The comedic genius of Mel Brooks still provides some of us with a healthy departure.
If you need a break from the acute spike in political correctness that now permeates popular American media, politics and culture, then I highly recommend the comedic works of Mel Brooks.
Many have probably seen his best-known and highest ranked film, “Blazing Saddles,” but fewer know that he co-created and wrote many episodes of the popular 1960s TV series “Get Smart,” a tongue-and-cheek satire of the secret agent genre. Brooks once said in an interview, “It’s an insane combination of James Bond and Mel Brooks comedy,” with the lead character Maxwell Smart (played by the brilliant Don Adams) reminiscent of another comedic genre of its own, the blundering Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame.
The setup is this: when you get absolutely fed up with all that petty bickering and posturing and you’re convinced that just about everyone has lost sight of what it means to be free, pop in one of those Get Smart DVDs and kick back. Though I watched quite a few of these in rerun when I was a kid growing up in the 70s, I don’t notice it in reruns anymore. I also wasn’t old enough to recognize the sheer brilliance of Brooks, co-creator Buck Henry, and the many script writers so inspired: Get Smart is essentially Rocky and Bullwinkle, another favorite but of the cartoon genre. Agent 99 with her high-pitched, wide-eyed innocent-but-headstrong Rocky lines, and Agent 86 with his inflated-but-endearing smart aleck Bullwinkle wisecracks. “Missed it by that much,” “Would you believe…,” “That’s the second biggest…,” “Sorry about the crack about…,” “…and loving it” never get old.
Max is continually thwarted by the likes of Kaos agent Conrad Siegfried, a redolent Boris Badenov. Batman scoring music with Star Trek choreography brings more smiles.
Brooks and Henry had trouble getting the show accepted by network television executives, looking for another also-ran in television sit-com. But Brooks persevered, with his gutsy conviction “I was sick of looking at all those nice sensible situation comedies. They were such distortions of life.”
“Blazing Saddles” (c. 1974) is perhaps a required tonic for those too-many too-serious politicians running roughshod over all good people out there these days. Looking to change the country and the world all in one day? Sit down and watch “Blazing Saddles” and give it a rest. Satire never had it so good, and Mr. Brooks leaves all those self-righteous/lefteous “community service” folks in the dust with his witty message. Warner Brothers reportedly screened the film and made Brooks take out all the politically incorrect elements, but Brooks defiantly put them back in the final cut. All of us want to ride off into the sunset with Bart, who had that Western can-do sensibility, and that optimism of a free spirit.