Mel Brooks on Get Smart, Donald Trump, and what's next
Comedian, actor, writer and producer Mel Brooks has been having a quite a year.
In September, Brooks, 89, celebrated the 50th anniversary of Get Smart, the sitcom he created and produced between 1965–1970 that starred Don Adams as a bumbling secret agent. (HBO also announced the entire series would be available for digital download for the first time ever.) Later in the month the EGOT winner took the stage at the 67th Emmy Awards in September to present the award for Outstanding Comedy Series, where he got a standing ovation (and took an onstage selfie with Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
EW talked to the Hollywood comedy legend about what it was like working on a popular sitcom in the ’60s, what he’s working on these days (Space Balls 2?!), and why he hopes Donald Trump never drops out of the race.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you believe it’s been 50 years since Get Smart first aired?
MEL BROOKS: Has it been 50 years? I don’t know, I took a nap. No, it literally is amazing. And now you can digitally download it. It is fabulous.
How are things different working in television these days compared to back then?
Besides everyone being dead? Actually Buck Henry and I still have lunch and reminisce. And Carl Reiner is still around. We get together.
Tell us about creating such a popular sitcom in the ’60s.
We loved it. It was fun. We had no idea we even wrote it, we just said, “What if he does this, what if he does that.” I remember once shouting out, “I’ve got it! Rubber garbage!” and they said, “What the hell is that?’ I said, ‘All I’ve got is a punchline, we’ve got to work back to make sense of it!”
What were the networks like at the time?
The money didn’t have much to say then. You had guys that were really powerful, but they still had the brains of a bean counter. They’re accountants! So they’d say, “I don’t like that ending,” and it’s not coming from a comedy writer but from an accountant. They’d dilute and water down everything, always afraid of it getting a little too intense. I kept screaming, “That’s my job! To offend! To point out all the things that are wrong with society!” We have to offend.
What do you think about the comedy landscape these days?
The most interesting thing happening was Fox News turning on Trump. That’s hysterical. It’s like Bavaria fighting with Austria — they’re both Germans! I like Trump. Thank God for Trump. He’s grist for the comic mill and we need it, God bless him. I hope he never drops out of the race. If I were doing a sitcom I’d do it about a powerful idiot like this guy, who’s running a big corporation or a big network and we’d get to see behind the scenes what an idiot he is.
What are you working on these days?
I’m going to London a year from now — there should be a version of the Young Frankenstein musical, so I’m working on that. I’m working on maybe bringing back Spaceballs. But it’s got to have a great title. At the end of Spaceballs, Lone Star said to my character, “Yogurt, will we ever see you again?” and I said, “Who knows Lone Star, maybe in Space Balls 2: The Search for More Money.” So there’s a title.
What sort of things would happen in Space Balls 2?
There’ s a lot of stuff happening in the world that Spaceballs could attend to, like fracking the universe. Just stick big straws into every planet they get near. Maybe Rick Moranis would come out of retirement for it. But I’m letting you in on some hopes and dreams and plans. I’ve also written one or two songs for a Blazing Saddles musical.
Where did you get your incredible sense of humor from? Were you funny as a kid?
I was funny, but I was a troublemaker. I guess that lead to not being afraid to perform. I was the baby of four boys, so I wanted as much attention as I could get.
What do you like to watch on TV these days?
I like The Good Wife, but I love an old movie. If I see something in black and white, we stop and watch it. Let me recommend a movie you’ve never seen — you’ll cry your eyes out. It’s called Random Harvest. Rent it, watch it, then call me. It’s one of of my favorites.
What about if you’re watching TV and one of your old movies comes on?
Yeah, if I watch five minutes I’m stuck with the rest of it. Whatever it is, whether it’s High Anxiety or even Life Stinks. That’s one of my favorite movies that I did. That no one ever sees!