Mel Brooks’ Biggest Faux Pas

The comedy legend provides advice we suggest you never take.

Comedian and filmmaker Mel Brooks continues his conversation with Brendan and Rico by answering listeners’ etiquette questions… with exactly as much seriousness as you’d expect.


Rico Gagliano: Mel, we figure the guy who wrote the gaseous bean-eating scene in “Blazing Saddles” would be just the perfect person to adjudicate matters of etiquette.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Seems like a natural fit.

Rico Gagliano: Are you ready for these questions?

Mel Brooks: Ready for your submissions!

Blaming Brooklyn for Your Offenses

Brendan Francis Newnam: This first question comes from Sabba in Encino, California. Sabba writes: “If I make a joke that offends someone, what is the best way to go about apologizing without making it even more awkward?”

Mel Brooks: If you make a joke that offends someone, the best way to go about is to get into your little yellow Volkswagen, slam the door, and drive away. That’s the best thing.

No, if you make a joke that offends somebody, what I say is, “Please, forgive me. I, you know…” Sometimes I say, “I’m from Brooklyn. I don’t know…”

Rico Gagliano: “…What can I do?”

Mel Brooks: Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Blame it on your upbringing.

Mel Brooks: Right — blame it on your upbringing.

Rico Gagliano: All right, that’s good.  And if you’re not from Brooklyn, just say you’re from Brooklyn.

Brendan Francis Newnam: She’s from Encino. Encino is kind of like Brooklyn, isn’t it?

Mel Brooks: Encino is the furthest thing ever created from Brooklyn! But I don’t wanna go into that.

Rico Gagliano: Just lie, Sabba from Encino.

The Biggest Faux Pas in History

Rico Gagliano: OK, here is something from Alexis. She wrote us via Facebook, we’re not sure where she’s from. Alexis writes:

“What is the biggest faux pas in history according to The 2000 Year Old Man?”

For those who don’t know, this was, of course, your character who was supposedly 2000 years old, and would be questioned by your sidekick Carl Reiner.

Mel Brooks: Well, I don’t know… I would say the biggest faux pas in history, according to The 2000 Year Old Man, would be to say gesundheit when somebody farts. That would really be a faux pas.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That would be. That would be awkward.

Mel Brooks: That would really be wrong.

Rico Gagliano: Is that really a faux pas, or just some sort of…?

Mel Brooks: No, that would be just a tiny stupidity.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, there you go, Alexis.

Rico Gagliano: Yes: The worst thing that’s happened in 2000 years.

Straightforward Concert Etiquette

Brendan Francis Newnam: Our next question comes from Gail in Pasadena, California. Gail writes:

“If you have season tickets to four concerts and, at the first one, the people behind you are obnoxious – crackling wrappers and whispering constantly – what is the best way to shut them up, without creating enemies behind you at concerts two, three, and four?”

Mel Brooks: That is really difficult. It’s really not in my domain, to figure those things out… but in the old days, we would just take an old fashioned bottle of seltzer, and just spray them. Spray them with bubbly water.

Rico Gagliano: It sounds like that might create the enemies that you’re trying to avoid creating.

Mel Brooks: Oh, yeah. Well, at concerts two, three, and four, just write: “If you make noise during the concert, we will kill you.”  Write it on a card, and have it on your back. Maybe that will get to them.

Rico Gagliano: Great, although actually, it occurs to me that if Mel Brooks squirted me with a seltzer bottle, that would make me delighted.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly — I would come back to the concert excited every time.

Rico Gagliano: I would hope it happens again.

Mel Brooks: Could be, I like that.

Rico from Los Angeles. You know, do you know “Little Caesar,” the movie with Edward G Robinson?

Rico Gagliano: Yes!

Mel Brooks: Do you know the movie well?

Rico Gagliano: Not very well.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Probably not as well as Mel Brooks.

Mel Brooks: Well, do you know what happens when Rico is riddled with machine gun bullets and is dying?

Rico Gagliano: Oh yeah! What is the line?

Mel Brooks: There is a line: “Mother of God, could this be the end of Rico?” That’s Edward G Robinson’s line!

Rico Gagliano: That’s going to be on my gravestone.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It will be the end. It will be, “Mother of God, that is the end of Rico.”

The Immediate Off-Loading of Guilt

Rico Gagliano: So. Here’s a question from Opus in New York City.

Mel Brooks: Alright, tell Opus that there is a fabulous wine that the Rothschilds make in the Napa Valley called Opus One. It’s a little too expensive, but it’s really an incredible wine.

Rico Gagliano: Well, we’ll see if Opus serves that from now on at his home. He writes:

“How does one best react if one accidentally breaks wind loudly at one’s dinner party and one’s guest are slightly more fussy than those in the campfire scene from ‘Blazing Saddles’?”

Mel Brooks: Oh… That’s a good question.

Rico Gagliano: A lot of people asked a version of this question.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s how you are thought of, when they think of Mel Brooks.

Mel Brooks: I think you should do what I do sometimes. Turn to somebody near you and say, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see there’s a buncha people here?!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: “You uncivilized heathen!”

Mel Brooks: Just really turn the tables very quickly. Blame it on somebody nearby.

Rico Gagliano: Off-load the guilt.

Mel Brooks: Immediately!

Brendan Francis Newnam: “What is your problem? We’re here, enjoying nice Opus wine…”

Rico Gagliano: “Are you from Brooklyn or something?”

Mel Brooks: That’s good! I like that! “What’s the matter with you, are you from Brooklyn?” I like that.

Citizen Traffic Policing

Brendan Francis Newnam: Our next question is from Gabriel in Beacon, Iowa. Gabriel writes..

Mel Brooks: Wait a minute. Beacon, Iowa?

Rico Gagliano: Yes? That’s a surprise to you? That such a place exists?

Mel Brooks: Yeah, there is a bit of surprise. I don’t think there is a Beacon, Iowa. I think Gabriel made that up. I think Gabriel is probably from Brooklyn, and he heard all the fun we’re making of Brooklyn, and he switched his hometown, quickly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Quick switcheroo to Beacon!

Rico Gagliano: Sounds like a Brooklynite to me.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, wherever Gabriel’s from, he’s a liar, so we can barely trust this question. I’m going to ask it anyway. Gabriel writes:

“While riding in my friend’s car on an empty highway, he stays in the left passing lane, no matter what. When cars approach from behind, he won’t move over, and complains they’re tailgating. His rationalization is, he is going the speed limit and other cars shouldn’t be allowed to pass, because that means they’re speeding. How do I go about not losing my mind and get him to move over? As a side note, he doesn’t like receiving driving advice.”

One of these guys. Left-lane-sitters.

Mel Brooks: Person like that, you gotta keep out of the car. I think what you’ve gotta do is, when you’re having dinner with this friend, put something in his wine or water.  Keep him sleeping, keep him outta the car. Just knock him out, keep him sleeping.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So roofie the friend, is what you’re saying is the answer?

Mel Brooks: Yeah. Slip him some ludes. I dunno.

Rico Gagliano: That’s the polite thing to do.

Mel Brooks: Right. Remove him from the car.

A Very Special Reunion

Rico Gagliano: There you go. Here’s our last question, Mel. And it’s a question we ask everyone in our etiquette segment.

Mel Brooks: Etiquette? This is an etiquette segment?!! This is what we’re doing?

Rico Gagliano: Not really, any more!

Mel Brooks: There hasn’t been a shred of etiquette in anything you’ve asked or anything I’ve replied!

Rico Gagliano: Here’s your last chance to redeem this segment. The question, and we ask this to all our etiquette guests, is: What’s the most memorable get-together you’ve ever been to, who, what, where, details please?

Mel Brooks: well… There was a fabulous get-together last Friday, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at PS 19, for the celebration of all the kids who went to PS 19 graduation in 1931.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wow. A reunion.

Mel Brooks: It was a great reunion! I was all alone. There was not a single person in that reunion but me. I put on a party hat and I drank orange soda and I had a cupcake with a candle. It was just fabulous.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Sounds like a great time!

Rico Gagliano: Well, you were in great company.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Mel Brooks, thank you so much for coming by, chatting with us, telling our audience how to behave, and making these wonderful films.

Mel Brooks: Thank you guys. This has been a pleasure, really.