Mel Brooks is a true comedy icon. When we asked him our first question – which person or people would he most like to work with in the comedy world – he didn’t want to answer. As kind as he is, he didn’t want anyone to read it and feel slighted, like “Why didn’t he want to work with me?”
So, only because he’s the great Mel Brooks, we let him answer one question. We know you’ll like it.
What’s one of the most fun jobs you’ve ever done?
“I guess utility comic in the Butler Lodge in Hurleyville, New York. When I say ‘utility,’ that means if somebody was sick. I was a utility comedy actor in case somebody was sick.
“It was because I tended the rowboats, I was a busboy, I was an assistant waiter, and an assistant comic and actor.
“[I was] about 13-and-a-half, 14. Then somebody got sick and I did it. They were doing a play called ‘Uncle Harry.’ Harry killed his sister or somebody. Somebody playing the DA got sick. The DA is the biggest stretch, because the DA is like 75 years old and I’m 14, and there’s nobody else to cover it. They said, ‘What are we going to do?’ I was there and I said, ‘There, there, Harry. Sit down. Here, have a glass of water and tell me in your own words what exactly happened on Tuesday night the 15th.’ My God, he knows the lines. They said, ‘But he’s a kid. [The audience] can see he’s a little boy.’ They said, ‘We’ll make him up.’
“They had these big fights with the head of the acting department. They put a big beard on me; they put gray hair on me. They painted the lines in my face. I have to say, ‘There, there, Harry. Sit down. Have a glass of water and tell me in your own words.’ I know how to say it. Of course, I have a little stage fright. I’m 14.
“So, I get on the stage and Harry comes in. I say, ‘There, there, Harry. Sit down. Relax. Have a glass of water.’ I’m pouring the water, and I have the glass — it slips out of my hand, it crashes on my desk. It goes into a million pieces, there’s silence on stage, shocked silence everywhere. We don’t know what to do. I walk down to the [end of the stage]. I take off my wig and my beard, and I say, ‘I’m 14. I’ve never done this before.’
“I got the biggest laughs I ever got in my life. And also the threat of death from the director who chased me across the lawn with a knife.
“I knew I’d be a comic for the rest of my life.”