Flashback Friday: History of the World: Part I (1981)

Mel Brooks is a legend for a reason. His comedy is hilarious, gut-busting, not exactly politically correct, and has kept generations of fans entertained.

His 1981 film, History of The World: Part I is a series of short stories about various times in world history told as only Brooks can. The list of co-stars is impressive (many of whom starred in multiple Brooks movies): Gregory Hines, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, etc.

Like all Mel Brooks productions, the movie is highly laughable and highly quotable. Every time I put this one on, I know that I will have a good time. Though I bristle at the extreme sexism in the French Revolution section (even when I know it is satire), I love Madeline Kahn’s character during the Roman era. It is Kahn at her best.

The other section that I look forward to every time is the Inquisition. As he did in The Producers, he mocks and takes the power away from the haters while making the viewer laugh.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business Book Review

The word “genius” is often thrown around without anything to back it up. One of the few people who can legitimately be given that title is Mel Brooks. He has made audiences laugh for 70+ years, taking comedy in a direction that few have dared to.

His new autobiography, All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business, was released last November. The youngest of four boys, Brooks was born to a Jewish immigrant family in 1926. Raised in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn by his widowed mother, he grew up during the Great Depression and served his country during World War II. After the war, he joined one of the greatest comedy writing teams of all time as a co-writer of Sid Ceasar‘s Your Show of Shows.

Married to actress Anne Bancroft for five decades, Brooks directed (and in some cases starred in) such classics as Young Frankenstein, To Be or Not To Be, The Producers, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, History of the World: Part I, etc. Telling his story as only he can, Brooks reveals his heart, his humor, his work ethic, and his acute ability to use laughter to delve into topics that many would not dare to touch.

In his mid 90’s, he has more energy and gusto many are half his age. It was an incredible insight into a man who has made generations of audiences laugh. What I loved was the revelation of the man behind the jokes. He reminds me of someone’s old uncle who is not quite politically correct. They know that they are crossing the line. But it is not out of spite or to cause trouble. It’s to make the audience laugh and while they are laughing, perhaps think about the message behind the joke.

As I read the book, two things jumped out at me. The first was that there was no mention of his first wife and not a lot of time focused on his older children. The second is that he refers to almost every woman first by her looks and then by her talent. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s a generational thing. I get that it could be construed as a compliment, but I would rather be known for my abilities first and my looks second.

Other than that, do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business is available wherever books are sold.

Thoughts On The 30th Anniversary Of Spaceballs

Mel Brooks has made a career out of lovingly satirizing our sacred cows. Whether it is history (History of the World: Part I), The Nazis (The Producers) or classic horror films (Young Frankenstein), he has knack for finding the satire in the sacred.

30 years ago, he satirized Star Wars and other science fiction films in his own version of a space adventure: Spaceballs. The planet Druidia has an abundant amount of fresh air. President Skroob (Mel Brooks) from the very polluted Planet Spaceballs send his henchmen, Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to capture the Druidian princess, Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). King Roland of Druidia (Dick Van Patten) must either give his planet’s air to the Spaceballs or lose his daughter. Enter Lone Star (Bill Pullman) who is sent by the king to rescue Vespa.

This movie is like most Mel Brooks movies. It borders on the absurd, takes easy pot shots at the revered and most of all, it makes us laugh.

30 years on, this movie is just as funny as it was in 1987.

May the schwartz be with you!

Happy Birthday Mel Brooks

Today is the 90th birthday of the legendary comedian Mel Brooks.

Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 28th, 1925, Melvin Kaminsky would grow up to be one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century.

What can I say about this man? He is a comedic genius. His movies are completely quotable and his characters are outlandish. His characters say and do things that many writers and filmmakers would shy away from. There is no genre that remains untouched by his unique form of satire.

Mel Brooks has also had the good fortune to see two of his movies, Young Frankenstein and The Producers become hit Broadway musicals. Not bad for a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who was born right before the great depression.

I could go on and on, but I will let his movies do the talking.

Happy Birthday Mel Brooks, thanks for the laughter.

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