Actor Mel Brooks is often referred to as the King of Comedy. He is known for his quick wit and smart jokes, however, they often cause controversies as well. But he never seems to shy away from expressing himself.
He is often known to make such bold jokes in his films as well. He believes in addressing the truth just the way it is rather than molding it into a less offensive false.
His depiction of the same gets him in the hot waters sometimes, but it doesn’t look like that possibility has ever scared him.
Mel Brooks and The Controversial Film
Mel Brooks, the king of comedy, has always gone beyond the norm. He has a history of stirring up controversy, and many of his movies today are much more divisive than they were when they were first released.
But not a single joke that Brooks has ever said has been taken back. He actually regrets not pushing himself further.
In a parody of vintage Hollywood Westerns that is Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” from 1974, race is explored. Although the movie is a condemnation of racism, Brooks claims that if he had tried to produce it now, political correctness would have forced him to suppress it.
“We have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy,” he explained once, back in 2017. “It’s okay not to hurt the feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line and take risks. Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering into the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”
Upon this, he was questioned about the boundaries he would never dare cross, to which, he answered, “I personally would never touch gas chambers or the death of children or Jews at the hands of the Nazis,” he said. “Everything else is okay.“
Even though some people believe that Brooks takes it too far many times, this statement makes it clear that he believes otherwise: “[There’s] not one I would take back. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty upset about some jokes that I took back […] that I thought, well, that’s a little too risque. But there were plenty of jokes I should have just exploded with, and I said, ‘Maybe that’s a bit too much for the kids’ or whatever.”
The Deleted Scene from Blazing Saddles
There was one gag in particular that Mel Brooks ended up cutting that he wishes he had kept in “Blazing Saddles.” “It had to do with Madeline Kahn going into Cleavon Little’s dressing room after the show,” he recalled to Fresh Air host Terry Gross.
“And then she says something like, ‘Relax,’ you know? And then she says, ‘Oh […] how are you built? Oh, you’re — oh, how beautiful […] the way you’re built, your people are built,’ you know? And it was too much. And she’s — and he says, ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, Ms. Von Shtupp. You’re biting my arm, you know?'”
The scene mocked the way white women objectify and fetishize Black guys. The purpose of the joke is to make the viewer uncomfortable with how Ms. Von Shtupp is treating Bart, the character played by Little.
Nevertheless, Brooks’ targeted audience might have found the intended level of humor and discomfort to be too complex and sexually explicit.
Despite all of this, the movie was given an R rating due to its foul language, comedy violence, and references to both racial and sexual content (per BBFC).
The use of the N-word in “Blazing Saddles” has undoubtedly caused the most uproar, but Brooks doesn’t regret this decision either. “I used the N-word in ‘Blazing Saddles, but it was to show how despised, hated, and loathed this Black sheriff was. Without the N-word, you couldn’t have the story. You’ve got to tell the truth.”
The Fearless Brooks
Despite the scandalous experience with “Blazing Saddles,” it wasn’t the only film of Brooks that caused controversy.
“When I did Springtime for Hitler [in ‘The Producers’], the war was not even cold,” he recalls. “People like rabbis and would write to me and say, ‘This is execrable.’ And I’d say, ‘You can’t bring folks like Hitler down by getting on a soapbox — they’re better at it than we are. But if you can humiliate them, ridicule them, and have people laugh at them — you’ve won.‘”
Even if they weren’t ready for what he hurled at them, Brooks was never concerned about offending anyone. “Oh, you have to risk it,” the comedian insisted in an interview. “To hell with them.“
He was confident that history would eventually side with him and added: “I knew ‘Springtime for Hitler’ was perfect, I knew it was right. I said to my friends, they may have to catch up with me. I may be a little ahead of the curve at this point and have to wait for some of the world to catch up with me.”
What good is regret when every mistake was part of the journey? “Forget about correcting your past,” Brooks proclaimed. “You learn from your past as you go along. You can’t say, ‘If I had ….’ You say, ‘Okay, all right. That was a mistake. I won’t do that again.’ That’s how you learn.“
Mel Brooks, the actor known for his comedy skills, often finds himself in hot waters due to his risky jokes. But, nothing seems to stop him. He is fearless about his jokes and always stands by the truth without altering it to be non-offensive.
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