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Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926 in New York City to a Russian Jewish family. As a kid, he was often ridiculed by classmates, as he was small and scrawny. He learned to gain self confidence by making up snarky comebacks and having humor when getting bullied. After high school, Brooks attended the Army Specialized Training Program at the Virginia Military Institute, serving as a combat engineer in World War II. Upon completion of his service, he began a career as a professional entertainer.

In the Catskill Mountains he honed his talents by working as a stand-up comic and social director for Grossinger’s and other popular resorts. Here he also changed his name to Brooks, which was a variant or his mother’s maiden name of Brookman, to avoid confusion with musician Max Kaminsky. Although he earned little profit, Brook’s solidified his humor – distinctly Jewish with celebrity parodies, bizarre wordplay, and grandiose impressions, all with a burlesque and vaudeville style.

In 1949 he joined the writing staff for “The Admiral Broadway Revue”, a comedy variety program that brought together comedy duo Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. He followed them on their next series, “Your Show of Shows” (1950-54), where they buddied up with other comics such as Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin, Larry Gelbart, and Carl Reiner. Brooks did some sketches for a film, “New Faces” (1954), but remained in television. He followed Caesar to his following shows, “Caesar’s Hour” (1954-57) and “Sid Caesar Invites You” (1957), before having writing jobs on the television movies “Accent on Love” (1959), “At the Movies” (1959), and “The Man in the Moon” (1960).

In 1961 he jumped into another profession: acting. He first appeared as the 2000 year old man in two episodes of “The New Steve Allen Show” (1961). Brooks’ next acting job was as a narrator in his 1963 animated short “The Critic”. In 1965 he and Buck Henry crafted a brand new comedic TV show, “Get Smart” (1965-70). It was a James Bond spoof that followed clumsy spy Maxwell Smart as he went on his secret agent adventures. “Get Smart” quickly became one of the late 1960’s most popular shows. Propped up by the fame of his show, Brooks decided to write, sing in, and direct his first feature film. The low budget picture “The Producers” (1968) followed two failed Broadway producers who set out to contrive the worst possible play they could. Their result, a pro-Nazi musical titled “Springtime for Hitler”, proved to be a smash hit, putting them in a lot of trouble. Despite low box office earnings, it won an Oscar for Best Writing and was later hailed as a minor comic masterpiece full of Brook’s signature satire.

After an acting part in the TV movie “Annie, the Women in the Life of a Man” (1970), he directed, wrote, and acted in the slapstick adaptation of a 1928 Russian novel about an aristocrat who has hidden his fortune in a dozen chairs, titled “The Twelve Chairs” (1970). Unfortunately, it too failed commercially. The director took a four year break, only writing for “Shinbone Alley” (1971) and “10 from Your Show of Shows” (1973) and having a recurring role on “The Electric Company” (1971-77), before coming back with the humorous western “Blazing Saddles” (1974). This time his film turned out to be a major hit, and it earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Music. He followed with another hit, “Young Frankenstein” (1974), starring the film’s co-writer Gene Wilder. Brooks cast himself as the lead in his subsequent picture, “Silent Movie” (1976). It was a tribute to Golden Age features, and had only one audible line – spoken ironically enough by famous mime Marcel Marceau. While full of nostalgia, as it was the first feature length silent comedy in four decades, it did not fare as well as its predecessors. The following year he released an Alfred Hitchcock parody called “High Anxiety” (1977). As the lead, Brooks played a psychologist who must clear his name after he is framed for murder. The Hitchcock tribute, chock full of hilarious references from the famed “Master of Suspense”, was a moderate success, but also served as the director’s production debut.

In 1980 he set up his own production company, called Brooksfilms, so that he could produce the dramatic film “The Elephant Man” (1980). Since then, Brooksfilms has overseen the production of a number of more movies – comedies and others – including “My Favorite Year” (1982), “To Be or Not to Be” (1983), “Solarbabies” (1986), “84 Charing Cross Road” (1987), and “The Producers” (2005).

In 1981 Brooks revisited spoofs with “History of the World Part 1”, a lighthearted look at the evolution of human culture. The film was fairly successful and featured many hints of brilliance. He then directed, wrote, and produced the science fiction, specifically “Star Wars”, parody “Spaceballs” (1987). In both features he was billed in multiple acting parts. The director appeared in a few more roles, like a talking toilet in “Look Who’s Talking Too” (1990), as well as produced the TV show “The Nutt House” (1989), before he returned to his directing chair for the flop “Life Stinks” (1991), in which he served as writer and lead character also. It was followed by two additional duds that featured him in his customary roles – writer, director, producer, actor – “Robbin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993) and “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” (1995). These proved to be his final contributions to the industry as a director.

Brooks continued with his acting however. On top of that, he helped inspire the writing for the shows “Get Smart” (1995), “Great Performances” (2001), and “Spaceballs: The Animated Series” (2008-09), as well as the movie “Get Smart” (2008). As for his screen appearances, he showed up in television shows like “Mad About You” (1996-99), “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (2004), “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks” (2003-06), and most recently, “Laughing Stock” (2012). In the way of films, he starred in “Screw Loosely” (1999) and voiced characters in “Robots” (2005) and “The Producers” (2005), which was a re-make of his 1968 version. In fact, a Broadway musical was also formed based on his original movie.

Brooks, to this day, is one of the few artists who has ever received an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy. He has also achieved much stardom. In 2009 he was honored alongside Bruce Springsteen and Robert De Niro with a Kennedy Center Honor from The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As well, in 2010 he was awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On top of all that, he has been given numerous other bestowments, not limited to a Lifetime Achievement in Comedy from the American Comedy Awards and a Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievements from the Writers Guild of America.

Once asked why Brooks chose to express his filmmaking genius in the genre of comedy, he explained: “Humor keeps the elderly rolling along, singing a song. When you laugh, it’s an involuntary explosion of the lungs. The lungs need to replenish themselves with oxygen. So you laugh, you breathe, the blood runs, and everything is circulating. If you don’t laugh, you’ll die.” Watch one of his movies and you’ll know why he’s still going strong at nearly ninety years of age.


2012       Laughing Stock 

2011       The Paul Reiser Show 

2010       Glenn Martin DDS   

2008       Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control 

2008       Get Smart

2007       Spaceballs: The Animated Series 

2005       The Producers 

2005       Robots  

2004       Curb Your Enthusiasm

2003       Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks

2003       The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius 

2002       It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

2001       Great Performances

2000       Sex, lögner & videovåld 

1999       Mad About You 

1999       Screw Loose

1998       The Prince of Egypt

1995       Get Smart       

1995       Dracula: Dead and Loving It 

1994       The Little Rascals 

1994       The Silence of the Hams  

1993       Frasier

1993       Robin Hood: Men in Tights 

1992       The Vagrant

1991       Life Stinks

1990       Look Who's Talking Too  

1990       Loose Cannons  

1990       The Tracey Ullman Show

1989       The Nutt House

1987       Spaceballs

1987       84 Charing Cross Road 

1986       Solarbabies 

1985       The Doctor and the Devils

1983       An Audience with Mel Brooks

1983       To Be or Not to Be 

1982       Frances 

1982       My Favorite Year 

1981       History of the World: Part I

1980       The Elephant Man

1980       The Nude Bomb

1979       The Muppet Movie    

1977       High Anxiety

1976       Silent Movie

1975       When Things Were Rotten  

1975       The 2000 Year Old Man

1975       The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother  

1974       Free to Be... You & Me 

1974       Young Frankenstein

1974       Blazing Saddles

1973       10 from Your Show of Shows 

1971       Shinbone Alley

1971       The Electric Company

1970       The Twelve Chairs

1970       Annie, the Women in the Life of a Man  

1968       The Producers

1965       Get Smart 

1963       The Critic 

1963       Inside Danny Baker

1961       The Ladies Man 

1961       The New Steve Allen Show 

1960       Play of the Week 

1960       The Man in the Moon 

1959       At the Movies

1959       Accent on Love 

1958       Sid Caesar Invites You  

1954       Caesar's Hour  

1954       New Faces 

1950       Your Show of Shows

1949       The Admiral Broadway Revue    

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