Happy birthday, Mel Brooks! The comedy genius behind movie hits like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs turns 90 years old today, and we can only assume the festivities will include an offensive but hilarious musical number.
Brooks is truly a pioneer in the worlds of comedy and film. He's pushed boundaries when it comes to subject matter and good taste and he proves that silly humor can still be smart and insightful. While he may be retired from filmmaking, we're forever grateful for his influence on comedy. With that in mind, we're taking a look at how some of our favorite modern comedies wouldn't be the same without Mel Brooks.
Anchorman Would Lose Its Silliness
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy became a cult hit due to its silly, irreverent humor. The film mocked how seriously people take the news by making a joke out of anchorman Ron Burgundy and his moronic news team. And that silly style would likely be lost without the influence of Brooks.
Almost all of Brooks's big-screen comedies have a goofy streak. They're over the top and pack in tons of jokes using a deft combination of dialogue and sight gags. That influence is perfectly seen in Anchorman's fight scene, with Ron Burgundy's Channel 4 News Team facing off with the rest of San Diego's news crews. The scene already has a ridiculous setup, taken even further by the appearance of multiple news teams, ridiculous weapons and an explosion of comedic violence, with visuals and music ripped straight from a West Side Story gang fight (minus the choreographed dancing).
Spy Would Lose Its Satire
Director Paul Feig's Spy is one of the most successful comedies in recent years, blending action and laughs for a satirical take on espionage movies. While there's some obvious inspiration from Brooks's TV creation Get Smart, that influence extends beyond just poking fun at spy stories.
Brooks's satire always hits more than its obvious target. In The Producers, Brooks isn't just mocking the entertainment industry — he specifically takes aim at all people in power who profit off the masses. Similarly, Spy's tale of a deskbound CIA analyst finally given her shot at fieldwork moves past mocking incompetent bosses or stupid film archetypes to target the systems of power that keep women from advancing in the workplace.
Borat Would Be Boring
Borat has more obvious ties to mockumentary hits like This is Spinal Tap, but Brooks's pioneering lack of subtlety helped prepare audiences for the craziness to come.
A good Mel Brooks movie features at least a few elements that push society's comfort zone to its limits, like the overtly racial themes of Blazing Saddles or the Nazi-themed musical in The Producers. Brooks broke ground for filmmakers and performers, like Sacha Baron Cohen, to test the waters with their own offensive, yet ultimately illuminating humor.
Scary Movie Wouldn't Exist
In 2000, audiences were given a new take on genre parody with Scary Movie, but it probably wouldn't exist without the influence of Mel Brooks.
The director will always be remembered for his big-screen parodies like Silent Movie, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs. By dismantling standard Hollywood tropes, Brooks was able to mine tired styles for fresh comedic material. Scary Movie does the same thing, ripping apart Hollywood's horror hits to find a new source of laughter. Of course, the trend continued when Brooks's fellow parody pioneers Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers took charge of the franchise with Scary Movie 3 — a trio no doubt influenced by Brooks themselves.
We could examine Brooks's influence on modern comedies all day long, because his work is so profound. He brought a sense of silly glee to comedy, helped create the modern parody film, and was never afraid to push a few buttons along the way. We're just hoping he'll come out of retirement to make one more movie.
What's your favorite Mel Brooks film? Let us know in the comments below.