Madman Brooks

So there I was, shuffling through articles that I hadn't read yet in Instapaper. Up comes an edition of Oliver Burkeman's The Imperfectionist newsletter: "Dailyish". In it he links to an interview he did with Jerry Seinfeld in 2014 for The Guardian: "Jerry Seinfeld on how to be funny without sex and swearing". In that article I discovered that there was an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee that had Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks in it. I practically ran to find the remote control so that I could pull it up on Netflix.

I love Mel Brooks. For good or ill, he's been a big inspiration to me, mainly through Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Those are the finished works, but his interviews are even better—they're kinetic, maniacal. Even at 80-something in the show above, he's still jumping out of his chair and running for the door to give the full measure of slapstick to his jokes.

The best interview is his 1975 in Playboy—you can read it here, not there.

PLAYBOY: What’s so special about your comedy?

BROOKS (snatching up the receiver as the phone rings): This is Mel Brooks. We want 73 party hats, 400 balloons, a cake for 125 and any of the girls that are available in those costumes you sent up before. Thank you! (Slams the receiver down) You were saying?

I don't know if "aspire" is the right word here. We'll make it work. That sort of immediate reaction to whatever is immediately available, and then taking off at a dead run in whichever direction is there to go, careening off whatever is there to careen off, knowing that he can run and jump off whatever he wants to and stick the landing—maybe not stick the landing, but a landing—that's what I try to do. It's not polished, but it is practice. That kind of full throttle will run you directly into a wall if you don't know how to drive. Move and move and move and see what works and feed it back into the system and keep moving.

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