Mel Brooks: Political Correctness Killing Comedy

Actor Mel Brooks speaks onstage at the 36th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards at the InterContinental Hotel on January 15, 2011 in Century City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Legendary Hollywood comedy director-actor Mel Brooks, in a wide-ranging interview, laments how he thinks political correctness is toxic to comedy.

“I’ve never been a fan of political correctness. I’ve been a fan of decent behavior, which is different from political correctness,” Brooks said. “Because political correctness demands too much respect for being good. And comics are not good. We are bad. We whisper into the king’s ear. We tell him the truth. And that’s our job. It’s our job to say it like it is. And sometimes use the words that we use in the street. You can’t always play ball with the system, you have to strike out and tell the truth.”

Brooks — perhaps best known for his politically incorrect comedy classics, The Producers (1967) and Blazing Saddles (1974) — also addressed whether people today are too concerned with feelings to tell the truth.

“I think that people enjoy — that people love the comics that break the rules, that’s what I think. I think it’s only a sliver that really love political correctness,” he said. “Everybody else likes the truth, which is different.”

Of course, this is not the first time Brooks has sounded the alarm on the threat political correctness poses to comedy. In a BBC interview last September, he warned that PC culture would be the “death of comedy.”

“We have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy. It’s not good for comedy,” the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay-winner said.

“Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks,” Brooks said. “Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering in the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”

The veteran director said the irreverent comedy classic couldn’t be made in Hollywood today. The film used the n-word, liberally, while telling the tale of a black sheriff trying to keep the peace in a racist Western town. Brooks emphasized that satirizing racial prejudice was integral to the film’s comedic and cultural impact.

“Without that the movie would not have had nearly the significance, the force, the dynamism and the stakes that were contained in it,” he said.

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