Cinema: The Producers

"A comedian," Fred Allen said, "is a man on the treadmill to oblivion." But it is the gag writer who makes him go, and in the specialized craft of making funny men seem funny, few people have larger reputations than Mel Brooks.

Slightly taller than a shotgun and blessed with an acidulous nonstop wit, Brooks, 41, was one of the most inventive writers on Sid Caesar's old Show of Shows. Brooks turned performer himself in 1960, when he and Carl Reiner created a free-form vaude ville routine about the 2,000-Year-Old Man. This character was a geriatric loser with a Yiddish accent who...

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