Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks' humor springs from Jews' outsider status and history of persecution.

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In fact, as many interviews attest, Brooks filters most of his basic emotions through his Jewish sensibility, even his anger. For example, after "serious" critics panned The Producers [Brooks's 1968 film on which his critically lauded Broadway show is based], he exploded to Albert Goldman: "My comedy is based on rage. I'll show those cockamamie cahiers critics. I'll make a movie that'll bend their bagels.... We Jews have up­ward mobility, you know. We're short people but we know how to grow."

Such an outburst contains much to be an­alyzed, from Brooks's acknowledgement that rage fuels his com­edy, to his inclusion of Yiddishisms, to his notion of Jews triumph­ing over physical limitations, to his ethnocentric assumption that cahiers critics even have bagels that he can bend.

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David Desser is the director of cinema studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and former editor of Cinema Journal.