A NIGHT OF LAUGHS WITH A KING OF COMEDY
Mel Brooks opened his one-man show at Wynn Las Vegas on Saturday by facetiously thanking audience members who brought little kids, “which cuts out half my act.”
Then the comedy legend couldn’t resist addressing the elephant in the room.
“It’s a good show,” he said. “I wish Steve could get in.”
Waves of laughter rippled through the full house of 1,845 in the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas. Most knew Brooks was referencing to Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas gaming icon who’s reputation has been engulfed by alleged sexual misconduct.
Brooks’ one-liner came amid the latest reports that Wynn’s former company continues to cut all ties with the 76-year-old casino developer. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal he has vacated his 6,233-square foot villa at Wynn Las Vegas. He was given until June 1 to move out of his residency, when he paid $305,680 a year in rent.
Wynn, who often enjoyed introducing his headliners, had talked Brooks into his making his Las Vegas debut.
Brooks, who turns 92 in June, brought his A-game to his two-show engagement. He spent most of each night on the edge of the stage, sharing some of his favorite stories from a career that featured Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards.
He shared stories about Sid Caesar, who brought Brooks on board for “Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows.”
One day in New York City, Brooks and his fellow comedy writers Larry Gelbart of “M.A.S.H.” fame and Neil Simon, who went on to Broadway fame, got together.
“Gelbart and Simon were big friends of mine. They loved me and they used to follow me around because they knew I was crazy and funny and to see what adventure we’d get into.
“One day we’re walking down 57th Street and three nuns come toward us. Larry said, ‘No, Mel, don’t do this’ and Neil said, ‘Mel, no, let it go.’"
“But I couldn’t help myself,” said Brooks.
As the nuns passed, Brooks barked, “Get out of those costumes, the sketch is out.”
Brooks’ moderator, Kevin Salter, asked Brooks to go into details about his interest in having Dustin Hoffman in “The Producers,” which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Brooks said Hoffman was a neighbor and had seen him do some comedy sketches. He was new on the scene, but “he was great.”
So Brooks gave him the role of Franz Liebkind, the Nazi-lover who delivered such lines as “Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer.”
But days after giving Hoffman the role, Brooks was awakened by the sound of pebbles hitting his window. It was Hoffman, saying he had a crisis. He was invited to audition for “The Graduate” opposite Brooks’s wife, Anne Bancroft.
Brooks saw no harm in allowing him to audition. Brooks said he thought, “Take you? Ha,ha! Short, stumpy.” Two days later Hoffman got the role as Benjamin and went on to receive an Oscar nomination for best actor.
That wasn’t the only time Brooks missed out on an actor he wanted. He pursued John Wayne to play the Waco Kid in “Blazing Saddles.”
Wayne told him, “I’d love to read it.” The next day, Wayne called Brooks and said, “this is filthy, but I want to be the first one to see it.”
The role went to Gene Wilder, who went on to cinema stardom in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Young Frankenstein."