Top 10 of Mel Brooks as comedy legend hits Kennedy Center

Introduction Get ready to laugh! Mel Brooks hits the Kennedy Center on Saturday for “Mel Brooks … Back in the Saddle Again.” The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. with a screening of Brooks’ comedy masterpiece “Blazing Saddles” (1974). The film runs 93 minutes, followed by an audience Q&A with Brooks himself lasting 60-90 minutes. What better way to get ready than by counting down The Best of Mel Brooks? Listen below for audio highlights, then click through the gallery to see the rankings. ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
10. ‘High Anxiety’ (1977) “High Anxiety” was a send-up of all things Hitchcock with a plot revolving around “Vertigo.” While the flick didn’t do as well as his other efforts, Hitchcock himself sent Brooks a case of wine to show his gratitude. ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
9. ‘The Elephant Man’ (1980) After establishing himself as a comedy king, Brooks shifted gears and executive produced David Lynch’s powerful drama “The Elephant Man.” The film starred Anne Bancroft (“The Graduate”), who remained married to Brooks until her death in 2005. ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
8. ‘Get Smart’ (1965-1970) While it was Brooks who married Anne Bancroft, it was screenwriter Buck Henry that had created her “Mrs. Robinson” persona in “The Graduate” (1967). So when Brooks and Henry teamed up to create a television show, it was bound to be a riot. “Get Smart” starred Don Adams in a 007 spoof with such memorable gadgets as the “Cone of Silence” and trademark quotes like “Missed it by that much.” ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
7. ‘The 2,000 Year-Old Man’ (1961) The 1960s stand-up routines of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner are the stuff of comedy legend. In 1961, the duo created the hilarious “2,000 Year Old Man” sketch where Reiner would ask historical questions like, “Do you know Joan of Arc?” to which Brooks would reply, “Know her? I went with her, dummy!” ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
6. ‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’ (1993) While Carl Reiner’s son, Rob Reiner, brought us Cary Elwes in “The Princess Bride” (1987), Brooks similarly cast Elwes as another swashbuckler in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” Not only is the title song supremely catchy, the film features a sidesplitting cast: Richard Lewis as Prince John, Roger Rees as the Sheriff of Rottingham, Amy Yasbeck as the chastity-belted Maid Marian, Patrick Stewart as King Richard, Dom DeLuise as Don Giovanni, Isaac Hayes as Asneeze and a young Dave Chappelle as Ahchoo. ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
5. ‘History of the World: Part 1’ (1981) After Hollywood’s Golden Age made bookoo bucks off sword-and-sandal epics like “The Ten Commandments” (1956) and “Ben-Hur” (1959), the subject was ripe for the biting humor of Mel Brooks. “History of the World: Part 1” tackles five moments from ancient history: The Stone Age, The Old Testament, The Roman Empire, The Spanish Inquisition and The French Revolution. Memorable scenes include Brooks as a waiter interrupting The Last Supper (“Judas! Can I get you a beverage?”) and Brooks as a clumsy Moses dropping one of the tablets of the “Fifteen Commandments,” leaving only ten. ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
4. ‘The Producers’ (1968) Voted No. 11 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Comedies of All Time, “The Producers” won Mel Brooks an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It tells the tale of two theater producers (Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel) who devise a scheme to make money by intentionally creating a Broadway flop. Their surefire idea? A bubbly musical about Nazi Germany with the song “Springtime for Hitler.” ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
3. ‘Spaceballs’ (1987) Ten years after George Lucas created a sci-fi blockbuster phenomenon in “Star Wars” (1977), Mel Brooks delivered one of his most hilarious parodies with “Space Balls.” Brooks offers a spoof for each character: Luke Skywalker becomes Lone Starr (Bill Pullman), Chewbacca becomes Barf (John Candy), Princess Leia becomes Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), Darth Vader becomes Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) and Yoda becomes Yogurt (Mel Brooks), delivering the instantly quotable line, “May the schwartz be with you!” Now, the success of “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” has now inspired Brooks to brainstorm a “Spaceballs” sequel “The Schwartz Awakens.” ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
2. ‘Young Frankenstein’ (1974) Voted No. 13 on the AFI’s Top 100 Comedies, “Young Frankenstein” is a monster movie spoof with too many priceless moments to count. Gene Wilder screams, “It’s alive,” Teri Garr mistakes a door-knocker compliment for her own big bosoms, Cloris Leachman causes horses to neigh, Madeline Kahn is impressed by the monster’s well-endowed manhood, Marty Feldman mistakes a “sedative” plea for “seda-give,” and Peter Boyle does his best Boris Karloff by tap dancing to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” with barely audible moans. ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
1. ‘Blazing Saddles’ (1974) Released the same year as “Young Frankenstein” (1974), “Blazing Saddles” is Mel Brooks’ undisputed masterpiece. Not only is it a giant spoof of the Old West, it’s a deliciously commentary on race in America with so many politically incorrect jokes that it could never be made today — co-authored by legendary comedian Richard Pryor. Cleavon Little plays a black sheriff who partners with Gene Wilder’s white gunslinger as Slim Pickens unveils his “Number 6” plan, Harvey Korman “risks a certain Oscar nomination,” Alex Karras punches out a horse, Madeline Kahn sings, “I’m so tired,” and Brooks himself struggles with an uncoordinated ball-and-paddle. When the American Film Institute voted it the No. 6 Best Comedy of All Time, Brooks vented to USA TODAY: “I am so angry at the AFI. ‘Blazing Saddles’ should be No. 1. And then there should be 50 spaces before the next one gets into the running. I don’t think there’s a movie in history — even (Charlie) Chaplin, (Buster) Keaton and Harold Lloyd — that could beat it for laughs. It’s the most real belly laughs of any movie ever made.” We agree. ((Courtesy Kennedy Center))
November 29, 2019 | (Jason Fraley)

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