What Makes Mel Brooks Laugh?

With a new PBS documentary tracing his career, the legendary comic breaks down what’s funny now

mel brooks AFI life achievement hollywood
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Mel Brooks is honored with AFI's 41st Annual Life Achievement Award in Hollywood.
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"Jesus Christ, I'm not an American Master," says Mel Brooks. "I'm not even a Dutch Master!" The 86-year-old comedy icon is explaining his reluctance to participate in the career retrospective for PBS' American Masters series titled "Mel Brooks: Make a Noise," premiering May 20th. Brooks likes to keep current, so we asked him what he's enjoying right now.

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Stand-Up Hero
"I love Louis C.K. – whatever he does is, to me, thoroughly, bitterly honest. Stupidly honest, sometimes. And really uniquely funny. He's a human observer. He observes our foibles and what we're made of. And he's very good at just laying it out."

TV's Best Hour
"Personally, I stay away from political humor, but I try never to miss Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. They're brave and funny. I don't know how Colbert does it, playing this right-wing wacko and still making significant points about humanity."

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Funny Girl
"Wreck-It Ralph – it's a little cartoon I watched with my grandson. Sarah Silverman plays this character, Vanellope, in Wreck-It Ralph, and she's absolutely sensational. She's so bright and funny. She should've gotten a medal for that."

The Entertainer
"Quentin Tarantino's a brave guy. He doesn't care about the historical truth – he's liable to do a story about Abraham Lincoln and run him over with a Buick! If I were him, I would say, 'My first obligation is to entertain,' and I'd say to him, 'Bravo, you're right.'"

This story is from the May 23rd, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 1183: May 23, 2013