What is a day in Mel Brooks' life like now?
It seems to be my year for honors. I've got an HBO thing and a PBS honor. I'm busy finding pictures of my mother in Russia. I'm looking for my first tricycle. I'm looking for the appendix that was removed. I'm just trying to help [documentarians] out.
Do you worry that these things suggest end of career?
I feel that. But in London, this spring, I'm going to do Young Frankenstein again, so I'm going to be busy. And maybe I'll come up with a musical version of Blazing Saddles.
In the new DVD set The Incredible Mel Brooks, you say Young Frankenstein is about "womb envy." Have you ever felt womb envy?
No, but I could guess in some way that a man could say, "What is creativity? What is giving birth to something?" Picasso must have stopped somewhere, pulled over on the side of the road and said, "How come women can do that and the best I can do is Guernica?"
Growing up, I was a very klutzy kid. Maxwell Smart really helped my self-image. Do you get that a lot?
I get a lot of letters with the same earnestness and passion. Buck Henry and I, in this new box set, we tell the truth about [co-creating] Get Smart. Buck came up with the Cone of Silence, and I came up with the shoe phone.
The shoe phone didn't really catch on. Why not?
Isn't it the cell phone? Didn't I invent the cell phone?
Do you subscribe to the theory that people become comedians because they're compensating for something?
Nonsense. I think it's a continuation they want. My mother on cold winter mornings put my underwear, my socks, my shirt and trousers on the radiator, and she dressed me under the covers. And she gave me kisses and whistled while she was doing it. When I go out onstage or write something, I want my clothes from the radiator. I want my mother whistling.
Do you have a favorite late-night talk-show host?
Letterman is very good. Jay Leno is terrific. Conan is remarkable. I'm so sorry they moved him to a garage somewhere on the west side. The one who has the best future is probably Jimmy Kimmel. He's fast on the trigger. They all have very tough jobs. NBC offered me Late Night--before Johnny Carson, after Jack Paar. I said, "Don't be silly. Never. In life, I'm a guest. I'm never a host." And then Lew Wasserman offered me the job running Universal Pictures.
You turned that down?
It's a heart-attack job. There's not a minute where you create anything. You're just a well-dressed bean counter.
You've famously made fun of Hitler. Is there somewhere comedy cannot go?
Yeah, a little further into Jewish concentration camps. It's just simply too heartbreaking to try to have fun with. You can't go there. But you can go to any Chinese restaurant.
When you go to meet your maker, what will you say to him or her?
I've had some thoughts about this. I'd start slow, with "Could I have just a little cushion at the bottom of my chair?" Then "A place to put my feet would be wonderful." And then I might end up saying "Uh, where did you put Hedy Lamarr? Is she in an apartment near my place?"
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