Mel Brooks is an American writer, director, composer, actor, and comedian who has found success in a variety of entertainment industries. Though he started as a writer, he made a name for himself in the fields of directing and composition as well, with the success of his high-grossing, award-winning films and Broadway musicals.
Born Melvin Kaminsky, Mel Brooks grew up in Brooklyn, New York; inspired by the musicals he saw on Broadway as a child, Brooks decided early to make a career in show business. After serving in WWII, he got his start working as a drummer, pianist, and later stand-up comedian in the Borscht Belt resort circle in the Catskill Mountains of New York. In 1949 when he began to tire of live performance, he made the move to television with a referral from a friend earning him a screenwriting job for NBC’s The Admiral Broadway Revue. He wrote for other comedic television shows, and collaborated with a colleague to create his own hit, Get Smart, which ran for five years. During this time, he also wrote the book for the first Broadway musical he was involved in, All American.
His career moved to film and direction after he penned the screenplay for his first movie, The Producers, which studios were almost unwilling to produce because of the brazen subject matter. When this film became a success, he began to pen and direct other successful comedies and parodies including Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles that have become cult classics, the latter being designated culturally significant by the Library of Congress.
He found success writing for Broadway, as well, adapting his comedies into musicals. When The Producers hit the stage in 2001, it was critically lauded and beat Hello Dolly’s record with 12 wins at the Tony’s. The stage production was so successful that it ran for 2500 performances and launched a remake of the film, preserving most of the Broadway cast with a few celebrity additions. Several years later, Brooks wrote the book and score for a musical adaptation of his film, Young Frankenstein, and joked that his next project would be a musical adaptation of Blazing Saddles.
Due to the wide variety of his work, Brooks has accumulated many awards including four Emmys, three Grammys, an Academy Award (an Oscar), and three Tony Awards, making him one of the select few in the arts industry to be considered an EGOT.
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