Mel Brooks: Make a Noise
TV Review by Kam Williams
PBS Biopic Chronicles Career of Legendary Comic Genius
Melvin James Kaminsky was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on June 28, 1926, but found fame under the stage name you know him by, Mel Brooks. He started out in showbiz as a jazz drummer while still in his early teens, but encountered more success on stage alone upon trying his hand at stand-up at the urging of the owner desperately in need of a fill-in comedian at a resort up in the Catskills.
After a stint serving the country in the army during World War II, he returned home and eventually found work as a writer for Sid Caesar’s TV series “Your Show of Shows” alongside such future greats as Carl Reiner, Woody Allen and Neil Simon. Mild-mannered Simon remembers how “He drove some of us crazy,” and even Mel confesses to having been “an arrogant, obnoxious, little [beep]-head who had patience for nothing but his own thoughts” back then.
So, it’s no surprise that after almost a decade in that capacity, he struck out on his own, thus launching a phenomenal career which would ultimately land him on the short list of the eleven entertainers (including Rita Moreno, Whoopi Goldberg, Sir John Gielgud and Audrey Hepburn) in history to win an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy. Mel Brooks: Make a Noise captures the 86 year-young genius in all his irrepressible glory as he reminisces about his many impressive accomplishments as a writer/director/actor/lyricist/composer/producer, ranging from Get Smart to The Producers to Blazing Saddles to Young Frankenstein to High Anxiety and beyond.
Besides the larger-than-life public persona, this engaging documentary devotes equal attention to intimate aspects of Mel’s private life, such as revelations like “I was never religious but always very Jewish.” He also talks about how he met his late wife, actress Anne Bancroft, and how they enlisted a black stranger, Samuel Boone, to be the best man at their City Hall wedding on August 5, 1964.
As for Mel’s more introspective side, he concedes that having his father die when he was still a toddler “was a brushstroke of depression that never left me.” And he shows a surprising vulnerability to criticism in admitting, “Every bad review is a like a knife plunging through your heart,” concluding “I don’t even know if I’m talented. I’m not sure.”
A poignant profile of a bona fide Renaissance Man’s six decades and counting on the cutting edge of show business.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated TV: G
Running time: 90 minutes
Mel Brooks: Make a Noise an American Masters profile is set to premiere nationwide on PBS on Monday, May 20, 2013 at 9 pm (ET/PT).
[Check local listings]
To see a trailer for Mel Brooks: Make a Noise, visit:
To order a copy of The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy on DVD, visit: