Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Mel Brooks, American Master
has only helmed eleven feature films, but he defines the art of tasteless
comedy. Mel Brooks more or less invented
the movie spoof genre, before the Wayanses thoroughly discredited it. Now the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award
winner gets the American Masters treatment
in Robert Trachtenberg’s Mel Brooks: Make
a Noise (promo
airs this Monday on PBS stations nationwide.
the 2,000 Year Old Man, Brooks has quite a career to look back on. His first big break came on television as a
writer for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of
Shows, the classic sketch comedy showcase that would later serve as a model
for the nostalgic Peter O’Toole dramedy My
Favorite Year, which Brooks’ company produced. He subsequently made a name for himself with
the aforementioned comedy act he developed with Carl Reiner, but a handful of
classic movies would establish Brooks as a brand name.
Trachtenberg devotes considerable time to The
Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young
Frankenstein, adding reminiscences from Brooks regulars like Gene Wilder
and Cloris Leachman. He also includes some fitting archival footage of Marty Feldman,
Madeline Kahn, and of course Anne Bancroft.
Clearly, they shared one of the few true show business romances. Yet, to his credit, Brooks sounds quite gracious
when discussing his first wife.
must be an exceedingly difficult interview subject, but Trachtenberg’s
persistence is impressive. From time to
time, he also surprises Brooks with the insight of his questions, as when he
asks the writer-director when he first became aware of Hitler (who plays such
an unusual role in Brooks films like The
There are not a lot of surprises in Noise, nor does Trachtenberg delve shockingly
deeply into Brooks’ psyche. Nonetheless,
he nicely captures the comedy giant’s dichotomies. Viewers see a smart, thoughtful man with a
talent for fart jokes. We understand he
is a private individual by temperament, but has a healthy disregard for his own
public image. Overall, it is a highly
watchable profile that should entertain Brooks’ many fans when it airs this
coming Monday (5/20) as part of the current season of American Masters on PBS.
Labels: American Masters, Mel Brooks