10) Created Get Smart
Teaming up Mel Brooks with Buck Henry is like teaming chocolate with peanut butter in a delicious candybar that you get to watch Don Adams eat. The off-beat spy spoof ran for 138 episodes in the late '60s and spawned a film, a spin-off series, a spin-off from the film, and more zany catchphrases than you can shake a shoe phone at. It won seven Emmy awards and was nominated for a whopping 14 more. If he hadn't broken his streak by making The Producers in 1968, Brooks could have been simply known as one of the greatest TV comedy writers of all time.
9) Fathered Max Brooks
8) Conquered Broadway (Three Times)
While it seems like every new Broadway show going up is just a staged version of a movie, Mel Brooks set the tone with his 2001 blockbuster The Producers when he was a spry 75-year-old. The massive hit won 12 Tonys and was even made into a so-so movie with the Broadway stars. But that's not Mel's only stage claim to fame; his revue All-American, while technically considered a flop, garnered two Tony nominations in 1962, and his follow-up to The Producers, Young Frankenstein, got three. Plans for Blazing Saddles on Broadway are in the works, with 85-year old Brooks writing the book and music.
7) Formed the Justice League of Comedy Writers
6) Discovered Dave Chappelle
Comedian Dave Chappelle was only 20-years-old when Brooks chose him to star as Ahchoo in 1993's Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Just having graduated college and working as a comedian, this was Chappelle's big break -- his first film role. The exposure indicated he was someone to watch, leading to additional film roles and the legend that is Chappelle's Show. All because Brooks needed someone to play the Morgan Freeman role in a Robin Hood spoof.
5) Won the EGOT
4) Married Anne Bancroft
3) Produced David Lynch's The Elephant Man
The raucous side of Mel Brooks comes out in all of his films, which is why his serious side had to be hidden from the public. With 1980's The Elephant Man, the comic took a back seat to what Brooks called a story about the "classic wandering Jew." David Lynch, master of the bizarre and macabre, directed (off a script Brooks got from his children's babysitter), while Brooks was on set every day, supervising a tale of a deformed circus freak that starred Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, and Anne Bancroft (she didn't have to audition). The trademark goofiness was gone, replaced with a sedate reverence and respect for the work. His name wasn't linked to the movie, just in case people got the wrong idea (and why we felt justified including it in this list).
2) Served His Country
Singlehandedly won World War II! Okay, that not true, but lots of our boys in uniform might not have made it home without Brooks's help. At 17, young Melvin Kaminsky joined the Army Corps of Engineers and was assigned to the 1104th Engineer Combat Group -- just in time to be shipped over for the Battle of the Bulge. His unit fought through Europe, building bridges, destroying pillboxes, and occasionally fought as infantry. Brooks, née Kominsky, had the duty of defusing landmines in front of the advancing army. According to legend, after the Battle of the Bulge the Germans began blasting Axis propaganda through loudspeakers. Brooks supposedly set up his own speakers and blasted his impression of Al Jolson's "Toot Toot Tootsie."
1) Discovered Gene Wilder
Dave Chappelle is a comedy genius, but Gene Wilder is a national treasure. Wilder had done extensive stage work, studying with acting icon Lee Strasberg and rooming with improv guru Del Close, but he didn't make the leap to screen until the late '60s. While working with Anne Bancroft in a stage production, he was introduced to her husband, Mel Brooks. They hit it off and Brooks said that Wilder would be perfect for a lead role in what eventually became The Producers. In the three years in-between that conversation and the audition, Wilder took a small part in Bonnie and Clyde, but it was Brooks who saw that he could be a star. Willy Wonka, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and a series of films with Richard Pryor followed, cementing Gene Wilder's place in history. Thanks, Mel Brooks!