With the aid of the BBC archive, Alan Yentob and Mel Brooks embark on an unpredictable journey through the city of stars, meeting the legendary Carl Reiner along the way.
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-Hi, how are you, Alan?
-So, is Mel in?
-Yes, he is, he's getting ready.
What does that mean, he's getting ready?
I think he was expecting you shortly.
OK. What...? Is he expecting me at 2.00 or 2.30?
Probably two, but, um, maybe you're coming closer to two thirty?
This programme contains some strong language.
Where is he?
I don't know.
Peter! Where the hell is the thing on the screen?
Thank you, Peter!
That's 20th Century Fox, in case you can't read,
that's what it says.
That's the best part of the picture, right there. I'm crazy about that guy.
I love him! I can't get enough of him.
Phil, raise the gate, for Christ's sake! Will you raise it up?
Thank you, Phil. Agh!
Julio, get me a half a dozen bagels!
Julio! Pull up near the toilet, I have to pee.
I'm going to take your licence away!
Julio, hang on to that.
-Do think we might get a chance to talk?
-Who are you?
Oh, yes, that's right. The Bengal Broadcasting Company, right?
-You're the Indian that was supposed to interview me?
-Oh, from London.
-Ah, what's your name?
-Are you a Jewish Indian? Ah, the best. All right, listen,
-did you see Blazing Saddles?
-Oh, yes, I liked it a lot.
I didn't get your money. I didn't get your ticket.
-All right, look...
-Mr Brooks, how long will you be?
-I have to pee.
Keep talking. Just keep talking.
I'm a very busy man. Ask me questions, it's all right.
-Alan, Alan, Alan!
-Oh, Alan, I'm sorry.
I may have some bad news for you. All right?
Really, I mean it. I've been thinking.
-I have been thinking.
-I love you. I love what you do.
I've always loved, you know...
However, I've been thinking. I may not be able to do this.
Listen, everybody you're close to...
I'll be very honest about this, very honest. You know, you were very,
very close to Orson Welles.
Very close. And you saw him
and you did a documentary on him, and then he died.
And then Arthur Miller, the great... You know, Death Of A Salesman,
the great View From The Bridge,
one of the greatest playwrights of all time,
and close to you, and then he died.
Stanley Kubrick. Alan and Stanley. And then he died. So, I mean...
You're just not good luck. I don't want to... I don't want
-to take a chance on dying, you know?
-So, why didn't you tell me
-before, before I came?
-It didn't occur to me!
It occurred to me just as I walked in. I said, "This guy's
"the kiss of death! Everybody, every time he gets close to somebody
"and he...he does something with them, they die!"
OK. I'm sorry, bye-bye.
Eight, seven, six, five, four...
-Can I help you?
-I got an appointment with the head of BBC Two. Yeah.
Sir, well, have you got any sort of identification on yourself?
-They're expecting me. They're expecting me inside.
-Sir, I'm afraid
if you haven't got any identification, I can't let you in.
All right. Look, I'm going to go out this way
and then I'm just going to go here for a second.
-Excuse me. It's all right. Excuse me, excuse me.
Innkeeper! I'm here. Mel Brooks, here to see the head of BBC Two.
-Er, do you have an appointment?
-Call whoever the guy is, BBC Two,
tell him Mel Brooks, here, waiting. Waiting to see the chief of BBC Two!
I don't need an appointment. He'll be very thrilled to know I'm here.
Hello, er, I have Mel Brooks in reception for you.
-He'll probably want me in immediately!
-Er, yeah, hold on.
Er, would you like to take a seat, please?
-Take a seat?
-Yeah, if you wouldn't mind waiting?
Jesus! OK, I'll take a seat.
SHOES SLAM DOWN ONTO TABLE
This British television. Lakes, ponds, ducks, pigeons...weather.
The weather in Lisbon. I've got to know if it's raining in Lisbon
-Oh, Mr Yentob, there's a Mr Mel Brooks waiting for you.
Is that the guy? Is that the guy?
Hey! Hey! Hey, no, it's all right, they know me, they know me!
MEL WHISTLES Hey, excuse me!
-Are you the head of BBC Two?
-I'm Mel Brooks, I'm supposed to...
You're supposed to do a documentary for The Late Show on me,
-on Life Stinks.
-Yes, that's right.
-Wait a minute, don't I know you?
-I don't think so.
-I've seen you before.
-I seen this guy before!
-I just have to go in...
Didn't you come to 20th Century Fox to do a documentary on me
-about ten years ago?
-No, I don't think so.
-No. Can I just go in here?
-I mean, you were nothing then!
And now you're the head of BBC Two?
I'm having a deja vu.
VOICE ECHOES, HARP PLAYS Am I having a deja vu?
What is all this shit?
What have you done to my hallway?
-Who are you?
-Nobody behind here. What's going on here? I have things to do.
to come back at three o'clock.
I know! But you're not supposed to put all this shit in the hallway.
I have big meetings with important Gentiles!
I mean, this is a film studio! What is this crap doing here?
-It's supposed to be neat and clean!
-This is supposed to be
a special. I just thought we would just wait for you.
A sp... All right. But how about a clean special?
This is a filthy special. Is this the way you do things
in England, just junk all over the halls? I'm surprised.
Now, look. Are you...? He's taking pictures... There's a mic?
All right, do me a favour. Cut out all the...
You know, all the times I've said "shit", take that out,
right? And, look, let me make another entrance, all right?
Oh! What the fuck, I'll risk it.
I'll risk it. But remember, I'm doing this, um,
because I would, you know...
You know the Latin phrase "quid pro quo"? I do this for you.
I do this for you, maybe you do a little something for me?
A little something?
You mention that I've got a show at the Garrick Theatre in the West End?
-I know, I know! BBC.
-Yeah, you can't really do that.
-I know, I'm not allowed to...
All right. I won't say... I won't mention Young Frankenstein
at the Garrick Theatre in the West End in London.
-I won't mention it, I promise.
-No, just if you don't repeat
-the name all the time.
-You can bleep it! You can bleep it.
It'll be like... Look at me, it'll be like...
-No, Mel, no, no. Mel!
-It's such a bargain.
-It's the best show in town.
-Please, I urge you, if there's a little old lady in your way...
..throw her aside. Kick her in the ass,
-get those tickets, they're very tough to get.
-Alan? Alan Yentob is here.
-That's not right. That's not right!
-Can you just...?
-It's not right.
-What's not right?
You can't... It's the BBC, you can't plug the show like that.
It's not the BBC plugging the show, I'm plugging the show!
-I happen to be on the BBC.
-No, I know, I appreciate that.
But you're not... We're not allowed to do commercials for...
You're afraid it's going to become the Brooks Broadcasting Company,
right? You're afraid that the BBC is going to segue into
-the shit house because I'm taking over?
-No, no... Not at all, not at all.
We're very respectful. But the other thing is that we need
to do a promotion for BBC.... This is on BBC Four.
You're doing a promotion for BBC, right?
I'm doing a promotion for The Producers. Why do you think
-I would do this junk?
-You haven't put the cards up.
-There's something on the other side, right? Sorry about that.
-Why do you give me these cheap cardboard...?
-Could you place them...?
You mean like this? You want me to do the whole show
like this, so that I'm plugging you ad infinitum?
No, I will put it on the table in front of me, and every once in
a while, I'll do this. OK? OK?
So, all right, quid pro quo, you do something for me,
I do something for you. All right.
Kevin, I'm going to do this thing. I'm not pushing, I'm
-not pushing anything. It's Kevin. He's busy.
-What's he doing?
Kevin Salter works with me. He's busy. He works around the office
and I don't...I really don't understand exactly what he's doing.
But I'm sure it's tidying up a bit.
He's making sure the office... That everything is hung
correctly and we're doing... Done?
-Thank you, Kevin!
-So, questions and answers.
Yeah, well, I'd like to ask you about Young Frankenstein anyway,
I had done The Producers on Broadway and there was, uh,
there was an army of Jews that wanted to invest in another
hit musical comedy.
So I was thinking, what is my next musical comedy on Broadway?
From that fateful day when stinking bits of slime first crawled
from the sea and shouted to the cold stars, "I am man!"...
..our greatest dread has always been the knowledge of our own mortality.
Young Frankenstein had a lot of theatricality,
a lot of footlights.
Life, do you hear me?
Give my creation life!
If a monster puts on a top hat and sings Puttin' On The Ritz,
you're not going to do better than that.
# Different types who wear a day coat
# Pants with stripes or cutaway coat Perfect fits
# PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ!
# Dressed up like a million-dollar trouper
# Tryin' mighty hard to look like Gary Cooper
# Come, let's mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks
# Or umbrellas in their mitts
# PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ!... #
One night, I had a kind of epiphany.
I, you know, I sprang up from my bed like Scrooge, you know,
and said, "Oh, what have I done?"
So, I decided to write a musical called Young Frankenstein,
use the skeleton, the bones of Young Frankenstein
and add songs that were funny, touching, appropriate
and, you know, would knock them out, knock the audience out.
THUNDER CRASHES, ELECTRICITY CRACKLES
-You must be Igor?
It's pronounced "eye-gor".
Sorry, I don't wish to embarrass you,
but I am a rather brilliant surgeon.
Perhaps I could help you with that hump.
Your track record with reviewers has been not good. Blazing Saddles got
bad reviews, didn't it? The Producers got bad reviews.
-Are you a bit disappointed that this has got such good reviews?
Yeah, I mean, I wonder, have I done something wrong?
I mean, the five-star reviews...
I've never gotten good reviews before, you know?
When I did The Producers, they said, "Springtime For Hitler?
"How dare you!" You know? "Shame on you!"
# Springtime for Hitler and Germany
# Deutschland is happy and gay... #
You know, I watched this in North London with a lot of Jews.
# Look out, here comes the master race... #
And I don't think they could believe what they were seeing.
# Come on, Germans, go into your dance
# I was born in Dusseldorf Und that is why they call me Rolf... #
How did you get this made?
# Don't be stupid, be a smarty Come and join the Nazi Party... #
I came to him, and he was wanting to make a major motion picture,
and he said, "Tell me the story." I told him the story and I said,
"'And then # Springtime for Hitler... #'
And he was drinking coffee, and the coffee went up his nose,
and he fell, he went and fell on the floor, gasping.
I mean, the coffee went up his nose and out of his mouth.
Well! Talk about bad taste!
# Springtime for Hitler and Germany
# Means that soon we'll be going
# We've got to be going
# You know we'll
# Be going to war! #
James, could you come back, please? James, I want to talk to you.
If you don't mind, I'd like to talk to you without Alan Yentob around.
Listen, he's been a friend of mine for a long time and I'm...
Honestly, just between us, I want you to know I'm getting fed up,
because every time we go to lunch or we go to dinner, he never
sticks his hand in his pocket.
Oh! What a pleasant surprise! What are you people doing in the hallway?
Oh, this is nice, this is wonderful. Isn't this? Watch your hands.
This is terrific. Isn't this nice?
Every... All of this beautiful stuff all around here.
Oh, you're the fella from the BBC? And you're the cameraman filming it.
Hello. Hello, England. Hello, how's everything going?
Ever been to Harrods? I gave it back.
What, are you going to come in and talk to me this afternoon?
-Yeah, we want to do this story.
-Oh, wonderful, wonderful. What are you
-going to talk about?
-About, you know, Melvyn Kaminsky,
-your childhood, and....
-Melvyn Kaminsky? Are you crazy?
Let's... I've been Mel Brooks for the past 22 years. I make a living
as Mel Brooks. Nobody knows Melvyn Kaminsky!
It's a picture of me as a baby, yes, yes.
I don't like this picture. I don't want to use this photo.
Well, if you find... If you've got a better one,
-you know, that's fine by me.
-Wait a minute.
I have something a little...I think that's a little better...in my desk.
Here. Use this.
-It's very nice, but this says Robert Redford on this.
Cut out the Robert Redford on the bottom of it and, uh.... Look,
a three- or four-year-old kid, what difference does it make
if it's me or Robert Redford? Nobody will know.
-It's a nice blond-haired kid.
I mean, if that's what you want, you know, that's fine.
Can you tell me what kind of baby you were, what kind of child you were?
I was, mmm...
I was a baby, I was the fourth child born to my mother.
I was a 10lb baby.
I was the fourth son born to her.
She tells me that she said to the doctor, "I don't want him.
"Would you like him?" The doctor said no
and asked around the building, and everyone came to look and said,
nicely, you know, in a nice way, "No, no."
So my mother kept me, and she's been happy ever since,
because I'm the one - not Irving,
not Lenny, not Bernie - but Melvyn is the one
that sends her the 16 and 93 cents a month.
They don't send her the cheque, I send her the cheque.
In the interview later, say it's 116, all right?
-Promise? Good boy. OK.
-You were born in Brooklyn.
I was born in Brooklyn, yes, which is a province of New York.
Was there something special about being Jewish in Brooklyn
-at that time in New York?
-No, everybody was.
Every single human being in Brooklyn was a Jew at that point,
so there was nothing special about it. It was quite ordinary.
It was a pedestrian thing to be. I mean, I went to Manhattan
and I met all these Gentiles and it was a little frightening.
That was frightening. I said, "My God,
"you mean there are other people besides Jews in the world?"
So we never felt any anti-Semitism or any strangeness.
Had we been transported to Nebraska or Kansas or Abilene, Texas,
yes, we would have felt... They would have said...
SOUTHERN DRAWL: .."What the hell is that thing there,
"talking in that Jew talk? What the hell?
"They're so little, itty-bitty people. They're so short. So funny.
"And they can count.
"I got myself a Jew.
"I wanted an Airedale, but I got myself a Jew instead.
"And it do everything.
"Ostensibly, it's my accountant,
"but it's cuter than an accountant. It can count.
"It don't even need a pencil. It can count. You just... All you do...
"Every night, you just take a little matzos. That's what they eat,
"unleavened bread. You put that in their dish,
"in a little water to soften up, because it cut their gums.
"You don't want a little Jew bleeding all over your carpet.
"You give them the matzos, the little Jews, and they love you for it.
"They love you for it. They're wonderful people.
"And I'm trying... I'm going to get another one.
"I'm going to get a female, and I'm going to breed them.
"I'm going to breed these little Jews, and I'm going to sell them
"as little Jew accountants to everybody in Texas."
Your career in comedy started in the mountains.
Would you please bring...? Mrs Poldenfarm, other people would like
to use that rowboat.
Please bring in rowboat 101.
The real name of the rowboat is 11.
That's a hole in the middle. You're sinking.
The Jewish mountains, you went there, really... They went there,
really, for the food. They went there to die.
Because the food was cholesterol. That's all it was.
It was sour cream on potato pancakes. It was only things
that would kill you.
The most dangerous thing that a Jew could do in the Borscht Belt
was to sing a song after lunch.
Lunch would fill them up to here.
They would eat kneidlach, meidlach, teidlach,
meidlach, reidlach, neidlach and teidlach.
I don't know what...
It's all Yiddish words for doughy substances
filled with cheeses and kasha, covered with creams.
Sometimes they would have just a lot of raw vegetables covered with
one gallon of sour cream. And they would eat that.
Then they would have sour cream on blintzes for lunch, for dessert,
and that would be their lunch. And then ten gallons of hot tea.
And then a glass of sour cream. You don't know what...
And then, after that, they would sit and rock.
They would be on the porch, they would rock, and this is the most
dangerous thing a Jew can do. The most dangerous thing a Jew
could do in the mountains was to sing Dancing In The Dark.
Why Dancing in the Dark? Because they never understood the range
of that song and would invariably start in the wrong key.
If you're going to sing Dancing In The Dark, you've got to start very low,
because the song goes very high. And many Jews would die of a stroke
because they would start too high, thinking that was a normal place
to start Dancing In The Dark. They would sing what would appear normal.
# Dancing in the dark... #
Now, that doesn't sound so bad. # Till the tune ends... #
But you watch.
# We're dancing in the dark And it soon ends
# And we can face the music together
EVER HIGHER: # Dancing in the dark! #
And a stroke, and they would die. Because they don't know how
high that song goes. You've got to start it like this.
MUCH LOWER: # Dancing in the dark Till the tune ends
# We're waltzing in the dark And it soon ends
# And we can face the music Together
# Dancing, as we're dancing in the dark. #
That was perfect early Crosby. Crosby, '39.
It's difficult to believe, but you are a musical person.
I'm very musical. You want to hear?
# How brown... #
-That was Crosby, '32, also.
-What about this Sinatra
version of High Anxiety? How did that come about?
I thought it would be wonderful.
When we were doing High Anxiety,
I was a doctor, a psychiatrist, and she says, "Do you sing?"
And I say, "No, no. In the shower."
And then she says, "Well, try." We're sitting around a piano bar.
And so I thought it would be sensational if a novice singer,
you know, a psychiatrist, would suddenly sing
exactly like Frank Sinatra.
Hey, it's song time here at the piano bar.
That means I lay back and let you come forward
and sing a few songs. How about you, sir?
How about you, ma'am? No?
How about you, Doc? How about giving us a tune?
I don't sing, no.
I really don't sing. Not professionally, anyway.
Yeah, come on, Doc, give us a song.
-We'd love it.
-Come on, Doc, you can do it.
Well, go ahead. Go ahead, it'll be fun.
All right. Do you know High Anxiety?
You got it. Is B flat OK?
-Oh. Oh, the key. Oh, that's fine, sure. I guess so.
-Sing into here?
-OK. Any time.
# High an...xiety
# Whenever you're near
# High an...xiety
# It's you that I fear
BAND JOINS IN # My heart's afraid to fly
# It's crashed before
# But then you take my hand
# My heart starts to soar Once more
# High anxiety
# It's always the same
# Ooh, xiety
# It's you...that I blame
# It's very clear to me
# I've got to give in
# High an...xiety
# You win. #
Comedy is always about what's happening in your life
and the world, and there's nothing better than getting a laugh.
It makes everybody happy.
If Carl Reiner's got something
to say, chances are it's funny.
Over a career that spanned more than seven decades,
the 94-year-old has penned, directed and acted out
some of comedy's greatest hits,
from the semiautobiographical Dick Van Dyke Show
to multiple collaborations with Steve Martin, like The Jerk...
Stay away from the cans!
..and The 2,000 Year Old Man.
Yeah, you bet it hurts now.
Reiner's ad-libbed routine with famously close buddy Mel Brooks.
Are you surprised at how much people love that sketch?
Well, Mel, I think, is the funniest human being in the world.
He's connected to the truth.
Here are the two funniest guys on the planet,
and you're both now in your 90s.
PHONE RINGING TONE
-Hello, Carl, can you hear me?
I've got Alan.
I've got Alan Yentob with me.
Really. He's here from England, and he's expressed
a desire to see you.
Well, I'd love to see him. I'll even shave.
-No, you don't have to.
-No, don't shave.
Now, listen, Carl. I'm going to check Whole Foods.
-Stay with me, Carl.
-I'm going to check Whole Foods,
and I'm going to see whether or not they're open. And if they're open,
I'm going to get... Er, I'm going to get chicken meatballs,
and I'm going to get...cannell...
-I'm going to get that thin spaghetti.
And I'm going to bring it over with a lot of sauce
-and we're all going to eat. Is that all right with you?
-Yes, of course.
-If you've got it, eat it.
-If you've got it, eat it.
If you got it, eat it. All right, I'm going to try and get it,
and I'll get back to you in a half-hour with all the stuff.
-OK, I'll be here.
-OK, you'll be there. You wait.
-How are you?
-I love you.
You have made me laugh on very sad days.
-Oh, I'm so happy I could do that.
-You have put a smile on my face
when things weren't great.
If I knew that, I would probably have charged you.
But I didn't know.
-You got it.
-You are truly one of a kind.
-You have been an inspiration to so many.
People like me, when we're down and you make us smile, it means a lot.
-Who are you?
-These are friends taking pictures of me.
Do you have any chickpeas? The ones that are not spicy, these.
-You want the teriyaki sauce?
-Not the ones that are spicy.
-This is not spicy.
There's a little dog...
There's a little dog going to make trouble.
-It's Rosa's little dog. He's a little white dog who goes bananas
when people come to the door.
We're lucky. Caesar?
Friends. OK, he's not here.
Carl? Where's Carl?
Carl is upstairs.
-The destination for the eerie.
Weird, blood-chilling tales told by Old Nancy, the witch of Salem...
-How are you?
-Come to find you.
-We've brought you your dinner.
I was just putting together some things to show you what I'm doing.
-Here's one of them. What does it say?
It says, "The Rise & Fall & Rise & Fall & Rise & Fall & Rise
"& Fall & Rise & Fall & Rise Of Radio
-"by Carl Reiner."
-Yes, but isn't this interesting?
Because this is...
..a crystal set. My father, when I was four, five years old,
he built a crystal set very similar to this.
But we heard scratchy music and Lowell Thomas doing the news.
That was the only... Amos 'n' Andy came on.
And then he went out and built the radio, a real radio.
But we had gaslight. So he had to get a storage battery
-to run the radio.
-Was your radio like that?
He had a different speaker, but it was very similar.
-And there's my father.
-I'm looking to see if...
-And this is my favourite thing of all.
When I was in the NYA radio make shop,
we had a producer, a young girl producer, called Miriam Wolfe.
And I said, "Are you the same Miriam Wolfe who did The Witch's Tale?
"I heard it." She said yes. This is what she looked like.
She scared the shit out of me. She had this voice.
She says, "It's now the wi... She says, "Gaze into embers,
"gaze into them deep, and soon you will see..."
Scared the shit out of me. And then she was my producer.
-This is her.
-She was your first producer?
-Yeah, in radio. I was 18.
I'm going to do James Cagney.
HE GASPS REPEATEDLY
All right, now get out.
You know, it was Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks who created
the famous 2,000-year-old Man, a marvellously inventive comedy idea,
especially since they conceived this idea way before
Medicare was even thought of.
So here's Carl Reiner to tell us more about this
lovable ancient character. Carl Reiner, ladies and gentlemen.
CHEERS, APPLAUSE, INTRO MUSIC
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of the year
when the 2,000-year-old-man goes to the Mayo Clinic
for his annual checkup. Ladies and gentlemen, the
2,000-year-old-man, Mr Mel Brooks.
CHEERING, APPLAUSE, INTRO MUSIC
Ah! I feel good, and I'm happy,
-and I'm delighted.
-Delighted to be here on the Hollywood Palace.
-Delighted to be alive, never mind anything else.
When I wake up in the morning, I make myself a birthday cake.
A cupcake with one candle. I am glad to go in and out.
So, what has... What has...? I've asked you this many times.
-You've asked me a lot of junk since...
-Yes. But we are always
fascinated to know, what has kept you alive?
What do you think has kept you alive?
The main thing that has kept me alive, rolling along and singing
a song for over 2,000 years
is women, hundreds and hundreds of beautiful women.
We know that, many, many hundreds of years ago, most men
-had more than one wife.
-Did you practise polygamy in those days?
I never practised it.
I was perfect at it.
I don't even remember this. But it's funny.
I had my original toupee then.
Carl, that's amazing.
-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Don't you miss that toupee, Carl?
Where's the seat?
There's a big seat. Where am I standing?
That's a big seat. Thank you, thank you.
Look, here you are on Jay Leno.
And you're still at it.
It must be...30 years on?
30? Maybe 40.
Sir, I understand...
I understand that you've been given a clean bill of health.
Yes, sir, a clean bill of health
-and a big bill for payment.
-Yes, well, that's the way it is today.
What is it...? What is it that has kept you alive? What is the secret
-of your longevity?
-I have been kept alive,
singing a song, rolling along for 2,000 years...
-..by the help of garlic.
-Garlic? Just garlic?
-How could garlic do that?
-Well, you know the scientific way how you die?
-The Angel of Death rings your bell,
you let him in, like a schmuck,
he comes up to your apartment,
he leans over, he gives you the kiss of death...
-The kiss of death!
-..and he takes you away.
-Before I retire,
I eat a pound and a half of garlic, I chew it up, I leave a little bit
-under my tongue...
-..then I go to sleep.
He comes in, bends over to give me the kiss of death,
-I say, "Whooooo is it?"
-Oh, I see, I see.
-He wouldn't want to kiss you.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
In the early days... of our 2,000-year-old man,
I'm going to say...
I never knew what Carl... I never knew what he would ask me.
And sometimes he asked me things that were pretty bizarre.
And the more bizarre it was, the funnier. A trapped genius
mind against the wall comes up with
-absolutely the most brilliant things.
-And I loved confounding him,
coming back with something that would actually break him up
and make him laugh. And then he'd come back
with a question that would stun me.
Nobody would dare ask that question.
There's a very other thing that's very important.
I don't think you can say "very other," but I'll let it go.
No, no. I was working at Universal
at the time, and I had a bungalow next to Cary Grant.
He passed one day, and I said - and the album just came out -
"Here's something you might enjoy."
He came back the next day and said, "Can I have a dozen?"
I said, "What are you going...?" He said, "I'm going to England."
I said, "You're going to take these to England?"
He said, "Yes, they speak English there." Those are his words.
He came back, and he said, "She loved it." I says, "Who?"
He said, "The Queen Mother. Took them to Buckingham Palace."
And I said to Mel, "The biggest shiksa in the world loved this.
"We're home free!"
I said, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! It's Cary Grant. He's talking to me!
"I heard my name!" He said, "Mel Brooks."
I turned around, I said... "You're Cary Grant." He said, "Yes."
I said, "You shouldn't talk to me, I'm nothing!
"I'm a figment of your imagination. You're a great big star,
"I'm a little Jew from Brooklyn. Don't even look at me."
He said, "I've spent 1,000 yesterday buying your record.
"I've given your records to all my friends. It's the funniest damn
"record I've ever heard in my life."
I said, "I don't believe this." He said, "Where are you going?"
I said, "I'm going to the commissary." That's the lunchroom.
"The commissary?" He said, "OK. Come on, I'll buy you lunch."
I said, "All right, Cary Grant."
So we go to the commissary together. I walk past a guy,
my friend Murray. I said, "Murray! Me and Cary are going to lunch!"
We go to lunch. Cary, he orders a boiled egg. Don't ask me why.
Dry toast and a boiled egg. I ordered a tuna fish sandwich.
"What's your favourite colour?" "Yellow. What's yours?" "Blue."
OK, fine, great. Finished lunch, we go back.
He goes to Grand, I go to Schwartz.
Go into the bungalow, everything is gone. Next day, ring!
"Is Mel Brooks there?" "Yeah."
"It's Cary Grant." "It's Cary Grant! For me."
"Are you going to lunch? "Yes, Cary. I'll meet you just outside."
Cary Grant... I'm walking. "How you doing? What's your favourite car?"
"Rolls-Royce." "I like a '38 Buick."
"OK, fine, fine." "You like double-breasted?
"I like single-breasted."
"I like a red tie, you like a blue tie. Isn't that great?"
"I love your hair." "You like my hair? Great." OK.
We go in, he has a boiled egg, I have a tuna fish sandwich,
we finish lunch. We go back, he goes to Grand, I go back
to Marvin Schwartz's office. Fine.
Next day, ring! "Mel? Cal!"
Now, this time, we meet outside, we're skipping to the lunchroom.
And the conversation's getting sparse. I don't really know what to
say any more at lunch. I'm getting a little worried.
He's just voluble, he's carrying on, he's crazy about me. I don't know
what to say. OK.
The next day, Friday, the phone rings. "Hello, is Mel Brooks there?"
I said, "If it's Cary Grant, I'm not in!"
It's a true story.
# I just got to let you know... #
11-time American Music Award winner Mariah Carey has turned
her 1994 holiday classic All I Want For Christmas Is You into...
Shall we watch Sid Caesar? That was your writing debut.
Sid Caesar invites you!
Whoa! That was a good one. What was that, Pete?
That was a corker. I think you left the cork in the bottle.
What seems to be the discrepancy over here? Hm?
Yeah... Oh... Is that your seat, Harry? Oh.
That's your seat, right, Harry?
I was in Shepherd's Bush. There's all Jews there.
I try to get away from the Jews. That's why I don't want
to hang around there. I worked at Shepherd's Bush at the BBC.
There was a studio at the BBC, that's still there, Shepherd's Bush.
We did The Show Of Shows with Sid Caesar.
We did it live. We did 12 or 13 shows over that summertime period.
I lived in Pelham Place, in South Ken, SW3.
Well, there you are. There you are, everyone.
Another half-hour has slipped by.
But don't forget... Don't forget that Sid Caesar invites you
to tune in to the BBC next Tuesday again at eight.
I would have been a comic many years ago had I not had such a great
vehicle for my passion. I told you that.
Sid Caesar was a genius. So, when I met him, I said, "I knew you could
"play the saxophone, but this is thrilling.
"You are a thrilling interpreter of human behaviour."
And so, I said, "I'm going to write for you."
DRAMATIC PIANO CHORDS
What I got out of it was a sense of timing and a sense of...
..of height, that there were no limits to comedy,
that you had to scale higher mountains, that Annapurna was not
enough, it was Everest. It was the comedy Everest you had to scale.
And Sid Caesar taught us all that, that there were no limits
to our comic imaginations.
As a writer, you found success with Show Of Shows. Great success.
And yet then...that all went. I mean, how did that affect you?
I cried. I mean, I cried for two years.
Thanks, Lee. All I did was cry for two years. I did nothing but sob.
I mean, I was broke. I mean, I didn't have a nickel.
He used to come to my office, he used to stop off at
Chock Full o'Nuts and buy a cream cheese and walnut sandwich
and a cup of tea in a container, and he'd come up and sit
there and talk about the future. He used to make a date to do that.
And I was busy trying to go out to lunch and make a career
for myself, and here was this guy who insisted on sitting there
with this container.
Included in the future was a very serious idea he had for the great
comic stage play called Springtime For Hitler,
which would show through comedy what the Nazis really were like, you see.
And he had these very serious ideas.
"Springtime For Hitler.
"A Gay Romp With Adolf And Eva At Berchtesgaden."
-It's practically a love letter to Hitler.
-This won't run a week!
A week? Are you kidding? This play has got to close on page four.
Do people say to you, "Do you wish to make serious films?"...
-..if that is the phrase you can use?
-Yes. Yeah. Well, I tell them...
Sometimes I get up on my high horse. My horse is over 17 hands tall,
and I get up on that horse and I say to them...
.."Bullshit." And they say, "What? I beg your pardon?"
"Excuse me." And I say, "All my films are serious.
"You examine any one of them, they're serious because they are
"passionate and they depict human behaviour at given points
"in the history of humanity."
I say, "They're not dramatic. That's the difference."
I say, "You've got to be careful what you say there when you use
"those words," because you can't make a successful comedy
that doesn't have any passion. It will not be successful.
You've got to say something about the system, about the social
prejudice, about people, about behaviour.
Comedy is not successful unless it deals with...
Even Laurel and Hardy, you'd say, "Well, they're cheap comedies,"
but they always deal with the system.
The Marx Brothers always dealt with the system.
Every picture I've ever made has dealt with some aspect of the social
system and human behaviour within it.
I mean, I don't want to get clinical about it, but The Producers
was about the dream of little Leo Bloom...
Bialystock says many things. If you listen to this big...
..Zero Mostel in The Producers, he says, "Bloom!
"Bloom, I'm sinking. I'm part of a society that demands success
"when all I can offer is failure."
Blazing Saddles is all about racial prejudice.
It's all about the hypocritical West shitting all over a black sheriff
and wanting him dead.
Did you think at the time you could get away with Blazing Saddles?
No. I said, "Look, I'm out of show business anyway."
The Producers made a penny. Twelve Chairs made a ha'penny.
I mean, it made nothing. You know? And I figured, "Well, I'm out of
"show business, I might as well say what I have and..."
I just flung myself into the nether land.
No, that's Holland. Into the nether world.
How did the studios let you do it, Blazing Saddles?
-What did they think of it when you'd done it?
-They didn't know better.
They thought we were just making a raucous Western.
I just got a telegram from the Governor's office.
The sheriff will be here at noon.
I'd better rehearse my speech.
As honorary chairman of the welcoming committee,
it is my privilege to extend to you
a laurel and hearty handshake.
-Hey, Gabby, can you see him yet?
The sheriff's coming!
Ring out the church bells!
-Strike up the band!
-CHURCH BELL RINGS
BAND PLAYS A JAUNTY TUNE
-Hey! The Sheriff is a ni...
-What did he say?
-"The sheriff is near."
No, God blam rarrit!
-The Sheriff is a ni...
# He rode a blazing saddle
# He wore a shining... #
Hey, where are the white women at?
These things are defective.
Excuse me while I whip this out.
The Western is one of the great genres of American film.
Since the early days, Westerns have given us indelible images,
the grandeur of endless landscapes,
the intimacy of coffee at the campfire,
men who do the right thing.
I guess you could say that a Western embodies the spirit of America.
And this is what Mel Brooks did to it.
THEY ALL FART
Movies bring history to life.
They allow us to see, to experience
great moments of the past,
as if we were there living it,
from the dawn of man
to the eternal stories of the Bible...
The writing of God.
..to the epic tales of the Roman Empire.
Films have the ability to help us understand where we came from.
It is a proud and important tradition.
And this is what Mel Brooks did to it.
The Lord! The Lord Jehovah has given unto you these 15...
Ten! ..ten Commandments for all to obey.
Early on in my career, I set off on a bold adventure
to see if I could take mythological motifs
and turn them into a contemporary movie,
and I called this adventure Star Wars.
And this is what Mel Brooks did to it.
You have the ring. And I see your schwarz is as big as mine.
You see, the one thing that I don't like -
I don't like it in Hollywood and I don't like it at home -
is any kind of glitter.
I try to be as...as simple...
..and as earnest and as honest as I can.
I believe in the Oriental philosophy of life. I really do.
I subscribe to the yin and the yang.
And more recently the yen.
-Can you do anything else musical?
-Uh, musically, yeah.
Do you guys know Just In Time? We'll do it in G.
Dean Martin. Make believe this is gin.
# Just in time
# Found you just in time
# Before you came, my time was runnin' low
# I was born, losing dice were tossed
# My bridges all were crossed
# Nowhere to go
# Ooh, now you're here
# And now I know just where I'm going
# No more doubt or fear
# Found my way
# And love a-came a-just in time
# I found you just in time
# You changed my lonely life that lucky day
# My lonely, lonely life that lovely day. #
Mel sold his previous house to Frank Sinatra.
If I'd hung on to it, I'd be rich.
MEL HUMS TO HIMSELF Just a touch...
I'll play you just a little...
..just a touch from my favourite composer.
HE PLAYS INTRO TO RHAPSODY IN BLUE
# Someday he'll come along The man I love
# And he'll be big and strong The man I love
# And when he comes my way
# I'll do my best to make him stay
# He'll look at me and smile I'll understand... #
On our desert island this week is the American film director,
-producer, writer, actor and comedian Mel Brooks.
-He left out composer.
I was a drummer. Only a few blocks away from where I lived, Buddy Rich,
the famous swing drummer, one of the best that ever lived...
You were a drummer? You were a drummer.
How do you train to become a drummer?
When I was a little boy on Bright and Sixth Street,
walking with two Bobbys, one a friend Bobby,
a tall friend and a short friend Bobby,
we walked past Bright and Sixth Street, where I...
HE DRUMS ON DESK
We said, "Oh, that's good." We said, "Either Fred Astaire
"lives in that apartment or somebody has a set of drums, right?"
So, we peeked in and there was Buddy Rich at the drums, rehearsing.
Buddy Rich was a great drummer, so we bothered him. We said,
"How do you hold the drums? How do you...?"
He was a sweet guy, always a sweet man. And he taught us just
how to hold the drums, that the right foot was on the bass drum,
the left foot was on the high-hat.
And it was... HE IMITATES RHYTHM
If you can get that rhythm...
JAZZ PIANO PLAYS
Always keep the beat. I'm always in the centre of the beat.
Never wrong. Born to do it.
What I'm doing now is really the most important thing
a drummer can do - not show off, just drive.
Nobody at my age could take a break like that.
ON TAPE: I've always loved music. I would be seriously bereft and at
a great loss if music were taken away from....
-Doesn't sound like you at all. It sounds like someone else.
-Let's break for your second record.
-Guess what this is.
When I heard the Fifth Symphony, I said, "Oh, my God!"
And if I had my way, conducted by Arturo Toscanini
with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
MUSIC: Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
MEL IMITATES THE MUSIC
He was good. HE CHUCKLES
Oh... He knew... What he could do! I mean, there are four notes,
and the variations on four notes are incredible.
I mean, they're just stupendous.
How old were you when you first heard...?
I was 12.
That's still those four notes.
And that's a counterpoint to the four notes. I mean...
-For a little Jew in Brooklyn, that's quite upmarket.
When I was a little boy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn...
..I don't think I ever saw a green leaf.
Everything was cement. Everything was cobblestones and cement.
Now here every day there's something green and beautiful.
Now, if you back up and take a look at this guy...
Turn around, James.
I mean, this is...
..probably the best tree that ever grew in the whole world.
It has the most amazing roots, it has a network of branches.
# Every time it rains, it rains Pennies from heaven
# They know each cloud contains Pennies from heaven
# If you want the things you love You must have showers
# So when you see it raining Don't run under a tree
# There'll be pennies from heaven For you and me! #
-OK, follow me.
Follow us, James. Just follow us.
This is my lovely citrus grove.
This is my tangerine tree. Here we go.
This guy's almost ready. Alan, eat this for James.
-You can tear it, peel it.
And these are for me.
# There'll be pennies from heaven
# For you and me. #
Record number five now. What's that?
Record number five, Frank Sinatra.
Ohhh! Perhaps the best living singer, one of the great crooners,
you know, legendary crooners. A legend in his own life.
And here he is at the peak of his career.
PIANO INTRO Ah! In The Wee Small Hours.
-That's good taste.
-Are you surprised? That was you.
He...never sang better than on this record. I mean, it is...
..the most typical.
# In the wee small hours of the morning
# While the whole wide world is fast asleep
MEL HUMS ALONG
# You lie awake and think about... #
Why did he have to die? I mean, the voice... He...
You know... If somebody had to live forever, I'd vote for Sinatra.
# When your lonely heart has learned its lesson
# You'd be hers if only she would call
# In the wee small hours of the morning
# That's the time you miss her most of all. #
Thanks to the power of his merciless tune,
so that the whole world was made beautiful.
Mel, aren't you dead?
Didn't we bury you in 1982?
My right name is Marion Michael Morrison, and the studio decided
that it was not American enough for a boy who was going to
Don't you remember? It's true.
Mel, it's all true.
MEL WHISTLES Folksies! Hello?
Grave watchers! Hello, funeral parties! Hello.
Hello, hello, flowers. Hello, people.
HE WHISTLES Come over...
Here, over here. Here. Over here, please.
Hello! Ah, thank you.
Hi, folks. Look familiar? I was Mel Brooks,
one of the funniest little Jews that ever walked the face of this earth.
I think so. Well, what can I tell you?
I say Mel Brooks. Actually, my name was Kaminsky.
Melvyn Kaminsky. Now, I'd like you to think of me as Mel Brooks,
because that's where the big bucks came in.
Now, I can't really continue talking to you. I'd love to, but I can't,
..you have to put in a coin.
If you don't pay for this, you don't get it. I'm sorry.
Even... Even after death, a little bit of commerce.
Yeah, would you please put in a coin? If you don't, I go black.
In about 30 seconds, you're going to lose me completely.
Thank you! And...go.
Now, what was I saying?
Oh, yes. I'm here now, fresh, adorable, alive.
Actually, right below, here, right under this little mound,
the decay that's happening underneath this earth is disgusting.
But let's not go into that.
What lives, what goes on, after the body ceases?
Is it the soul, is it the spirit? That's what the religiosos
would have you believe. Actually, I'll tell you what lives on.
It's the only substance that is immortal. The soul vaporises.
I'm sorry. After you die, you got about 36 hours, and then...
..no more soul. But video tape is...
You're good, you're almost immortal, because after 15 or 17 years,
you recopy yourself on new vinyl, video, and you never die.
You're always on tape.
Melvyn Kaminsky is no more. But long live...
-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Excuse me, this is the... this is the red carpet.
It's for celebrities.
Sorry, old boy. See you later.
BAND PLAYS Springtime For Hitler
You know, with your kind of introspection, it's very
difficult to, you know, get to the heart of what
-really is Mel Brooks.
-What am I really?
I'm a coalescence of vapour. Sometimes... Sometimes I think of
myself as a wraith. A wraith?
Make that a wreath.
This doesn't seem like a big production to me, really.
I mean, what the hell are you people spending on it? 28?
-I mean, you don't even have a good ending.
-No, I know.
-Do you want me
just to say, "Th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks"?
You'd consider that the ending of a big Mel Brooks special?
"Th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks"?
I'm Mel Brooks, not Mel Blanc.
How about the Mercedes, the BMW and the Porsche?
In our German Gestalt is the best in cars in the world.
The other cars, Americaners, are shit.
HE SHOUTS IN FAKE GERMAN
America is bullshit.
Und Deutschland ist alles Mercedes
and the besten Wagen in the Volkswagen in the Welt!
HE QUACKS LIKE DONALD DUCK
Yes, but, Mel!
-What? What do you want?
-Yeah, but... is it an ending, really?
It's a terrific ending. Hitler, and then I go.
All right, so it isn't the greatest ending in the world, I admit it.
But it's an ending. It's some kind of an ending.
I mean, it's better than no ending.
Come up with a better ending.
I got to go to the toilet. I'll talk to you later.
You know... You know, there are no real endings,
if you want to be true to life, you know?
In the movies, people are shot, right? And they die.
"Aaaagh!" They die, and they say...
.."So this is the end."
KNOCK ON DOOR
Will you please stop knocking on the door?
-We're doing a...
-Mr Brooks, Miss Lansing is here.
Who? Oh, uh... Can you explain that I'm...we're shooting a thing
and I need the... I need the office for...?
-Look, I'm sorry to bother you, but I...
-..I really need my office back.
-Why don't you give me a break?
-Just five more minutes.
-Honey... I've really got to get to this.
-Yes. I really do.
Please. I'm sorry.
-I wouldn't do it unless it was important.
-Look, I know it's
your office, but...
It is my office, and I need my chair and I need my desk
-and I need my papers.
-All right, all right, all right.
And it took longer than I thought.
MOVIE MUSIC SWELLS
What should I do? What's to become of me? Where will I go?
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
MUSIC: Hava Nagila
It's not what we take up front. That's not important.
CASH REGISTER RINGS The movie can be made.
We've got to raise money to make the movie.
The fees are not important.
I'm interested in the adjusted gross.
I want the gross after they're even dollar for dollar.
What? Who is it?
-Oh, all right.
Come in, come in, come in. Come in.
What is it? What is it?
-What is it? I'm on the phone.
-OK. I just wondered whether...
We still haven't got this ending sorted out.
They haven't... No, no. It's this guy Yentob from the BBC.
No. They can't get an ending for this idiot documentary
they're doing with me.
What the hell do you want from me? No, tell me the deal again.
They want to give us 16,000 upfront for everything?
And then what do we get if the picture's a hit?
1,100? Are you crazy?!
-We're running out of film.
-What? Oh. OK.
Look, I have to do this documentary. I'll call you back.
MUSIC: Arena theme by Brian Eno
Oh, you in there? Oh, there you are.
OK, hey, listen. This is Alan Yentob. He's head of BBC Two.
He flew all the way over from England to ask a few questions
about Life Stinks. OK. Talk to him.
He's in there somewhere. Go ahead. Go.
Hello. Come in.
-So, you're from the BBC?
-It must be a bit cramped in here.
-No, no, it's... It's very...
It's very comfortable, very, very, very comfortable.
As a matter of fact, we have...
Friday nights, we have a little party in here.
"Gipper! It's Gipper! Frankie!
"Frankie, your mother forgives me! Frankie!"
Oh, that was a great motion picture. You know, I...
-I must go now, I think.
-No, no, don't go, don't go.
I have many stories. I have things to tell you.
I love that shirt. I love that T-shirt.
It's a beautiful shirt. Don't, no, don't go. Please don't go. No.
I don't want to be alone here. I don't want to be...
You're the first human being that's come in in years!
You know, I had a very big office. It was great.
# This nearly was mine... #
# This nearly was paradise
# I was living in paradise
# This nearly was mine. #
-Oh, please, don't go. Don't leave me.
-Don't leave me!
James, do me a favour. Say goodbye, thank you, and...
-..and get out. No... No offence. OK, take care. Bye-bye.
MUSIC: Arena theme
-So that's it?
-All right, now, please, no offence,
but get out. Enough.
It's enough interviewing, it's enough talking, enough camera.
I have a life. I have to...
You know. I want to eat some spaghetti and meatballs tonight,
with maybe some Parmesan cheese on top. And maybe a beer with it.
I can't do that if you just
keep talking to me and asking me questions.
Why aren't I on this show?
Well, Mel, why aren't I on this show?
At the age of 91, Mel Brooks is unstoppable, with his musical Young Frankenstein opening to great critical acclaim in London in late 2017. Alan Yentob visits Mel at home in Hollywood, at work and at play. With the aid of BBC archive stretching back decades, together they embark on an unpredictable, irresistible journey through the city of stars, meeting the legendary Carl Reiner along the way. The driver is Mel Brooks - you have been warned!