Show Business: Mr. Ear-Laffs

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He was born, in any event, right into comedy. Brooks was one of the four sons of Harry Einstein, a radio dialect comedian who performed under the name Parkyakarkus. At 15, Albert had got up his own act (a short-lived double with Joey Bishop's son Larry). At about the same time, he landed a job at KMPC in Los Angeles as a sportswriter; he made up most of the baseball scores. After studying acting for two years at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Tech, he took the family name of Brooks and became a TV comedy writer on a show called Turn-On, which was canceled in 1968 after the first episode.

No Emotion. He took to performing shortly after this debacle. Even when he first started appearing on national TV he displayed startling self-confidence. He almost never auditioned any of his material before friends or tried it out, like most other comedians, in small clubs. "There wasn't time," he explains. "I'd get a TV shot and just go down and do the bit." Even today, Brooks seldom repeats a routine and does not keep a catalogue of any of his creations. Whatever has not been committed to vinyl or video tape remains unrecorded.

Brooks soberly maintains (you can hear him doing so, in fact, on A Star Is Bought) that "I don't experience basic human emotions. It's just not my thing." His personal life, which includes Rock Singer Linda Ronstadt, is not readily revealed, although friends testify that Brooks never entirely abandons comedy in private. Singer Harry Nilsson recalls sleeping off a drunk one night on the floor at Brooks' small house in the Hollywood hills. His host appeared before him dressed in a clown suit and whispered his name like a beckoning ghost. All in the Family's Rob Reiner remembers going for a drive with his boyhood pal and getting lost. Brooks went into a field and asked directions back to Los Angeles from a cow. "It ought to know," Brooks reasoned. "It lives around here."

Brooks' comic turns have recently found new outlets. He has started to shoot a series of short films to be aired this fall by NBC on a new late-night comedy program. Last month he completed a month's work acting in Taxi Driver, Director Martin Scorsese's upcoming feature starring Oscar Winner Robert DeNiro as a psychotic New York cabbie. Brooks portrays the campaign aide of a politician about whom DeNiro develops a homicidal fixation. Scorsese added three extra scenes to capitalize on Brooks' talents.

Brooks insists that he nurtures his ego and fends off depression with the aid of Ear-Laff, a tiny device resembling a hearing aid that he purchased from an outfit in the nether reaches of Los Angeles. Whenever he writes, works or performs, Brooks stashes the thing in his ear, where it plays the continual, comforting sound of laughter.

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