How Drumming As A Kid Taught Mel Brooks A Lot About Comedy

During a 2021 interview with The New Yorker to promote his autobiography “All About Me!,” the legendary writer, performer, and filmmaker behind such classics as “Blazing Saddles,” “The Producers,” and “Spaceballs” shared that he had been a drummer as a child. But it was because of his experience as a drummer that he learned one of the most important lessons of comedy — timing is everything. Here’s what Mel Brooks had to say:

“It has to do with punchlines. It has to do with timing. It has to do with buildup and explosions. For a joke to work, I always needed that rim shot, when one of the drumsticks hits the rim of the snare as well as the center of the drum and gives you that crack, that explosion. It’s the same thing with a joke.”

Brooks also revealed that each aspect of performing had a different rhythm. Just as diverse pieces of music may give you varied time signatures, working in theater required a different speed than working in front of a camera. And for the prolific performer, this idea was embodied whenever he worked with Carl Reiner. While Reiner didn’t appear in any of Brooks’ movies, the duo still made magic together on stage:

“Timing in a movie is very different from timing on the stage. It has to do with drumming, it has to do with rim shots. But on the stage, there’s a special rhythm and an explosion. Carl and I didn’t work in movies well together. We knew we were stage people. But I loved Carl, and I loved his friendship. I loved everything about him. He was so original. He said, ‘We don’t need an audience. Let’s just do an act for ourselves.’ He was so different, so special.”

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