Mel Brooks was born in 1926, the same year as Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth. After serving in World War II, Brooks worked as a standup comedian, then a comedy writer for radio, Broadway, TV, and movies. He produced, directed, wrote, and/or acted in a series of films we will never forget, including The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Spaceballs. He released a memoir this year, titled All About Me. Brooks revealed one of his secrets to success in an interview at The New Yorker.
I’d learned one very simple trick: say yes. Simply say yes. Like Joseph E. Levine, on “The Producers,” said, “The curly-haired guy—he’s funny looking. Fire him.” He wanted me to fire Gene Wilder. And I said, “Yes, he’s gone. I’m firing him.” I never did. But he forgot. After the screening of “Blazing Saddles,” the head of Warner Bros. threw me into the manager’s office, gave me a legal pad and a pencil, and gave me maybe twenty notes. He would have changed “Blazing Saddles” from a daring, funny, crazy picture to a stultified, dull, dusty old Western. He said, “No farting.” I said, “It’s out”… You say yes, and you never do it.
Kottke has an overview of the recent coverage of Mel Brooks’ life and career that’s really worth a look.
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