As most 30-somethings, I don’t remember a time in my life that didn’t include Mel Brooks. My movies were Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but because of my parents sense of humor, I also had an early education to Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. To say my comedy stylings were heavily influenced by Mr. Brooks would be an understatement. I was thrilled when I became aware of Mel Brooks FAQ, not only as a fan but as a filmmaker. Would I be able to learn from the master and incorporate these lessons to my own films?
While I enjoyed this book, it was not what I was expecting. The title threw me for a loop, as I was hoping for more of a director Q&A formatted book. It’s not that it wasn’t what I would hope it would be, inspiration was always the goal, but not in the way that I was looking forward to. It might be me, as I have my literal moments, but if you are expecting conversation from the mouth of the king, you might be a bit disappointed.
This book is full of wonderful quotes from Mr. Brooks throughout his entire career, but the book is formatted as more of a biography time line than specific questions. This format, however, causes some confusion at times, as the Mel Brooks FAQ is about the career of one of America’s comedy gold. Writer Dale Sherman, it seems, spends more time worried about the exact time an event occurred in Mr. Brooks life instead of the actual situation and the journey after.
I understand to a mega fan like Sherman these details are important, but the general public is not using this book as a reference material for an essay. I appreciated his attention to detail, but in the grand scheme of things a perfected timeline, and sometime visible annoyance that emits from the writing, is not what is most important in the Mel Brooks Experience.
In every book, there is an understanding that the tone and opinion of the writer will come through their words. It’s what is so brilliant about a variety of novels. The only time that gets troublesome is when the commentary on events becomes too opinion based. Along with some timeline critiques, there was at times an aggressive tone taken for certain choices made. This isn’t to say that these moments ruined the book, not at all, it just caused a little sidestep in the marathon ingestion of the information.
The fascinating time is the amount of information in this book. Sherman doesn’t spare the slightest informational period in Mr. Brooks’ life, and I couldn’t put it down. There was so much information that I didn’t realize, details that you knew but never fully dived into. For example, coming from a military background, I respected the fact that Mr. Brooks was one of the “celebrities” who fought in WW2, but to fully understand his involvement was compelling.
Along with personal journeys of a very talented man, you get to dive into each phase of his career with extraordinary detail. Quotes are seamlessly blended into the storyline, adding the touch of personalization that’s welcomed when it comes to biographies. Considering Mr. Brooks’ career spans decades, it’s refreshing having a reference material at our fingertips that ties it all together in a humorous bow.
Mel Brooks FAQ is a must-have for any film enthusiast. Not only do you know more about the man who has warmed our hearts with his comedy genius, but also a little more insight into the productions that mean so much to us and our lives. It’s an in-depth look at a life and career, one that exudes respect and allure to an incredible life.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Applause Books