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Mel Brooks Receives AFI Life Achievement Award

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Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI

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Things can’t get better for Mel Brooks. Mel has been awarded four Emmys, three Tony’s, an Oscar, a Grammy, and a star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame in front of the Egyptian Theater. Now with the AFI Life Achievement Award also under his belt, will he slow down? Not a bit. At 86, what is still most important to Mel is making people laugh.

Martin short got the evening off to a raucous start by singing some of Mel’s famous film songs including “Springtime For Hitler.” Martin Scorsese presented Mel the AFI award to a huge throng of fans, friends and stars. Billy Crystal stated “no-one is as funny as Mel.” Lesley Ann Warren, who was featured in Mel’s “Love Stinks” described him as “truly unique.”

Past recipients Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock, and Tom Hanks have become emotional during their acceptance speech. Not Mel Brooks. He was funny, as he always is, stating “this is nearly an important occasion.”

My favorite Mel Brooks film is “Blazing Saddles,” an hysterical spoof of the Western genre. I think it broke through many barriers that had never been conquered before. Crooked politics, racial humor (with no group being spared), zany characters, and vulgar language all contributed to it’s unique appeal. I asked Mel how he ever got it made. He said he “showed the studio a different print.” BTW: “It’s Twue, It’s Twue” …. Mel’s favorite scene is Madeline Kahn (as Lily Von Shtupp) singing “I’m Tired,” written by Mel.

Insanity and irreverence abound in all of Mel’s films. Other favorites are “The Producers,” “High Anxiety,” “The 12 Chairs,” and of course “Young Frankenstein.” Cloris Leachman appeared in three Mel Brooks films, but this is the one she is best remembered for.

Cloris, still going strong at 87, and featured on the current hit TV show “Raising Hope,” described Mel as “equal parts genius and mensch.” Long-time friend and collaborator Carl Reiner , who met Mel over 60 years ago, said three people thought Mel was one of the funniest people in the world…TV pioneer Sid Caesar, me and Mel Brooks.”

I think “Blazing Saddles” is the funniest movie ever made. Just seeing Count Basie playing with his band in the middle of the desert in Palmdale , is reason enough, let alone all the great lines that I still can’t repeat in public today, 40 years later.People who disagree with me frequently sight other Mel Brooks films as their favorites.

SOME MEL BROOKS TRIVIA:  Mel was  producer of the bizarre 1980 film “Elephant Man,” directed by David Lynch, who was  also in attendance. Mel was also co-creator of the 1960′s hit TV show “Get Smart.”

Talk about multi-tasking, Mel is a writer, director, actor, producer, and songwriter. I also found out that Mel’s good friend, “Eight Is Enough” star Dick Van Patten, and his lovely wife Patty, listen to my ‘Wave Sunday Brunch’ broadcast from Spaghettini every weekend. Strange thing about radio, you never know who is listening.

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