Reviews for All About Me!

by Mel Brooks

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The madcap director, actor, and comedian adds another arrow to his quiver with this spry memoir. Brooks (b. 1926) has been dining out on the anecdotes in this book for decades. One, which Johnny Carson devotees may recall, is when Sid Caesar, for whom Brooks wrote in the 1950s, held him outside a high-rise hotel window until Brooks stopped complaining about the smoke in the room. “Sid said, ‘Got enough air?’ ” Brooks recounts. “In a very calm voice I said, ‘Oh yes. Plenty! I’ve had enough.’ ” Another is the author’s affectionate ribbing of his late wife, Anne Bancroft: “I think one of the reasons I married Anne Bancroft was the fact that her real name was Anne Italiano and, boy, could she make spaghetti.” There’s lots of delightful material, even if it’s well rehearsed. For example, Brooks recalls how he changed his name from Melvin Kaminsky—“which would be a good name for a professor of Russian literature”—by painting his mother’s maiden name, Brookman, on the drums he played as a teenager and running out of room at “Brook,” with just enough space for the final letter. The author’s anecdotes about early life in Depression-era Brooklyn are charming, as are his notes on the dawn of TV. He also dishes nice dirt on the making of his films, some of which seemed to proceed by accident: Dustin Hoffman was to have starred in the original version of The Producers but instead won the lead in The Graduate. Enter Gene Wilder. Richard Pryor didn’t show for History of the World, so enter Gregory Hines, with whom star Madeline Kahn had worked. Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman (“he more or less sees out the sides of his face like a horse”) earned roles in Young Frankenstein via a right-place, right-time agent. And so on. Though the book is sometimes labored, if you want to know about the making of “the greatest farting scene in cinematic history,” here’s your source. Fans of Borscht Belt shtick and classic comedies will enjoy Brooks’ stroll into the past. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Brooks is truly a legend of American comedy, and though it has taken him 95 years to write his memoir, it was certainly worth the wait. In a narrative filled with hilarious digressions, he discusses growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; serving in World War II; working as a writer on Your Show of Shows; meeting collaborators Carl Reiner, Anne Bancroft (to whom Brooks was married until her death in 2005), and Gene Wilder; creating Get Smart; writing and directing iconic films like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein; and adapting his movie The Producers into a triumphant Broadway musical. Brooks has told many of these stories countless times over the years, but they remain as funny and endearing as ever, especially when presented in the full context of his life. It's a story told by an inveterate writer in a wonderfully conversational style, with a hint of childlike wonder at the things he's been able to experience and create, and a strong dose of humble bragging. But as Brooks himself would say, it's not bragging if it's the truth. VERDICT A must-read for fans of comedy, film, and theater.—Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

In this laugh-a-minute memoir, actor and producer Brooks (Young Frankenstein) looks back at his rise through Hollywood, gleefully doling out punch lines along the way. He begins with his childhood in Brooklyn, where he lived with his older brothers and mother (“my first comic foil, and enabler”) and at school slipped into comedy like a well-worn glove: “I ... allowed to hang around with the bigger kids because I made them laugh... you don’t hit the kid that makes you laugh.” Brooks recounts his early days as a writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows in the 1950s; appearing in 1962 on the very first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where he shared the stage with Groucho Marx, Joan Crawford, Rudy Vallee, and Tony Bennett; learning how to bend the truth, after he told producer Joe Levine that he cut a scene from the end of his Oscar-winning film The Producers (“On every movie... since then; I’ve often lied when the studio objected to something by saying, “It’s out!”); and taking a giant leap forward as a director by writing “the greatest farting scene in cinematic history,” in 1974’s Blazing Saddles. Studded with snickering asides and rapid-fire jokes, Brooks’s account of making it in show biz is just as sidesplitting as his movies. (Nov.)


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The subtitle for Brooks' rose-colored autobiography could have been It's a Wonderful Life. Even events that might have distressed others get a positive spin. Left fatherless at an early age? More attention from his mother and doting older brothers. A stint in the army in his late teens in the closing days of WWII? An opportunity to hone his comedic chops. Every movie Brooks ever made was a hit (or at least broke even), and every cast and crew he worked with was the best. And maybe it's all true, because the ebullient Brooks' default position seems to be happy. It helps that he focuses on his career, so although his wonderfully talented wife, Anne Bancroft, is certainly mentioned, her death gets just a few sentences. He goes into depth about his own films and shows, but it would have been nice to hear more about the excellent movies his production company made, including The Elephant Man and My Favorite Year. Brooks is a national treasure who's not shy to admit it, and his laugh-filled memories mix with an optimism that fans will find almost contagious.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Brooks is legendary in comedy, TV, and film, and his upbeat memoir is just the sort of fun book many readers are seeking.

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