Mel Brooks on Blazing New Comedic Trails in 'Blazing Saddles'
Mel Brooks is to comedy what air is to mammals: Essential.
From stage to radio to television to film, Brooks's zany brand of bonkers is responsible for more snickers, snorts, and guffaws than perhaps anyone in entertainment.
"It's the funniest movie, I think, by far. No matter what the AFI list says," explains Brooks. "Five should be the next number. One to four should be 'Blazing Saddles.'"
For those of you who haven't seen the movie, shame on you. Stop reading and go indulge. It's so much more than a hilarious joke-a-second spoof of Westerns, it's also a scathing indictment on the idiocy of racial prejudice. It's the rare film that manages to be both highbrow and lowbrow at the same time. And on its own terms.
"They can't make that movie today because everybody's so politically correct. You know, the NAACP would stop a great movie that would do such a great service to black people because of the N-word," says Brooks. "You've got to really examine these things and see what's right and what's wrong. Politically correct is absolutely wrong. Because it inhibits the freedom of thought. I'm so lucky that they weren't so strong then and that the people that let things happen on the screen weren't so powerful then. I was very lucky."
With a new 40th anniversary Blu-ray edition dropping this week, we got Brooks on the horn to talk all things "Blazing Saddles." In his inimitably frenetic style, Brooks recounted how Richard Pryor gave the filmmaker license to use the N-word, even though he couldn't get Pryor cast; how Gene Wilder stepped in to save the film; and why "Blazing Saddles" should be considered the single greatest comedy of all-time.
Brooks can't actually explain how "Blazing Saddles," a film unlike anything anyone had ever seen before, first arrived in his mind.
A lot of things arrive in my head that I don't want them to arrive in my head. I have portals and doors, and I have security guards. The front of my brain's saying, "Wait a minute. Let me see your pass." But you know, you're alive, you can't stop them. They come floating in and you know, it was usually full-blown.