97 Trivia Tidbits About Mel Brooks on His 97th Birthday

97 Trivia Tidbits About Mel Brooks on His 97th Birthday

“It’s good to be the king.”

That was Mel Brooks’ famous line from History of the World, Part I, and being an EGOT winner and a National Medal of Arts honoree, it describes the comic genius more or less perfectly. 

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The beloved writer and director of The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein turns 97 today, and we wanted to wish the ultimate king of comedy a happy birthday by providing a trivia tidbit for every year he’s spent among us…

Born on a Brooklyn Table

Mel Brooks, birth name Melvin Kaminsky, is the youngest of four brothers and was born on June 28, 1926, in Brownsville, Brooklyn, right on his family’s kitchen table.

His Father Died When He was Two

Brooks’ father, Max Kaminsky, died of tuberculosis when Brooks was just two. In a 1975 interview with Playboy, Brooks said, “I’m pretty sure my need to have my male characters come together (goes) all the way back to my father, whom I never really knew and can’t remember. I can’t tell you what sadness, what pain it is to me never to have known my own father, who died when I was two and a half. All I know is what they’ve told me. He was lively, peppy, sang well. Isn’t it sad that that’s all a son should know about his father? If only I could look at him, touch his face, see if he had eyebrows! Maybe in having the male characters in my movies find each other, I’m expressing the longing I feel to find my father and be close to him.”

He First Remembers Being Funny at Age Seven

Brooks told Playboy that the first time he remembered being funny was when he was seven and was at the Sussex Camp for Underprivileged Jewish Children. He would mock the counselors to the other boys, saying things like, “Stay at the shallow end of the pool until you learn to drown!”

He was Hit By a Car at Age Eight

“I thought it was a great thing because I wasn’t killed, and I got a box of candy,” Brooks later joked.

Ages Four to Nine Were His Happiest Years

“My mother (laid) out my little kids’ clothes on the radiator, warming it up, and then dressing me under the covers,” he’s explained. “That was a great feeling, warm on a cold winter day.” However, he said his childhood bliss ended once school started assigning him homework when he was nine.

Ethel Merman Inspired Him to Get into Show Business

After seeing the actor and singer on stage as a child, Brooks promised himself, “I’m going into show business, and nothing will stop me!” He said her dedication to the material is what sold him.

He Got Drumming Lessons from Buddy Rich

When he was 14, Brooks began drumming and took instruction from a young drummer named Buddy Rich, who is widely considered to be one of the most influential drummers of all time.

Being a Drummer Helped his Comedy

Brooks told The New Yorker, “It has to do with punchlines. It has to do with timing. It has to do with buildup and explosions. For a joke to work, I always needed that rim shot when one of the drumsticks hits the rim of the snare as well as the center of the drum and gives you that crack, that explosion. It’s the same thing with a joke.”

He Began in the Borscht Belt

At 14, he got a job as a poolside drummer at the Butler Lodge in the Catskills, which was part of the “Borscht Belt,” an upstate destination primarily for Jewish people from the 1920s to the 1960s.

His First Comedic Performance Was at 16

At the Butler Lodge no less. “When one of the comics got sick, I filled in for him because I knew his stuff,” he told The New Yorker. One of the jokes he told then was, “I just flew in from Chicago, and boy, are my arms tired.”

He Met Sid Caesar at the Butler Lodge

Also at the Butler Lodge, Brooks met an 18-year-old Sid Caesar, a comedian he would later write for on Your Show of Shows

He Changed His Name to Avoid Confusion with a Trumpet Player

As a young drummer, he once booked a lucrative hotel gig for $200. When he arrived, the hotel was disappointed to discover he wasn’t Max Kaminsky, a famous trumpet player. Brooks then used his mother’s maiden name, “Brookman,” but changed it to “Brooks” to better fit on his drum kit.

He’s a World War II Veteran

In 1944, Brooks was drafted into the Army. He became a forward artillery observer with the 78th Infantry Division and later transferred to the 1,104th Engineer Combat Group. He was honorably discharged in 1945 as a corporal. 

He Liked the Army Because They Fed Him

Brooks once said, “I liked being in the Army only because I knew I was going to get fed. I was very poor when I was a kid.”

Jewish Refugees in Germany Left an Impression on Him

A proud Jew, Brooks was deeply affected by the sight of Jewish refugees in Germany after the war. He’s expressed that this made him feel lucky to be an American.

He Loves to Mock Hitler

From his experiences in World War II, Brooks would go on to frequently make jokes about Hitler throughout his career. Explaining why, Brooks once said, “How do you get even with (Hitler)? You have to bring him down with ridicule because if you stand on a soapbox and you match him with rhetoric, you’re just as bad as he is. But if you can make people laugh at him, then you’re one up on him. It’s been one of my lifelong jobs — to make the world laugh at Adolf Hitler.”

He’s Angry at Anti-Semitism

In a 2001 interview on 60 Minutes, Brooks was asked why his comedy is obsessed with religion and ethnicity. His answer was, “Maybe because I’m angry. Who knows? It may be a deep-seated anger at anti-Semitism. Yes, I am a Jew. I am a Jew! What about it? What about it? What’s so wrong? What’s the matter with being a Jew? I think there is a lot of (anger at anti-Semitism) way down deep beneath all the quick Jewish jokes that I do.”

His First TV Job Was Writing for ‘The Admiral Broadway Revue’

In 1949, Brooks began a near-decade-long stint writing for Sid Caesar. The first of three shows he did this on was The Admiral Broadway Revue, a sketch show sponsored by Admiral, a company that sold entertainment centers. After six months, Admiral couldn’t keep up with the demand the show generated for their products and decided to cancel it.

‘Your Show of Shows’ Gave Him Tremendous Anxiety

He told Playboy that Your Show of Shows was a very competitive writers’ room. Moreover, Brooks suffered from imposter syndrome. “After I was hired by Your Show of Shows, I started having acute anxiety attacks. I used to vomit a lot between parked Plymouths in Midtown Manhattan. Sometimes I’d get so anxiety-stricken I’d have to run because I’d be generating too much adrenaline to do anything but run or scream. It was unreal. I figured any day now, they’d find me out and fire me. It was like I was stealing, and I was going to get caught.”

Then There was ‘Caesar’s Hour’ and ‘Sid Caesar Invites You’

Brooks next wrote for Caesar’s Hour, which ran from 1954 to 1957. There, Brooks wrote with the Your Show of Shows staff, along with newcomers Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart. After that, there was Sid Caesar Invites You, which lasted for a year. 

‘Your Show of Shows’ Inspired ‘My Favorite Year’

In 1982, Brooks produced the film My Favorite Year, heavily inspired by his time writing for Caesar. 

His 70-year Friendship with Carl Reiner Also Began with ‘Your Show of Shows’

The aforementioned Reiner was a writer on Your Show of Shows (as well as a performer). Brooks befriended him during this time, and they remained close friends until Reiner’s death in 2020. Before his passing, Brooks would drive to Reiner’s house every night to watch movies and talk.

Brooks and Reiner Wrote and Performed ‘The 2,000 Year Old Man’

During Your Show of Shows, Brooks and Reiner developed a comedy routine together that they would perform at parties called “The 2,000 Year Old Man.” In it, Reiner interviewed Brooks, who was 2,000 years old and would recall things like Jesus’ crucifixion and Shakespeare. (“His penmanship was disgusting!”)

They Recorded ‘The 2,000 Year Old Man’ in 1960

After numerous proddings from the likes of George Burns and Steve Allen, Brooks and Reiner recorded the comedy album 2,000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks in 1960, with “The 2,000 Year Old Man” as one of six tracks.

There Was an Animated Version, Too

In addition to the album and performances on shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, “The 2,000 Year Old Man” became a half-hour animated TV special in 1975.

‘The 2,000 Year Old Man’ Eventually Won a Grammy

“The 2,000 Year Old Man” was always somewhat improvised by Brooks, so it was different every time. All told, Brooks and Reiner recorded five albums with the character. The last album was 1998’s The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000, which won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Comedy Album.

His First Marriage Ended in Divorce

Brooks married dancer Florence Baum in 1953, with the couple having three kids together before divorcing in 1962. According to Brooks, they had “married too young.”

After His Divorce, He Wrote ‘Marriage Is a Dirty Rotten Fraud’

Marriage Is a Dirty Rotten Fraud was an unproduced screenplay he wrote in the 1960s. In an interview, he described it being “about a guy who gets divorced, and the only way out of his big alimony payments is if his ex-wife gets married again. But she hasn’t met anybody, and it’s been going on two years; all he’s got left in his life is a grapefruit plant. He has no money. Every penny he makes goes to the alimony. So he decides to make a fictitious character — he knows what she likes — and wear a beard and marry her and then disappear in a drowning accident or something and be off the hook. I never got it sold.”

He Met His Second Wife, Anne Bancroft, in 1961

“I went to the rehearsal of a Perry Como special,” Brooks told Playboy. “There she was, singing in a beautiful white gown. Strangely enough, she was singing ‘Married I Can Always Get.’” After Brooks introduced himself to her, they shared a cab ride to her agent at William Morris. Brooks pretended he was headed there as well, but it was a lie.

Brooks and Bancroft Married in 1964

The two were wed on June 5, 1964, staying together for more than 40 years until Bancroft’s death from uterine cancer in 2005. They had one son, Max, who’s most notable as the author of World War Z.

Brooks and Bancroft Worked Together Several Times

In Brooks’ Silent Movie, they danced a tango, and both appeared as themselves on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Each also appeared in Season Six of The Simpsons and in Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Similarly, Brooks produced The Elephant Man and 84 Charing Cross Road, both of which featuring Bancroft. The couple starred in Brooks’ To Be or Not To Be as well.

He Played Himself on ‘The Simpsons’

Bancroft appeared as Marge’s therapist in the episode “Fear of Flying,” with Brooks tagging along when she came in to record. While there, he did a cameo, playing Homer’s passenger in a limousine. Homer refers to “The 2,000 Year Man” as “The 2,000 Pound Man.” Later, when Chief Wiggum pulls Homer over, Wiggum calls it “The $2,000 Man.”

Brooks Is a Jewish Godfather

More specifically, he’s the godfather of Wizards of Waverly Place actor David DeLuise. DeLuise’s father was comedic actor Dom DeLuise, a friend and frequent co-star of Brooks.

He Co-Created ‘Get Smart’

Along with Buck Henry, Brooks conceived of the classic 007 parody Get Smart, which ran from 1965 to 1970. 

He Based ‘The Producers’ on a Real Guy

“Somewhere in the back of my head, I knew there was a good story in the adventures of this producer that I was working for when I was 16 years old,” Brooks said in the “making of” DVD extra of his 1967 film The Producers. That producer was Benjamin Kutcher, and much like Max Bialystock in The Producers, he would have sex with little old ladies to raise money for his theatrical productions.  

‘The Producers’ Began as a Book, Then as a Play and Then as a Film

The Producers started off as a book, but Brooks found that he had “too much dialogue and not enough story” for a book. Next, it became a play, but it required too many sets for a play. Ultimately, it became a film released in 1967 starring Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder as Leo Bloom. Decades later, in 2001, it became an iconic Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane as Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Bloom.

Gene Wilder Was Offered a Starring Role While the Script was Still Being Written

Brooks met Wilder backstage at a play featuring Wilder and Bancroft. Brooks told him about a screenplay he was writing called Springtime for Hitler and invited Wilder out to Fire Island for a weekend with him and Bancroft. There, Brooks read him the first 30 pages of what would become The Producers and offered him the part of Leo Bloom. It became Wilder’s breakout role.

Theaters Didn’t Want ‘Hitler’ on Their Marquees

After struggling to find people to make Springtime for Hitler, Brooks and producer Sidney Glazier convinced Joseph E. Levine to finance the film and allow Brooks to direct. However, Brooks did have to compromise on the film’s title, as theater companies refused to have “Hitler” on their marquee. That’s how Springtime for Hitler became The Producers.

Brooks Made a Voice Cameo in ‘The Producers’

Brooks’ cameos and small parts have become a staple in his films — a trend that began with The Producers when he dubbed in the line, “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty. Come and join the Nazi Party” during the “Springtime for Hitler” musical number.

Some Were Offended by ‘The Producers’


As Brooks explained in 1968, “Jewish organizations were outraged. You really couldn’t blame them. People actually had relatives in the Holocaust.”

‘The Producers’ Had a Slow Start

The Producers had a weak opening along with mixed reviews. But it received a boost from comedic actor Peter Sellers, who, after seeing the film, took out full-page ads in the trades, calling it “a phenomenon that occurs only once in a life span.” Ironically, Sellers was Brooks’ original choice for Bloom. Sellers even accepted the part, but he never got back to Brooks, which led to the role going to Wilder.

Brooks Won an Oscar for ‘The Producers’

The Producers earned Brooks the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1969. It’s also recently been announced that he’ll receive an honorary Oscar later this year for lifetime achievement.

He’s Got Himself an EGOT

In addition to the two Oscars, Brooks has won four Emmys, two Grammys and three Tonys.

He Co-Wrote a Musical About a Cockroach and a Cat

Brooks co-wrote Shinbone Alley, a play and later an independent animated film based on the Archy and Mehitabel stories from New York’s The Evening Sun newspaper. Archy was a cockroach, and Mehitabel was an alley cat. 

His Second Film Was Based on a Russian Novel

1970’s The Twelve Chairs was based on a Russian novel of the same name from 1928. It starred Ron Moody, Frank Langella and Dom DeLuise as three men hunting for jewels hidden in one of 12 dining chairs that have been spread around Russia. It was shot in Yugoslavia.

Filming ‘The Twelve Chairs’ in Yugoslavia Was Stressful

“When I went to Yugoslavia, my hair was black. When I came back, nine months later, it was gray,” Brooks told Playboy. He also shared the story, “One day, in a fit of pique, I hurled my director’s chair into the Adriatic. Suddenly, angry voices were heard, and clenched fists were raised. ‘The vorkers,’ I was informed, have announced to strike!’ ‘But why?’ ‘You have destroyed the People’s chair!’ ‘But it’s mine! It says Mel Brooks on it!’ ‘In Yugoslavia, everything is property of People.’ So we had a meeting, poured a lot of vodka, got drunk, started to cry and sing and kiss each other. Wonderful people!”

‘Blazing Saddles’ Was His First Spoof

As a director, Brooks is best known for his genre spoofs. The first spoof he did was a send-up of Westerns with 1974’s Blazing Saddles, which features a Black man coming to a racist Western town as the newly appointed sheriff. 

He Wasn’t the First Director Attached to ‘Blazing Saddles’

Blazing Saddles began as Tex-X, a Western spoof written by Andrew Bergman. Warner Bros. bought the film in 1971 and attached Alan Arkin to direct and James Earl Jones to star. When that fell apart, Warner Bros. hired Brooks.

Cleavon Little Wasn’t His Initial Choice

Brooks hired Richard Pryor to play the Black sheriff and to help write the film, but Warner Bros. refused, citing his history of drug abuse. While Pryor continued to be a writer on the film, Cleavon Little came in to play the sheriff, eventually named “Black Bart.”

Prejudice Was the ‘Engine’ of ‘Blazing Saddles’

Brooks said in a “Making Of” documentary that “the engine that drove Blazing Saddles was hatred of the Black. It was race prejudice. Without that, the movie would not have had nearly the significance, the force, the dynamism and the stakes that were contained in the film.”

He Believes Humor Is the Best Way to Communicate an Important Message

In an interview for Life Stinks, Brooks said that people don’t respond to sad stories that are “message pictures.” “But if you make Blazing Saddles, somebody’s going to pay attention to Black and white. You’ve got to make the funniest movie in the world.”

The Point of the Farting Scene Was: the Farts

When Playboy asked Brooks about the famous farting scene around the campfire in Blazing Saddles, he said, “The farts were the point of the farting scene. In real life, people fart, right? In the movies, people don’t. Why not? Before Blazing Saddles, America had not come to terms with the fart.”

The Warner Bros. Executives Hated ‘Blazing Saddles’

“We showed it first to the studio brass. Ten of them in a small screening room,” Brooks recalled. “(It) was a non-laugh riot.” Brooks was crushed and thought he’d failed. Then, producer Mike Hertzberg booked a public screening and said, “Let normal people see it. Then we’ll know.” It was a huge success, and the movie went on to be a box-office smash and an instant classic.

He Doesn’t Think ‘Blazing Saddles’ Could Be Made Today (Yes, Argh)

When The A.V. Club asked Brooks if he thought Blazing Saddles could be made today, he said “Never. The N-word alone would toss it out. But why not use it if these rednecks hated this Black guy? How else could you express their hatred? ‘Oh, I hate that person of color.’ It ain’t gonna work!”

Next Came ‘Young Frankenstein’

Wilder originated the idea for Young Frankenstein, which saw a descendant of the original Dr. Frankenstein create his own monster. Wilder’s agent suggested hiring Brooks to direct, but Wilder wasn’t sure if Brooks would do something that he didn’t conceive (this was before Blazing Saddles). The next day, Brooks called Wilder and said, “What are you getting me into?”

As a Kid, ‘Frankenstein’ Gave Him Nightmares

As Brooks described to Playboy, “Frankenstein gave me nightmares. I’d be sleeping on the fire escape in the summer, and the monster would climb up to get me. And just when he’d put his hand on my face, and I couldn’t breathe, I’d see the gleam of that metal rod in his neck, and I’d wake up screaming. ‘Frankensteiiiiiiiin!’”

He Oversaw Wilder’s Writing of ‘Young Frankenstein’

Brooks was hired to direct and co-write Young Frankenstein. Wilder did the bulk of the writing as Brooks was busy with writing and directing Blazing Saddles. But Brooks would check in on things regularly after Wilder would spend the day with pen and paper.

He and Wilder Only Ever Had One Disagreement

As Wilder told Conan O’Brien in 2005, he and Brooks disagreed on the inclusion of the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” dance number in Young Frankenstein, where Dr. Frankenstein dances with the monster. Wilder wrote the scene and wanted it included, and Brooks wasn’t sure about it. The two argued for 20 minutes, and Brooks suddenly dropped it and said, “Okay, it’s in.” Wondering why Brooks caved, Wilder asked why he put him through that, and Brooks explained that he wasn’t sure about the scene and if Wilder argued for it, he knew it would be right.

He Refused to Direct ‘Young Frankenstein’ in Color

Brooks faced enormous pressure from 20th Century Fox to make Young Frankenstein in color, as black-and-white films weren’t common in 1974, and the studio feared audiences — especially in Europe — wouldn’t buy the film. However, Brooks said he’d quit if it was made in color, and they relented. 

He Used Hankerchiefs to Combat Laughing on the Set of ‘Young Frankenstein’

Both the cast and crew were constantly breaking into hysterics during the filming, so Brooks bought 100 white handkerchiefs for the crew and said, “When you feel a laugh coming on, stick this in your mouth.”

‘Silent Movie’ Was Next Up

After spoofing Westerns and horror films, Brooks turned his focus to silent-era films with Silent Movie starring himself, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise and Sid Caesar. Much like the actual film, the plot of the movie is about the production of a silent movie in the modern era.

‘Silent Movie’ Has Some Big Cameos

For the first silent film made in decades, Brooks thought it’d be fun to have big-name actors make cameos. The murders’ row included Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Paul Newman and Liza Minnelli.

There Is Only One Spoken Word in ‘Silent Movie’ — And It Comes from a Mime

The sole word of dialogue in Silent Movie comes from a mime, played by Marcel Marceau. The stars of the film call Marceau, who plays himself, and offer him a part in a silent film. He emphatically says, “No!”

‘High Anxiety’ Is a Hitchcock Spoof

Brooks views Alfred Hitchcock films as a genre unto themselves, so his next film, 1977’s High Anxiety, was a spoof of Hitchcock’s work. Brooks also said he thought Hitchcock was the greatest director who ever lived and that Strangers on a Train was Hitchcock’s best film.

Hitchcock Gave ‘High Anxiety’ His Blessing

Brooks explained in an interview that, once he had a story for High Anxiety, he called Hitchcock and explained what he was doing. Hitchcock liked the idea and invited Brooks to his home. The two met weekly afterward while Brooks was filming High Anxiety. Hitchcock even pitched a joke to Brooks, which Brooks loved, but he couldn’t find a place for it in the film. 

Hitchcock Saw ‘High Anxiety’ with Brooks

Brooks shared that he watched a rough cut of High Anxiety with Hitchcock. “He laughed only once — when the birds were shitting all over me,” said Brooks. After the viewing, Hitchcock silently walked out of the room, leaving Brooks to believe he hated it. The next day, Hitchcock sent Brooks a case of fine French wine with a note that read, “Have no anxiety about High Anxiety. It’s a truly wonderful film. Love, Hitch.”

He Produced ‘The Elephant Man’

As mentioned above, Brooks produced the 1980 historical drama The Elephant Man, a true story about a man with Proteus syndrome, which causes severe deformities. Brooks once explained his attraction to the film, saying, “My films, even if they’re comic, they’re about: ‘Let’s accept the bizarre. Let’s learn more about these creatures — or these Jews.’ I know the Elephant Man wasn’t Jewish, but to me, the story had all the aspects of anti-Semitism, and (Joseph) Merrick had all the traits of the classic wandering Jew.”

He Kept His Name Off of ‘The Elephant Man’

Brooks was on set for every day of filming for The Elephant Man, which he hired David Lynch to direct. Despite this, he kept his name off the movie so that people would take the film more seriously.

‘History of the World, Part I’ Was a Take on Film Epics

Brooks tackled elaborately costumed film epics with History of the World, Part I, which had chapters dedicated to the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution.

He Played Five Roles in ‘History of the World, Part I’


They were Moses, Comicus the stand-up philosopher, Tomás de Torquemada, King Louis XVI and Jacques, le garçon de pisse.

Despite the Title, ‘History of the World, Part I’ Was Never Meant to Have a Sequel

The title History of the World, Part I was a subtle joke about the book History of the World by Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh’s book was meant to have five volumes, but he was beheaded for treason in 1618 before he got to Volume II.

George Lucas Gave His Blessing — With Some Conditions

As he did with Hitchcock, Brooks sought out the blessing of Lucas, who obliged but with a few conditions. Brooks said, “He gave me one incredibly big restriction: no action figures. He said, ‘Yours are going to look like mine.’” Brooks agreed but then wrote in the scene where he talked all about Spaceballs merchandising. Lucas also didn’t want the Han Solo-like character, Lonestar, to be dressed like Han Solo. And so, Brooks dressed him like Indiana Jones instead.

Lucas Loved ‘Spaceballs’

He described Spaceballs as a “dangerous comedy,” stating that he was afraid he “would bust something from laughing.”

He Takes Power Naps

Bill Pullman said that Brooks would take five-minute power naps to recharge. When he awoke, “a thousand things had occurred to him,” Pullman marveled.

‘Spaceballs’ Couldn’t Be a Musical

The Producers and Young Frankenstein became musicals, and Brooks said he believes Blazing Saddles could follow suit. However, he doesn’t think Spaceballs would work, explaining, “It needs a big screen; it needs special effects.”

‘Life Stinks’ Isn’t a Parody

In 1991, Brooks starred, directed and co-wrote Life Stinks, where he plays a wealthy businessman who wagers that he can survive on the streets of Los Angeles. It was a straight comedy and not a genre parody.

Real Homeless People Worked on ‘Life Stinks’

In an interview, Brooks revealed that about 60 or 70 homeless people became paid members of the film’s crew. They also held a private screening for 1,300 homeless people.

‘Life Stinks’ Was the First Brooks-Directed Film to Lose Money

Not every Brooks film was a smashing success, but Life Stinks was his first official flop. On a budget of $13 million, it pulled in just $4 million, along with a lot of critical hatred. 

‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’ Was Actually His Second Stab at Robin Hood

When Things Were Rotten was a 1975 TV series co-created by Brooks starring Dick Gautier as Robin Hood. It lasted just 13 episodes before being canceled. In 1993, Brooks returned to Sherwood Forest for Robin Hood: Men in Tights, starring Cary Elwes as Robin Hood. The movie also recycled several gags from the show.

It Was a Direct Parody of ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’

In 1991, Kevin Costner starred in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; two years later, there was Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Brooks said that Prince of Thieves was “what we’re standing on. It’s a great, strong platform for us to have fun with the Robin Hood legend. (Kevin Costner) reawakened the world to this beautiful story once again.”

He Schooled Dave Chappelle on Directing

Chappelle, who, at age 19, played Ahchoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, said that his best experience was when “(Brooks) used to have me come sit next to him when he was directing sometimes and just kind of show me what he was doing, what decisions he had to make, what shots he liked and why.” Chappelle said it was “invaluable information” and that he got to “glimpse into the mind of a genius.”

He Is Not Married to the Script

In a “making of” documentary for Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Tracey Ullman said, “You can ad-lib with Mel; you don’t have to stick strictly to the script. He changes it all the time.”

His Last Film Was a Flop and the Negative Reviews Upset Him

Brooks’ last directing job was 1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It starring Leslie Neilsen as Dracula. On a budget of $30 million, it pulled in just $10 million at the box office. “They really hurt. They bother me,” Brooks once said of the negative reviews for the film. He never directed another movie again.

The Title ‘Dracula: Dead and Loving It’ Was a ‘Get Smart’ Callback

In Get Smart, Agent Maxwell Smart — played by Don Adams — employed a number of catchphrases, one of them was the phrase “and loving it!” which was incorporated into the title of Brooks’ Dracula spoof.

He Experienced a Career Resurgence with ‘The Producers’ on Broadway

The idea for a musical version of The Producers began with producer David Geffen, who had previously done Dreamgirls. Geffen called Brooks and suggested the idea of The Producers as a Broadway musical. Brooks eventually agreed and went on to win several Tonys.

He Then Wrote a ‘Young Frankenstein’ Musical

After the success of The Producers, Brooks adapted Young Frankenstein for the stage. Whereas The Producers was a huge success, Young Frankenstein was only a moderate success, receiving mixed reviews and just a two-year run.

President Obama Awarded Him a National Medal of Arts in 2015

When Obama placed the medal around his neck, Brooks pretended to pants the president.

He and Carl Reiner Made Cameos in ‘Toy Story 4’

In the fourth Toy Story installment, Brooks and Reiner played “Melephant Brooks” and “Carl Reineroceros,” two old and neglected toys. Also joining them were Carol Burnett as a chair named Chairol Burnett and Betty White as Bitey White, a tiger teething ring.

He Only Wrote His Memoir Because of COVID

He told Express that he never planned to write a memoir because he was always too busy but suddenly had the time to do it when COVID struck. 

He Only Has One Regret

That regret? The jokes he didn’t tell because he thought they might be offensive.

His Humor Is His ‘Appreciation of the Human Event’

Brooks once declared, “My humor is kind of half-wit, half physical, half disgusting and sometimes half beautiful. It’s my appreciation of the human event.”

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