The Movie Waffler Happy Birthday Mel Brooks! | The Movie Waffler

Happy Birthday Mel Brooks!

Mel Brooks was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1926, and was already working as a comedian in his neighborhood by the time he was a teenager. After serving in World War II, Brooks returned home and worked as an entertainer in various resorts in New York’s Catskills region, performing standup comedy and even working as a drummer at times.

When Brooks partnered with Sid Caesar in 1949, he quickly became a presence on Broadway with shows like 1950’s 'Your Show of Shows'. When Brooks met Carl Reiner, the result was Brooks’ first iconic comedy work, the 1961 skit-cum-comedy album 'The 2000 Year Old Man'.
From Broadway, it was on to television for Brooks, where he quickly found success with the spy parody show 'Get Smart'. After scoring an early Academy Award in 1964 for the animated short 'The Critic', Brooks made his feature film debut in 1968 with the comedy 'The Producers', which showcased his willingness to push the boundaries of taste with its absurd premise centering around a musical starring Hitler. While not initially successful, 'The Producers' received the 1969 Oscar for best screenplay and would eventually be praised by critics.
1974 saw Brooks’ real breakout as he released 'Blazing Saddles', a parody of Westerns filled with hilariously tasteless jokes and puns, and 'Young Frankenstein' later that year. Both films were immediate hits and box office successes, and set the tone for the next 15 years of films for Brooks, whose envelope-pushing jokes and set pieces would rewrite the rules for what was okay to say in a comedy for all time.
Brooks continued to make successful films in which he typically acted, and often directed and wrote as well, through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. From 'High Anxiety' in 1977, to 'History of the World: Part I' and 'Spaceballs' in 1981 and 1987, and 'Robin Hood: Men in Tights' in 1993, audiences continued to flock to Brooks’ sendups of serious movies. The 21st century saw Brooks continuing to find success, including with Broadway musical versions of 'The Producers' (2001) and 'Young Frankenstein' (2007).
When Brooks was honored with the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, it was just the latest in a long list of accolades, as Brooks is one of only eleven entertainers to win at least one Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar, also known as the “grand slam of show business.”
At the age of 87, Brooks is far from done making us laugh - he’s got an animated film for which he provided voices coming out in 2014, and as the recent PBS documentary about him showed, he is as vibrant and irreverent as ever. As he has said in the past, “...if you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy, colorful and lively.”
Happy birthday, Mel; and here’s hoping you stay noisy, colorful and lively for another 87 years!

Spencer Blohm
Spencer Blohm is a movie and entertainment blogger for DTV’s Satellite TV website. He enjoys writing about vintage animated shorts and films, horror, and comedies from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. He lives in Chicago with his cat, Rupert.