Over his fifty-plus year career Mel Brooks has established himself as one of the pre-eminent satirists in the entertainment industry. His razor sharp humor has scored successes on television, in Hollywood blockbusters and the Broadway stage. In each industry he has been graced with the highest honor and his accumulation of an Oscar®, Emmy, Grammy, and a Tony Award has earned him entry into a highly exclusive club.
Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn on June 28, 1926. After serving with the army in North Africa during the Second World War, Brooks got his start in comedy by doing standup in Catskills, NY, nightclubs. His routines caught the attention of Sid Caesar who would later hire the young comedian for his TV series “Your Show of Shows.” Brooks then followed Caesar to write for “Caesar’s Hour,” alongside other young comedic luminaries such as Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and Carl Reiner.
Brooks’ first film work came in 1963 with the Oscar®-winning animated short The Critic which he created with Earnie Pintoff. Two years later he would win acclaim by co-creating the hit TV show “Get Smart,” which would run through 1969. The show also won him the support of Joseph E. Levin who financed his first feature film, The Producers (1970). The film would win Brooks another Oscar®, this time for Best Screenplay and mark the beginning of his Hollywood career.
In 1974 Brooks co-wrote and directed Blazing Saddles, a hilarious send-up of the western genre and the first of the parodies that would become Brooks’ comedic calling card. The ensemble cast, including Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn, would become a staple of Brooks’ future projects. Brooks quickly followed this success with Young Frankenstein (1974), co-written with Gene Wilder. Their parody of the classic Hammer horror films was a huge success.
Brooks would churn out a steady stream of parodies over the next twenty-odd years, establishing a widely imitated, but rarely equaled formula. He sometimes missed as with Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977), but more often than not he scored hits as with History of the World – Part I (1981), Spaceballs (1987), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995).
Brooks, who usually took small parts in his own films also found occasional work as an actor in other projects including a hilarious role as Uncle Phil on NBC’s “Mad About You.” Through his involvement with his own production company-Brooksfilms–Brooks scored successes as executive producer of films as varied as David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980).
In 2001 Brooks re-imagined his first film, The Producers, as a Broadway musical. The stage production, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, ultimately won 12 Tony’s and a Grammy en route to becoming the hottest play on Broadway.
With over forty years of experience in the performing arts, Mel Brooks has received the highest honors in each field he has tried his hand in.
From the 2000’s onward Brooks had mostly contributed voice roles on animation series such as the excellent Jakers and occasional guest roles on shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm.