Next Saturday, AFI is awarding Mel Brooks its Lifetime Achievement Award for bringing joy and laughter to millions and changing American comedy as we know it. I figured we can start the celebration a little early, so here are 5 fantastic musical numbers from 5 equally fantastic Mel Brooks movies.
5.) “Sweet Georgia Brown” from To Be Or Not To Be – This remake of a Jack Benny movie is the only comedy Brooks and his wife Anne Bancroft made together. It has its high and low points, but the best joke is the opening number, “Sweet Georgia Brown” in Polish. Who knew Polish was such a funny-sounding language?
4.) “Men In Tights” from Robin Hood: Men In Tights – Hands down, this is the best part of the movie. I, as well as pretty much every twenty-something I know, can sing the song in its entirety. There’s no reason to stop for a musical number here, but part of what makes Brooks so good is his complete disregard for reason.
3.) “The Inquisition” from History Of The World, Part One – Side story: a few years ago, I stage managed a production of GB Shaw’s Saint Joan. It is a very serious play. It is a very long play. Joan’s trial alone runs about 45 minutes. For comedy relief during rehearsals the Head Inquisitor, a few monks, and Joan liked to dance in during breaks and sing this song. It’s certainly something to see Joan of Arc, a bishop, a monk, and an executioner form a kick line.
2.) “Puttin’ On The Ritz” from Young Frankenstein – Brooks freely admits that he didn’t initially want this number in the movie, but Gene Wilder insisted. As Brooks tells it, he got the rough cut together, watched the scene, and thought, “Crap, this is the best part of the movie.” He’s not wrong.
1.) “I’m Tired” from Blazing Saddles – Madeline Kahn is flawless. No more need be said.
Bonus: “Springtime For Hitler” from The Producers – You didn’t honestly think I was going to go through an entire Mel Brooks countdown without including this, did you?
For more Brooks hilarity, you can find every 2,000 Year Old Man album on Spotify. I also highly, highly suggest checking out My Favorite Year, a movie Brooks produced based on his experience wrangling a drunk Errol Flynn for “Your Show Of Shows.” It is my second-favorite Peter O’Toole performance, and the only reason it’s not on this list is because I couldn’t find the YouTube clip I was looking for. And be sure to tune in Saturday, June 15th for AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Celebration of Mel Brooks!