitchcock that developed during the making of High Anxiety, a spoof on the Hitchcock genre.
I also learned that Brooks didn’t just write and direct umpteen movies—some of which I did not know!—but also founded a movie company to help support the production of movies such as The Elephant Man and The Fly. He was an instrumental force in movie making, using his insider knowledge of the film industry to get movies financed and produced.
I didn’t realize the acclaim that The Producers generated from its Broadway run. Cajoled and finally convinced to turn his movie into a play, Mel threw himself into the Broadway production; the production won award after award during the Tonys.
I also didn’t realize that Brooks was a writer and co-creator of the sixties TV show Get Smart, that silly spoof on spy agencies and spies…though frankly, in hindsight, that comes as no surprise.
Although it has been nearly twenty years since he wrote/directed a film, he has continued to be active in theater and tv.
His foray into theater is natural. He excelled at creating show tunes with goofy, irreverent lyrics. Think about the Spanish Inquisition (“The Inquisition, what a show!”), or Springtime for Hitler (“Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party!”).
His humor is edgy and pushes boundaries. He is not without controversy. He routinely made fun of Hitler. But by doing so, he robbed Hitler of his power.
Over the years I have turned back again and again to his classic Young Frankenstein. It’s time to turn back to his other films—ones I have seen and ones I haven’t—to enjoy his goofy humor again, sing along to the numerous show tunes he wrote, and to make fun of all the horrible things that have happened in history such as the Inquisition and Hitler.