Mel Brooks And Carl Reiner Had A Special Friendship That Didn’t Need To Extend To Movies

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For four seasons between 1950 and 1954, a collection of trailblazing performers and writers shaped the future of television comedy on NBC’s 90-minute variety series “Your Show of Shows.” The wildly versatile trio of Sid Caesar, Imogen Coco, and Howard Morris, abetted by straight-man supreme Carl Reiner, had America’s living rooms roaring with laughter once a week, and they couldn’t have done it without the brilliant contributions of an all-time writers room that included Mel Tolkin, brothers Neil and Danny Simon, Selma Diamond, and Mel Brooks.

That last fella was 24 years old when he joined the staff and quickly struck up a dazzling creative rapport with the thirty-year-old Reiner. The two reteamed for “Caesar’s Hour” for a few years before hitting upon an improvisatory premise that would launch their careers into the comedic stratosphere. In “The 2,000-Year-Old Man,” Reiner deadpans as an interviewer asking after the exploits of a guy who was around for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and more. The bit was a smash hit on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Steve Allen Show,” leading to a series of popular comedy albums, but strangely, given their runaway success, never a movie.

In fact, despite their lifelong friendship, the duo never fully collaborated on a motion picture. What gives?

A Partnership Made For Television And The Stage, But Not Film

Both men began their directorial careers at roughly the same time: Reiner helmed a big-screen adaptation of his autobiographical play “Enter Laughing” in 1966, while Brooks made an Academy Award-winning splash with 1967’s “The Producers.” While the latter rattled off a series of hit comedies in “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “Silent Movie,” Reiner paused his filmmaking career after the box office disappointment of “Where’s Poppa?” His filmmaking fortunes changed dramatically when he teamed up with George Burns for 1977’s “Oh, God!” Reiner followed that up with Steve Martin as “The Jerk,” at which point the two pals found themselves at or near the forefront of comedy cinema.

If you’re wondering why they never joined forces on a film, Brooks offered a fascinating explanation in his 2021 interview with The New Yorker‘s Michael Schulman. Though they provided editorial notes on each other’s pictures, Brooks revealed they “didn’t work in movies well together.” He said they were “stage people,” and explained their collaboration via this poignant anecdote:

“[Reiner] said, ‘We don’t need an audience. Let’s just do an act for ourselves.’ So he took out a Cuban cigar — nobody knows this except you, Michael — and he took off the cigar band and said, ‘What do you think of that?’ and put it on his finger. I said, ‘That’s a beautiful ring.’ He said, ‘It’s not really a ring. It’s a cigar band. You try it.’ So I put it on my finger, and he said, ‘Ah, it is a ring!’ We did this just for each other, amusing each other for a half an hour, just Carl and myself. He was so different, so special. I miss him.”

Brooks Ain’t Finished Yet

Reiner left us in 2020, but the 96-year-old Brooks is still with us and, judging from a recent interview with The New York Times, he’s as agile-minded as ever. He’s also working up “History of the World, Part II,” the long-awaited sequel to his 1981 sketch comedy flick, which was reportedly shot over the summer of 2022 (co-written by Ike Barinholtz, Nick Kroll, and Wanda Sykes).

It’s a blessing to have Brooks not only with us but professionally active at an age when most people are into their first or second decade of decomposition. He is, it appears, the last person standing from that brilliant “Your Show of Shows” staff. That most of those folks lived into their eighties and nineties is a testament to the importance of having and maintaining a sense of humor. They were all geniuses, but no one made us laugh quite as hard, nor as long, as Reiner and Brooks.

Read this next: The 20 Most Influential Comedy Stars In Movie History

The post Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner Had a Special Friendship That Didn’t Need to Extend to Movies appeared first on /Film.

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