“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”
On June 28, 1926, famed actor, comedian, writer, director, composer, and songwriter Melvin James Kaminksy, or better known as Mel Brooks, was born in Brooklyn, New York. The iconic comedian created some of the funniest movies in cinematic history, including THE PRODUCERS (1968), BLAZING SADDLES (1974) and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974). In honor of Mel’s birthday, DMG Entertainment has compiled a list of fun facts about the comedic legend. So get ready to understand what Mel means when he said, “Immortality is a by-product of good work.”
Going, Going, Gone!
Mel Brooks is one of eleven people who have won an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Tony Award, also known as “EGOT” or the “Grand Slam” of the entertainment industry. In the span of his career, Brooks has earned four Emmys, three Grammys, and three Tony Awards, and one Oscar. If Mel Brooks happens to win another Oscar, he’ll be the first person to have achieved the “Grand Slam” twice.
The Voice of Controversy
Mel Brooks sang the infamous song “Springtime for Hitler” from THE PRODUCERS. His voice was dubbed into the film. Mel has made many other voice cameos, including THE CRITIC (1963), FREE TO BE… YOU & ME (1974), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES’ SMARTER BROTHER (1975), LOOK WHO’S TALKING TOO (1990), THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1998), ROBOTS (2005), and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 (2015).
The Real Private Joker
Mel Brooks was a U.S Army corporal in World War II. During his military service, Brooks took part in the Battle of the Bulge. Although the Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest battle fought by the US in World War II, it didn’t seem to alter Brook’s sense of humor.
During the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans played propaganda over speakers, inspiring Brooks to set up his own speakers and performed Al Jolson’s “Toot Toot Tootsie.”
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Funny
Mel Brooks has three films in the AFI’s Funniest Movies of All-Time list. BLAZING SADDLES ranks 6th, THE PRODUCERS ranks 11th, and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN ranks 13th.
Because Mel Brooks mentions Raisinets in BLAZING SADDLES, the company gives Brooks free Raisinets every month.
Lay Down the Beat
Mel Brooks is a very talented drummer. As he teenager, Mel learned how to play the drums from music legend Buddy Rich.
He’ll Do Anything for Love
Mel Brooks met his future wife, superstar Anne Bancroft, on the set of a TV show. In order to get to know her better, Brooks paid a PA to tell him where Bancroft was having dinner that night. Brooks quickly went to the restaurant so he could “accidentally” run into her.
From there Brooks swept her off her feet with his odd charm and rapid fire jokes. After marrying at New York City Hall in 1964, the two stayed thoroughly in love until Bancroft’s death in 2005.
The Duke Can’t Handle a Blazing Saddle
When Mel Brooks wrote BLAZING SADDLES, he ate lunch across from Western legend John Wayne. The Duke became interested in BLAZING SADDLES when he heard Brooks created a western with such dialogue as, “Blow it out your ass.”
Brooks gave Wayne a copy of his script, but The Duke had a change of heart after reading it. Apparently, John Wayne said, “Naw, I can’t do a movie like that, but I’ll be first in line to see it.”
That Feeling When…
Every Mel Brooks movie has one scene which the main character stares blankly as he wonders what went wrong.
Mel Brooks started his career performing slapstick vaudeville acts in the Catskills resort. While he worked there, he met Sid Caesar and begged him for a job. Sid gave Brooks a helping hand and let him write for YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. On the show, Brooks collaborated with other comedic geniuses such as Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Daniel Simon, Larry Gelbart, Selma Diamond, Michael Stewart and Mel Tolkin.
Father of Zombies
Mel Brooks’ son, Max Brooks, wrote WORLD WAR Z (2013) and THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE (2003). Just like his father, Max is far from a one-trick pony. Max has written for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and G.I. JOE comic books.
An Eye For Talent
Mel Brooks discovered Dave Chappelle and Gene Wilder. Although Gene Wilder did extensive stage work, he didn’t get his first film break until he met Brooks. After Anne Bancroft introduced him to Gene Wilder, Brooks decided Wilder would be the perfect actor for the lead role in THE PRODUCERS.
Later on, Brooks gave Dave Chappelle his first film role in ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (1993).
If You Can Do Comedy, You Can Do Anything
Mel Brooks also produced serious films, such as THE ELEPHANT MAN and THE FLY.
That’s A First!
Mel Brook’s BLAZING SADDLES is the first movie to feature fart noises. After realizing a cowboy’s coffee and beans diet would lead to flatulence, Brooks convinced people on set to put soap in their hands and make armpit farts during the shoot.
It’s Never Too Old to Win a Tony
Mel Brooks was 75 years old when he released THE PRODUCERS on Broadway in 2001. The blockbuster performance won twelve Tonys. Think Brooks will take it easy from now on? Think again. Brooks has plans to make BLAZING SADDLES for Broadway too.
Last, But Certainly Not Least.
In 2014, the TCL Chinese Theater honored Brooks with a handprints and footprint ceremony. At 88 years old, Mel became the oldest performer to receive the honor. Staying true to his reputation, Mel took the opportunity to pull a gag. He included a prosthetic finger when making his handprints, giving the illusion Mel Brooks has a six-fingered left hand.
Give The People What They Want!
When Mel Brooks screened BLAZING SADDLES to Warner Brother’s executives, they were less than impressed with the film. So how did Brooks respond? He set up a screening for regular Warner Brothers employees. Unlike the executives, the employees laughed from beginning to end. Mel Brook’s proved his point to the executives, encouraging the studio to release his movie.
Walk This Way
Although Mel Brooks thought the “walk this way” gag was too corny for BLAZING SADDLES, he decided to keep it in after seeing audiences’ positive reactions. The scene ended up inspiring Aerosmith’s smash hit, “Walk This Way.” After watching the film, the band wrote the song the following morning.
Happy 90th Mel! Thanks for reminding us that no one should aspire to be normal.
Stay tuned to DMG Entertainment for the latest updates on our upcoming feature films.