Mar 15, 2015

Freaking out the fourth wall

“I was worried about the farting,” he says now. “But John Calley, one of the executives at Warner Brothers, said to me, when I asked, ‘Can I punch the shit out of an old lady?’  He said a brilliant thing. He said, ‘If you're going to go up to the bell. Ring it.’” The peals can still be heard. Critics are fond of pointing out that Brooks films ushered in the modern gross-out comedy as we know it — a direct line can be traced from his films to the Naked Gun pictures, to the comedy of Jim Carrey, to the films the Farrelly Brothers and Judd Apatow — but less remarked upon is how irreducibly cinematic Brooks’ films are. The farting gag in Blazing Saddles is essentially a joke about the conventions of the Western, wherein men sit around campfire for hours ingesting beans with nary a parp. And while everyone objected to it individually; en masse, they howled. Brooks films are fourth-wall freak-outs, the butt of his jokes frequently film form itself — tracking shots that go crashing into windows; soundtracks that turn out to be played by the actual Count Basie band, marooned in the desert... his comedy is infantile in every sense of the word. His characters cry and storm and suck on their blankets, driven by their unappeasable bodies and insatiable appetites for money, love, succor, comfort. They claw for the teat.'

— from my interview with Mel Brooks for The Sunday Times  

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