Mel Brooks - Career - The 2000 Year Old Man and Get Smart

The 2000 Year Old Man and Get Smart

Brooks and co-writer Reiner had become fast friends and began to casually improvise comedy routines when they weren't working. Reiner would play the straight man interviewer who would set Brooks up as anything from a Tibetan Monk to an astronaut. As Reiner explained, "In the evening we'd go to a party and I'd pick a character for him to play. I never told him what it was going to be. " On one of these occasions Reiner's suggestion was a 2000 Year Old Man who had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (who "came in the store but never bought anything"), had been married several hundred times and had "over forty-two thousand children, and not one comes to visit me." At first Brooks and Reiner would only perform the routine for friends but by the late 1950s had gained a cult status in New York City. Kenneth Tynan saw the comedy duo perform at a party in 1959 and wrote that Brooks "was the most original comic improvisor I had ever seen."

In 1960, Brooks moved from New York to Hollywood. He and Reiner began performing the 2000 Year Old Man act on The Steve Allen Show. Their performances led to the release of the comedy album 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks that sold over a million copies in 1961. They eventually expanded their routine with two more albums in 1961 and 1962, a revival in 1973, a 1975 animated TV special and a reunion album in 1998.

Brooks adapted the 2000 Year Old Man character to create the 2500 Year Old Brewmaster for Ballantine Beer in the 1960s. Interviewed by Dick Cavett in a series of ads, the Brewmaster (in a German accent, as opposed to the 2000 Year Old Man's Yiddish accent) said he was inside the original Trojan horse and "could've used a six-pack of fresh air. "

In 1962 Brooks wrote the Broadway musical All American. Brooks wrote the play with lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse. The show starred Ray Bolger as a southern science Professor at a large university who uses the principles of engineering on the college's football team and the team begins to win games. The show was directed by Joshua Logan, who script doctored the second act and added a gay subtext to the plot. The show ran for 80 performances and received two Tony Award nominations.

In 1963 Brooks was involved in the animated short film The Critic, a satire of arty, esoteric cinema, conceived by Brooks and directed by Ernest Pintoff. Brooks supplied running commentary as the baffled moviegoer trying to make sense of the obscure visuals. The short film won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

In 1965, Brooks teamed up with comedy writer Buck Henry to create a comedic TV show about a bumbling James Bond inspired spy. Brooks explains, "I was sick of looking at all those nice sensible situation comedies. They were such distortions of life...I wanted to do a crazy, unreal comic-strip kind of thing about something besides a family. No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I decided to be the first." The show that Brooks and Henry created was Get Smart, starring Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86. This series ran from 1965 until 1970, although Brooks was not involved with its production after the pilot episode. Get Smart was highly rated for most of its production and won seven Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969.

Brooks had married actress Anne Bancroft in 1964 and the two lived together in New York City.

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