Mel Brooks: The comic genius and legend of stage, film and TV, for whom it’s still springtime

Tim Walker in The Independent:

Mel-Brooks-Lauren-CrowIt sounds like the set-up for a joke: what does Mel Brooks have in common with Audrey Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg and Sir John Gielgud? But the punchline is deadly serious: they’re all among just a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status, single-handedly winning all four major American entertainment awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. Brooks – actor, director, writer, producer, songwriter – is perhaps best known for the run of classic comedies he made between the 1960s and 1980s, from The Producers to Spaceballs. With his 1974 spoof Western, Blazing Saddles, he perfected the parody genre. The following year, Playboy magazine heralded a new boom in movie comedy, and described Brooks as “one of the very few movie-makers since Charlie Chaplin who is unarguably a comic genius”.

He has also produced several straight-faced features, including The Elephant Man, which was awarded the Bafta for Best Film in 1981. (Does that make him a “Begot”?) Yet he started his comedy career in stand-up, and now, at 88, it is the stage to which he has returned. On Sunday, at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, Brooks will perform his first, and probably his last, UK one-man show, an “introspective retrospective” reflecting on his life and career, with jokes. Theatre promoter Delfont Mackintosh has been criticised for charging more than £500 for stalls seats at Brooks’s show, the most expensive ticket ever for a West End performance. Several US stars, such as Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone and John Travolta, have similarly waxed nostalgic on the British stage in recent years. But Brooks has a longer and more varied history than any of them, which is perhaps why he can command such a high price to hear it.

More here.