He’s won the quartet of Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy awards and is one of the most iconic comedians who has ever lived. Mel Brooks visited Conan O’Brien’s online site for an in-depth and sometimes hilarious conversation on Serious Jibber Jabber.
That’s the talk show O’Brien fronts on his Teamcoco.com., the Website he started during the nine months O’Brien was contractually banished from TV during the Tonight Show fiasco.
The 80-minute interview, which was first shown online last month and is still featured on the site, delves into Brooks’ comedic roots in Williamsburg, New York, reminisces about the writer’s room and discusses his superlative comedies like 1967’s The Producers (and its later rebirth on Broadway) and 1974’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. On television, Brooks is renowned for his work as a writer on television’s trailblazing Your Show of Shows and for 1965’s send-up of James Bond spy movies, the sitcom Get Smart .
Serious Jibber Jabber allows Conan to stretch beyond the bite-size interviews his talk show is limited to presenting, and it’s a useful outlet for him. Previous Webisodes include conversations with multi-talented musician Jack White and comedy writer/director Judd Apatow. The Simpsons Writers Reunion is a must-watch Webisode featuring the collective talents and brains behind American history’s longest-running American sitcom.
Brooks was headed into the garment industry, and ended up in show biz by mistake. He shares a story about the first time he was on a stage as a 14-year-old and made an audience roar in laughter. For Brooks, it was like a chemical reaction.
“Go forth from this place, Melvin, and make people happy, make them laugh,” a voice in Brooks’ head told him. “And you’ll make a lot more money than the garment center.”
O’Brien tells Brooks he grew up thinking that comedy was a unique Irish quality. Brooks says he thought the same thing about Jews--but recalls discovering that the world’s great serious writers—James Joyce, W.B Yeats, Samuel Beckett—were not Jewish.
“The best f****** writers in the world, not one was a Jew! I had a nervous breakdown. I cried for about a month,” Brooks says. “I was only restored when they told me Modigliani was a Jew.”
As a fan of Mel Brooks since childhood, it was compelling to watch him talk about his favorite comedians and listen to him explain why he believes Sid Caesar, Charlie Chaplin and the Ritz Brothers were the funniest comedians who ever lived. There’s a fantastic teaching moment when Brooks describes the great physical comedy of the Ritz Brothers to O’Brien, who was unfamiliar with the comedy team.
Of course, the best parts of the conversation are the anecdotal details about the writing room days with Richard Pryor on the set of Blazing Saddles, the quick and witty female leads and the joke Alfred Hitchcock offered for 1977’s High Anxiety, a film that is one long spoof on Hitchcock films’ eerily memorable moments and themes.
And how could we possibly forget the classic, giant Darth Vader helmet from 1987’s Spaceballs? ”
“It was a big, dumb funny idea,” Brooks says, “and it worked."