Thursday, January 19, 2012

Now, THAT'S a list I can get behind

You know that post I wrote about the surprising Kris Kristofferson? Truth is, I really meant to write about Mel Brooks. People get those two confused all the time, don't they? No? Fine. Be that way.

So anyway, back to Mel... I stumbled upon this awesome article on Topless Robot (I stumbled on it, I didn't name it) — "10 Kickass Things Mel Brooks Did (Besides His Movies)" — which led me to my 'unknown brainiac' spiel... which led to Mr. Kristofferson... which led to... oh, to live in my brain. But today — today, I really am going to write about Mel Brooks.

Here are the "10 reasons you should be impressed besides how many times he got you to watch Blazing Saddles and still laugh." I could try to put it better, but why work that hard? (Many kudos to Topless Robot for this list.)

Created Get Smart. Yep, that was him — with Buck Henry, who, by the way, besides playing Liz Lemon's dad on 30 Rock, was nominated for an Oscar for writing The Graduate, which starred Anne Bancroft (see below) — there is just no end to these brainiacs in hiding.

Photo from

Gave us Max Brooks. If nothing else, Mel's son has been credited (or blamed, depending) for the recent uptick of zombies in pop culture — his 2003 book, The Zombie Survival Guide, pre-dates the truly hilarious Shaun of the Dead, Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, the film adaptation of I Am Legend (you know what I think about that movie), the Cinderella story movie (the actual movie, not the plot) Zombieland, AMC's The Walking Dead, to name a few. That and his next book, World War Z, are both on their way to the silver screen. Plus — how cute is Mel's grandson, Henry Mel?

Rocked Broadway. You know all those movies that have been musicalized and transported to the Great White Way? Blame Brooks. His production of The Producers won 12 Tonys, and Young Frankenstein was nominated for three. Next up, he's writing the book and music for a Broadway version of Blazing Saddles. "The sheriff's near."

Wrote in comedy's version of the Brill Building. If it weren't true, it would be ridiculous. Nah, it's still ridiculous. Wrap your mind around this round table: Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Daniel Simon, Larry Gelbart, Selma Diamond, Michael Stewart and Mel Tolkin. Uh huh. In one room. Writing for one guy (Sid Caesar). For the record — those minds brought us (just a sampling, mind you): Blazing Saddles, Manhattan, The Jerk, The Odd Couple, Sleeper, Young Frankenstein, My Three Sons, Bye Bye Birdie, Diff'rent Strokes, M.A.S.H., Hot in Cleveland... you get the drift.

Discovered Dave Chappelle. Betcha didn't know that. DC's first film role was in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Thanks for that, Mel.

Got the EGOT. Mel Brooks is one of only ten people — EVER — to win the grand slam of entertainment awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. I know, I know — you want to know who the other nine are. Hey, I need something to write about tomorrow.

Won the heart and hand of Anne Bancroft. A duo right up there with Newman & Woodward for Hollywood romances that make you believe in "wuv, true wuv" (recognize that? It's from a movie directed by Carl Reiner's son... see how that works?). And proof positive that women go for men who make them laugh. Really.

Brought us The Elephant Man. Not only did Brooks produce this far from funny story of the "classic wandering Jew" directed by David Lynch, he was on set every day. Though... would you believe it was Brooks' kids' babysitter who gave him the script? That's at least a little funny.

Defused landmines. No, really. Brooks joined the Army Corps of Engineers when he was 17. Legend has it that when the Germans began blasting propaganda at the American troops through loudspeakers, Brooks set up his own loudspeakers and blasted back with his impression of "Toot Toot Tootsie." Take that, you stinkin' Krauts!

Gave us Gene Wilder. Further proving my beautiful-women-love-funny-men theory, it was Anne Bancroft who introduced Mel to Gene after she worked with him on stage. Three years later, Mel cast Gene as Bloom in The Producers, after which we got Gene as Willy Wonka, Gene as Young Frankenstein, Gene as Jim, The Waco Kid. Happy days.

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