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Mel Brooks: Blazing Saddles would never be made today

By Rebecca Jones
Arts correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightYOUNG FRANKENSTEIN 2017
image captionMel Brooks was awarded the prestigious Bafta Fellowship in 2017

Mel Brooks, one of Hollywood's funniest film-makers, has told the BBC political correctness is "the death of comedy".

He said Blazing Saddles, his Western spoof about a black sheriff in a racist town, could never be made today.

"It's OK not to hurt the feelings of various tribes and groups," he said. "However, it's not good for comedy.

"Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. It's the lecherous little elf whispering in the king's ear, telling the truth about human behaviour."

image copyrightShutterstock
image captionBlazing Saddles was the highest-grossing Western of all time, until Dances With Wolves was released in 1990

Brooks made his name with a series of successful film comedies, including Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein.

Among the subjects he has satirised are racism, religion and feminism - and he describes himself as "the king of vulgarity".

But there is one subject he insists he would not parody.

Referring to World War Two, he said: "I personally would never touch gas chambers or the death of children or Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

"In no way is that at all useable or correct for comedy. It's just in truly bad taste."

However, he says that is the "only thing" he would avoid. "Everything else is OK."

Brooks is a fan of British performers including David Walliams - "a very funny guy" - Stephen Fry and Simon Pegg.

"You've got very good comic talent in Britain," he says. "I don't want to mention too many, because I'm fighting for my own place here."

image copyrightYOUNG FRANKENSTEIN 2017
image captionYoung Frankenstein opened in Newcastle with its London previews starting on 28 September

He is currently preparing for the opening in London's West End of a musical version of his film Young Frankenstein.

It is a spoof of 1930s Frankenstein films, which Mel Brooks remembers seeing as a child.

"I was scared out of my pants, stunned for the rest of my life."

Although his days as a film director are in the past, at the age of 91, he insists he has no plans to retire.

"If there was anything else to do I would do it," he says. "But I like songs, I like singing and musical theatre is a great emotional outlet for me."

And after Young Frankenstein, he already wants to turn Blazing Saddles into a stage musical.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBlazing Saddles was released in 1974

"It's practically a musical anyway," he says. "It has so many numbers in it."

He jokes we might even see it "by Thursday, I'm very fast".

When asked how he would like to be remembered, the diminutive comedian is in no doubt.

"Taller, if possible. I don't want to be remembered as me, because I'm too short.

"I would like to be remembered as six foot two."

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Related Topics

  • Film
  • Mel Brooks
  • Comedy

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