There is one common factor behind the witticisms of Maxwell Smart’s many catchphrases on Get Smart, the laugh-out-loud crassness of Blazing Saddles‘ bean-fueled campfire scene, the manic intensity of Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and the brilliance of The Producers and its concept that, despite their best intentions, the musical about Hitler turns the title characters into mega-successes. That common factor would, of course, be writer/director Mel Brooks.

Born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, he’s provided generations of TV watchers and filmgoers with a special gift: laughter. Specializing in parodies, Mel has taken on everything from James Bond to Robin Hood, Westerns, the classic Universal horror films, silent movies, Alfred Hitchcock, Star Wars and the king of the vampires, Dracula. As he gets ready to turn 93, we’ve turned to Dale Sherman, author of The Mel Brooks FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Outrageous Genius of Comedy, to provide us with an overview of Mel’s TV and film career (with a little bit of Broadway thrown in for good measure).

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