Mel Brooks on Live Theater: “There are no falsehoods. What happens on that stage is what really happens”

For all of the humor he has brought over his decades in show business, 86 year-old Mel Brooks has achieved a number of awards for his work in film, television, comedy, and musical theater. 

One of his crowning achievements — the musical The Producers, which enjoyed a lucrative six-year run on Broadway and received a record 12 Tony Awards — will be retuning to the stage in a short run at the legendary Hollywood Bowl starring Richard Kind (who appeared in the Broadway production) and Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson.  In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Brooks spoke about his award-winning achievements and why his Tony Awards are the most cherished of his impressive resume.

Brooks is one of the few figures in the arts that has won the Grand Slam of entertainment awards — an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony (Brooks is one of only eleven who have done it all in competitive categories).  Of the many awards he’s been given — Brooks has also earned multiple Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards — he points to his lone Oscar (for the screenplay of the original The Producers) as one of the highlights of his collection, saying, “Well, the Oscar, my God, that is the biggest sheer thrill you could get, when you hear your name called.  But for a composer, a writer or a director — personally, I think it is the Tony.”  When asked why, he adds, “Because there are no falsehoods.  What happens on that stage is what really happens — people are sitting in the front row, and all the way back, and up to the balcony, and the words have to go or the song has to go or it doesn’t.”

Elaborating on that live theatrical experience, Brooks continues, “With a movie and television you can do technical magic after the fact, put in all sorts of cinematic design, cut stuff. You can also screen it 22 places and make fixes, hedge the bet.  But a show is, someone once wrote, so much real. The goose bumps are right there — the actors got ‘em, backstage has got ‘em and the audience has got ‘em.”

But Brooks is quick to point out that those goose bumps aren’t always the only reaction from the audience.  He says, “Of course, some of the time you hear them groan an ‘oooooh’ when you do a joke and it doesn’t go and you feel terrible.  But that’s an honest terrible.”

The Producers runs July 27-29 at the Hollywood Bowl

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