Mel Brooks Pauline Kael - Essay

Pauline Kael

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Brooks not only isn't a director—he isn't really a writer, either. He's the cutup in the audience whose manic laughter and unrestrained comments stop the show. Essentially, he is the audience; he's the most cynical and the most appreciative of audiences—nobody laughs harder, nobody gets more derisive. He was perfectly cast in the short "The Critic." His humor is a show-business comment on show business. Mel Brooks is in a special position: his criticism has become a branch of show business—he's a critic from the inside. He isn't expected to be orderly or disciplined; he's the irrepressible critic as clown. His comments aren't censored by the usual caution and sentimentality, but his crazy-man irrepressibility makes him lovable; he can be vicious and get away with it because he's Mel Brooks, who isn't expected to be in control. His unique charm is the surreal freedom of his kibitzer's imagination.

The other side of the coin is that he isn't self-critical. And, as his new picture, "Blazing Saddles," once again demonstrates, he doesn't have the controlling vision that a director needs. It's easy to imagine him on the set, doubled up laughing at the performers and not paying any attention to what he's supposed to be there for. Mel Brooks doesn't think like a director; he's not a planner. He doesn't even do any formal, disciplined routines; he's a genius at spontaneous repartee—which the movies have never yet been able to handle, though television can, and that's where Brooks is peerless. Out of nowhere, he says things...

(The entire section is 638 words.)