I love comedy. On a night in, I’d rather watch a slapstick movie or a stand-up special than anything else. I love it all, from the dumb (and dumber) to the clever and over the top. Every day, I need a healthy dose of laughter to make things run smoother.
That’s why I immediately jumped to my computer when I saw that comedy legend Mel Brooks had recorded a one-man-show/standup-special for HBO, “Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen.” Mel Brooks is the definition of classic comedy. His movies are legendary. With Mel Brooks, you know you’re going to get a good dose of dumb humor as well as some clever commentary and satire, and you know that it will push the boundaries just enough to make you think.
I grew up loving Mel Brooks. When I was a senior, “Young Frankenstein” was my school’s musical. I went to as many of the shows as I could and laughed just as hard with each of my classmates. Mel Brook’s humor can feel offensive yet charming, and because of that, I find myself watching all his movies again and again.
The special was everything I expected. The 86-year-old (at the time of taping) spent the better part of an hour reminiscing about his time in show business. He told stories of his childhood, his career and all the jokes and hijinks that happened along the way. It was like listening to your grandfather tell stories, except he didn’t fall asleep halfway through.
He highlighted points of his stories with musical numbers from his various movies, as well as one independent number that wasn’t assigned to a particular show. His singing voice sounded about as good as it ever was at 86, and the songs added a wonderful flair to an already entertaining special.
Mel Brooks’ special reminded me about what made me love comedy in the first place. His style of comedy inspires me to want to write jokes and make people laugh. Sometimes, with all the comedy available online and on outlets like Netflix, I find myself being snobbish and selective. I’m looking for comedy to be overly sophisticated. I want something innovative.
That’s when I need to remind myself that simple jokes are sometimes the funniest. The stories about childish pranks, those kinds of jokes make me laugh out loud and remember that at the heart of it, humor is dumb. It doesn’t need to be over-analyzed for its value. The laughs are comedy’s true value.
That’s not to say comedy can’t be clever. Bringing all these silly bits and ideas into something magical is a gift that not everyone has, but luckily Mel Brooks has been gracing us with that gift for decades. “Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen” was a trip down memory lane that was well worth watching. Although the routines felt familiar, the jokes were far from tiresome and the laughs are as potent as ever. This show is about a man who long ago reached the top, and recollection of all the details that brought him there. Mel Brooks represents everything I love about comedy. To me, Mel Brooks is comedy.