Tag Archives: Carl Reiner

Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks!

 

He’s given us (among other things) Get Smart, The Critic, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and The Producers. He helped get The Elephant Man and My Favorite Year brought to the screen. He made his bones in a writer’s pit with Neil Simon, Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar

As an actor, director, producer, screenwriter, lyricist, singer and playwright he has helped introduce satire and parody to the last three generations…and his timeless work will continue to entertain the planet (and whatever life-forms visit in the future) for eternity. 

He’s won an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony and an Oscar

 

He is, without a doubt, a comic genius

He is Melvin KaminskyMel Brooks to us – and he’s 83 years old today

I’m sure I’m not the only person who can recite lines from Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein by heart – I might, if pressed, spill out the whole movie. When The American Film Institute (AFI) released their recent poll of the funniest movies ever made, Brooks scored three of the top thirteen: Blazing Saddles (#6), The Producers (#11), and Young Frankenstein (#13). That is astounding

As an Alfred Hitchcock fan, I have a soft spot in my heart for High Anxiety, which skewers several Hitchcock films perfectly while maintaining a suspenseful (but hilarious) plot of its own. It’s a funny film if you’ve never seen a Hitchcock film, but if you know the master, it’s priceless. And who but Brooks would float a silent movie – called Silent Movie, of course – where the one spoken word came from the mouth of the world’s most famous mime? 

I realized recently that there were a lot of people who were very familiar with Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles (film and Broadway versions) but were unaware of Mel’s iconic “2000 Year Old Man” character, a routine played to perfection with the great Carl Reiner. A few months ago Shout Factory released a box set collecting all the albums and cartoons, adding some commentary and rare footage. It’s a first-rate package and a must-own for comedy fans. 

 Here is my review from earlier this year… 

 

Reiner recalls that the genesis for the 2000 Year Old Man occurred when he approached Brooks with “Here’s a man who actually knew Jesus” and Brooks deadpanned “Oh, boy”. But although they would continue the routine in private for years as parlor entertainment for themselves and their friends, it wasn’t until they were finally prodded by Steve Allen to record it in his studio. (Or perhaps it was George Burns asking if the routine had been recorded, playfully insinuating that he’d swipe it if it wasn’t.) Reiner had gotten in the habit of bringing a tape recorder to these parties because Brooks never said the same thing twice, and he was astute enough not to let this comedic gold slip away. 

  

Over the years the pair released five albums: 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961), 2000 and One Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961), Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks at the Cannes Film Festival (1962), 2000 and Thirteen (1973) and The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000 (1998). The 1998 album won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Comedy Album, besting fellow nominees Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy and The Firesign Theatre.  

The structure of featuring the title character as one among many was continued on the second and third albums, but the fourth and fifth albums were dedicated solely to the man who survived modern history. Reiner continued to play the voice of the audience, asking questions and challenging answers. “He was like a District Attorney” claimed Brooks, who felt that Reiner’s real-life knowledge of history and important events raised the bar on the exchanges. “I knew the questions” quipped Reiner, “but I didn’t know the answers”. 

Read the rest of my review at PopMatters

Mrs. Robinson, I think you DID seduce me!

Mel Brooks wiki 

Get this incredible collection of Mel’s films for a pittance! 

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

R.I.P. Jim Carroll, Larry Gelbart

"Jimmy, I'll miss you more than all the others / and I SALUTE YOU , Brother..."

" I'll miss you more than all the others / and I SALUTE YOU , Brother..."

Poet. Rocker. Punk. Junkie. Jim Carroll, who was all of these,  passed away at his desk while working on new material. He first became famous for his novel The Basketball Diaries, but I didn’t discover that until after his album Catholic Boy blew my doors in. I can still sing “People Who Died” from memory and was fortunate enough to have seen the man himself do the honors. Many people believe he was the poet of our generation, a post-Beat Beat writer. Now he’s gone. Wicked, wicked gravity.

Larry Gelbart is probably best known as the creator of M*A*S*H, an accomplishment which would outshine many people’s career resumes. But his writing spanned generations – he started writing for Fanny Brice and Bob Hope, wrote jokes for Red Buttons and Danny Kaye, hit his stride in the incredible writer’s room for Sid Caesar (a crew that included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Carl Reiner) and capped it off with M*A*S*H and Tootsie. His work is so good that I forgive him for AfterMASH.

The typewriter is mightier than the sword

The typewriter is mightier than the sword

My comments on these two is certainly no slight by omission on the recent passing of others. I just had more invested in the works of Carroll and Gelbart.  But over the past seven days the Grim Reaper has been working overtime:

  • Pierre Cossette, a TV and Broadway producer I had the pleasure of working with when I was in Artist Management. Total pro, as was his team.
  • Army Archerd, whose news items in Variety predated today’s gossip rags and TV shows…except Army had ethics and didn’t just blast rumors to get attention.
  • George Eckstein, a producer/writer for some great early TV shows.
  • Paul Burke, star of Naked City and 12 O’Clock High
  • William Beck, the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, who at least was saved from witnessing Michael Jordan’s embarassing Hall Of Fame speech.
  • Frank Batten, creator of The Weather Channel, saving millions of people from having to rely on that antiquated tool of looking out the window.

This idiot died last night, but only on stage. (I’m no fan of Beyonce’s music, but that was a class move at the VMAs.)

Christopher Kelly– hmmm, not suspicious at all, right?

And if the Universe had a better sense of irony,  this jackass would have died a day earlier.

***

Awww crap11pm update. I knew this was going to happen but not this soon.

And damn, Reaper – Wednesday update – you socked it to him, too?

***

Jim Carroll Wikipedia entry

Larry Gelbart page at IMDB.

2 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Music