"I cut my finger. That's tragedy. A man walks into an open sewer and dies. That's comedy."
Such is the philosophy of comedy icon Mel Brooks, who made a career out of making light of the heaviest of subject matter, including racism, the Spanish Inquisition and, perhaps most famously, Hitler (twice, in The Producers and To Be Or Not To Be). It's the kind of stuff that still coaxes uncomfortable laughter from an audience, but Brooks, who turns 85 today, wasn't making light for the sake of making light. Comedy, the Jewish Brooks told the German Spiegel magazine in 2006, was a way of exacting revenge on Hitler.
"Of course it is impossible to take revenge for 6 million murdered Jews," Brooks said in the interview. "But by using the medium of comedy, we can try to rob Hitler of his posthumous power and myths."
Pretty heavy stuff for the man who is also responsible for absurd romps such as Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
One of Brooks' trademarks is a Broadway-style musical number, a shout-out to the musicals he grew up watching as a kid growing up in Brooklyn. In honor of his birthday, we've put together some of our favorite Mel Brooks ditties.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
History of the World, Part I:
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Look out, sin.
The Producers (1968)
Don't be stupid, be a smarty.