Quote: Mel Brooks on seriousness in comedy

Mel Brooks at the White House for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors by US Federal Government
Mel Brooks at the White House / Picture by the U.S. federal government
At the weekend (on Saturday February 17th) the BBC aired a special about Mel Brooks – Imagine…Mel Brooks: Unwrapped. As well as new material it included archive interviews, including this great quote:

“All my films are serious, if you examine any one of them. Because they are passionate and the depict human behaviour at given points in human history. They are not dramatic, and that’s the difference. You’ve got to be careful what you say when you use those words.

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 structure. About prejudice, about people, about behaviour. Comedy is not successful unless it deals with… even Laurel and Hardy, you could say they were cheap comedies, they have to 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 don’t want to get clinical about it but The Producers was about the dream of little Leo Bloom, about success. Zero Mostel in it 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 about racial prejudice. It’s all about the hypocritical west shitting all over a black sheriff, wanting him dead.”

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