It makes me laugh quite a lot that modern Hollywood are planning to spoof “Star Wars” when Mel Brooks pretty much supplied the definitive “Star Wars” spoof thirty years ago. You can argue maybe there’s more to offer, but no, Mel Brooks did it first and best. He mocked the characters, he mocked the plot holes, and he even mocked the rampant consumerism that George Lucas partook in when “Star Wars” became a cash cow. “Spaceballs” involves the evil President Skroob kidnaps Vespa during an arranged marriage, in an effort to steal planet Druidia’s fresh air. The evil Lord Dark Helmet is assigned to complete the task of sucking Druidia’s air, and hires Lonestarr and his pal “Barft” (The mog, a half man and half dog) to find Princess Vespa when she escapes the arranged marriage.
Part of the “American Masters” documentary series, “Norman Lear” is a very bittersweet look in to a man who changed culture and television as we know it. Before Norman Lear, not many television shows and mainstream television networks were willing to step forward and address issues that confronted social and economic problems. Norman Lear is a man who grew up in a troubled family and spent a lot of his life remolding television in to a medium that could change how we think and ask us to reflect on our lives. Mr. Lear used a lot of his own experiences to help create some of the most important television series of all time. From “All in the Family” which brought important issues to our homes through comedy, “The Jeffersons” about changing the racial dynamic in a higher class setting. There was “Maude” which explored a very strong sitcom heroine of the feminist ilk, and “Good Times” which explored the life of a family in poverty.
It’s tough to imagine a better horror comedy for fans of golden age horror. Director Mel Brooks concocts a formula that’s almost impossible to duplicate, playing brilliant comedy with deadpan dramatic sincerity, and implements a wide cast of amazing comedy actors to perform what is a demented twist on “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.” One of my favorite memories about “Young Frankenstein” was when I was a kid and my mom brought home the VHS to watch for the night. For all intents and purposes, the movie looked like a horror film, and I went in to it convinced of the idea. Mid-way I was laughing so hard, it was impossible to hear the dialogue.
You have to give credit to Mel Brooks for being so ballsy. In today’s day and age, a movie like “Blazing Saddles” would never get off the ground and become a mainstream comedy. Even with its material, Brooks runs the risk of becoming low brow, but thankfully manages to create the best comedy of all time. It’s my favorite from Brooks, edging out “Young Frankenstein” if only for the lead performance by Cleavon Little. “Blazing Saddles” satirizes the Western sub-genre, while also mocking its inherent racism, setting it in the middle of the slave era. Though the film is biting in its social commentary, it still manages to be incredibly funny, sidestepping the mockery of the slavery, and instead poking fun at the Caucasian characters.
Mel Brooks’ horror comedy classic completely and utterly challenged any and all norms and perceptions of formula comedy that I had when I was a kid. It was a black and white movie that was a comedy and though the film bordered on absolutely insane in the comedy meter, the cast in the film played everything with a straight face. Particularly Gene Wilder whose entire performance is deadpan and dramatic in spite of the fact he’s probably the funniest character in the film.
Many people insist that Mel Brooks pretty much lost it once the nineties introduced itself. His comedy was somewhat outdated and he’d run out of material. I say thee nay! Sure, Mr. Brooks didn’t deliver any films in the level of “Blazing Saddles” in the nineties, but damn it I think his later efforts were entertaining in their own right. I think “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” is wacky fun, and you know what? I happen to find “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” to be hilarious on more than one occasion.
I don’t have a lot of experience with the series “F Troop” except knowing that it’s a classic, and I recall catching it a few times when I was a kid. This was before cable, when network television kept classic shows in syndication, and not recent ones. They were better times.
“F Troop” is very much in the vein of Mel Brooks, and if you’re a fan of the man, this series may be right up your alley. “F Troop,” for the uninitiated, sets down on a Civil War camp out in the woods of Fort Courage, and a group of hapless soldiers who get into wacky misadventures with visitors, and assorted guest stars.
Along the way, they also run into the Hekawi’s, a band of equally zany Native Americans, who hide out in the woods, and secretly team with a few of the soldiers in the camp.
Much like “Hogan’s Heroes,” the group manage to get away with a lot of gags under their superior’s noses, and use the Hekawi’s as instruments in their plans. In the first episode, much of the soldiers are being relocated, and in an attempt to thwart the plans, enlist the Hekawi’s to threaten war on them if the soldiers go, with hilarious results.
There’s also the appearances of Paul Lynde as a singing mounty who keeps the camp under tight watch for a French fur trader, who is being hidden by the Hekawi’s, and Harvey Korman who plays a domineering German balloonist who interrupts the affairs in the fort.
“F Troop” has a lively energy, and some truly sharp one-liners that will keep you in hysterics for most of the time. The origin of the Hekawi’s, and their name, is especially funny, but “F Troop” season two marks the debut of the color format for the series, which sadly only ran two seasons, and experienced new life in syndication, much like “Star Trek” and “The Honeymooners.”
All the episodes are present, politically incorrect Native American gags and all, and it’s a quality release that’s sadly very slim on extras. There’s only a brief retrospective on the entire series. But beyond that, fans of the genuine Mel Brooks comedies would be well advised to seek this out at their nearest convenience. It’s a treat.
10. Animal House
This is the man’s comedy film. Every man I’ve ever come across do not not like this film. Landis is at it yet again this time with a timeless comedy film about campus frolics that inspired rip-off after rip-off, after constant rip-off and it was a twisted legacy of films that could never top the original article. This is a timeless film despite it’s time period, and I could care less what anyone says, this film is timeless. John Belushi steals the movie as Hoover, the slob but popular frat boy, and there are people like Tim Matheson and Kevin Bacon who make the film. This is basically filled with some of the best gags that will make you roll in your seat. There’s just so much for any respectable comedy fan to eat up here that it became an instant favorite of mine.
9. Duck Soup
I had to choose, good and hard, about which Marx brothers film I wanted on this spot, Animal Crackers or Duck Soup? I think I made the right choice. While Animal Crackers is pure genius, Duck Soup has the slight razor’s edge over it. In this Groucho Marx plays Capt. Spaulding and is hired to run Freedonia, a small nation, but with him running it, and Harpo and Chico attempting to assassinate him, only bad can happen. This has some of the best work from the Marx brothers from Chico and Harpo driving the juice vendor out of his mind, to Spaulding holding a meeting of the council. There’s just too much to mention. When it comes to comedy, there’s no one better than the Marx Brothers, that’s all there is to it.
8. Horse Feathers
If it were up to me, I’d have put all four Marx Brothers films on the top ten countdown, but alas, Mel Brooks and the Brothers had to be on here somewhere as well as the others. With comedy it’s tough to find your favorite, so I put my two favorite and maybe somewhere down the line the other two will pop up. Regardless, this is the first Marx Brothers film I ever saw, so this is definitely on the list because it was a grand introduction to these geniuses. Groucho takes over a college as a professor while a big football game is on the way and they’re attempting to win without the interference of the mob who want to rig it. This is one of the funniest of their films with great musical numbers, hilarious gags, and features a supporting performance from the gorgeous Thelma Todd who holds her own against Groucho. This is guaranteed filled with laughs.
7. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Again, this is my introduction in to the brilliant comedy team known as Monty Python, which is why it’s one of my favorites. Not following the conventions of usual comedies, this off the wall and incredibly weird comedy ranks as one of their masterpieces and a truly beloved comedy by fans alike. From the knights who say Ni, to the questioning of the validity of the crusades and witch hunts, to the bridge keeper, this is just one of the funniest films ever made, and a true masterpiece. I happened upon this by recommendation by my uncle who’s a fan and I never looked back. If you’re a fan of Python, comedy, and just originality, check this out, it will be a guiltless ride of comedy and mayhem.
6. A Shot in the Dark
If I was to make a list, I couldn’t live with myself knowing I’d excluded a film by the great Peter Sellers, a film that has yet to be topped, even with the crappy remake on its way. Sellers made Inspector Clouseau, the bumbling detective who took it upon himself to solve these cases in his own bumbling way. Sellers is priceless in a film that makes me laugh so hard I start crying, and for a film to do that, it must be good. Sellers plays Clouseau with much acclaim, this time solving (I use the term loosely) a murder of the Gambrelli Family and romances the beautiful daughter while trying to investigate. Whether it be Clouseau’s constant tussles with his man servant Kato, Clouseau’s failed attempts at going undercover, and trying to keep up with his sidekick, Sellers is at the top of his game here and will leave anyone with a sense of humor in stitches. This is pure comedy.
5. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Yet another childhood favorite. “Abbot and Costello” is a mixture of horror and comedy, two of my favorite things, along with some of the funniest performances I’ve ever seen. The real treat here is that, the monsters never do comedy, yet they leave it all up to Abbot and Costello, or Chick and Wilbur. Chick and Wilbur are unionized dock workers who have to deliver artifacts from famous monsters, little do they know Dracula is planning to re-awaken the monster. We get the primo big guns come back for the film from Lon Chaney jr., Bela Lugosi, and Glenn Strange, the gang’s all here and they make for some of the funniest on-screen antics I’ve seen. What’s not to like here? Wilbur masquerading as Dracula to draw off Frankenstein, Wilbur reading a paper about Dracula as his coffin begins opening, there’s just too much funny gags that will leave you bawling. It’s their best. For a similar experience, watch “Hold That Ghost”.
4. Young Frankenstein
This was surely a very very strong contender for number one out of many others. When I was a child, I first saw this thinking it was a horror film despite my mom explaining that this was indeed a comedy, and I’m sitting there for two hours furrowing my brows thinking “This is not horror! This is funny!” Later on I learned to appreciate it more and it’s one of my favorites, and arguably Mel Brooks’ best. It’s one of my childhood favorites. What makes this comedy a comedy is because it’s played entirely straight, aside from Marty Feldman who is goofy, but the entire film from Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, and Gene Wilder, the film plays like old Frankenstein, but man, it’s in the deadpan that make it funny. From Abby Normal, to Wilder’s dead on reactions to the lunacy, changing his name to distance himself from his great grandfather, to the inevitable show tune performance that is so funny you’ll cry. This is classic, no doubt about it.
3. Kentucky Fried Movie
From John Landis comes the funniest sickest skit comedy film you’ll ever see. Raunchy, offensive, edgy, and extremely sexually explicit, there’s no other like the “Kentucky Fried Movie”, a film ripped off rather horribly in the later “Amazon Women on the Moon”, but there is only one and this is it. The director takes control and you just sit back and watch while we drift from channel to channel watching sick commercials for hilarious and fake products, dysfunctional talk shows, and, my favorite, when a man goes to the movies to experience “Feel-O-Vision”! The film then constantly drifts back and forth with skits and fake shows, and then finally settles on a spoof of Bruce Lee called “Fist Full of Yen”. I can’t say anymore, just watch it for yourself. If you love dirty dirty humor that’s so wrong, but so funny. Watch this. Please. I beg you.
I sat, in front of my computer, for twenty minutes deciding on whether this or Blazing Saddles should be number one, and “Airplane!” is not exactly number two, think of it as 1.5. This is quite possibly one of the funniest films of all time. A spoof of the disaster genre of the seventies, it features a cast of immensely talented character actors, including Leslie Nielsen who is killer. Plus we get to see people whom we never thought would do comedy, do comedy, and do it great. From Peter Graves, and Kareem Abdul Jabar, to Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges, this is a veritable mixed bag of comedy. The film has non-stop gags that are so rapid fire, you don’t dare to laugh, or else you may miss something. From the jive talking old woman, to the established couple whom are children, to Kareem Abdul Jabar being hounded by Joey for being a crappy player, right down to Peter Graves asking Joey the most random and inappropriate questions to begin a conversation. I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. Find out for yourself.
1. Blazing Saddles
It’s no surprise to any self-respecting fan of comedy that a Mel Brooks film would be on my top ten comedies of all time, and holding tightly at number one, and it’s no surprise to me it’s “Blazing Saddles” the rare comedy western that tops ’em all in my book. With my top five, it was possibly the hardest of decisions I’ve had to make in a while, especially considering the fact that choosing my favorite comedy is like choosing between my children. Essentially, I found my favorite child ended up being “Blazing Saddles”, one of Mel Brooks’ best. It’s hard to decide on why I love this film considering there are so many hilarious moments here, and a lot of extremely edgy moments that border on offensive. Whether it’s the slavery jokes, Madeline Khan, and the fact that they purposely hire a black man to get killed as sheriff in a town run by corrupt politicians, but this is the funniest film I’ve ever seen. Without a doubt. If only I owned the DVD.