Mel Brooks is a beloved director, writer, actor and comedian. He is also a really good storyteller.
The 90-year-old Hollywood legend visited Easton's State Theatre on Friday evening, where he entertained a packed house by regaling the audience with the tale of how his 1974 comedic masterpiece Blazing Saddles -- one he called "dangerous" for its time -- almost didn't happen.
Brooks' discussion was moderated by producer Kevin Salter and was preceded by a showing of his influential satire of Westerns.
Following a rousing standing ovation upon his entrance, Brooks looked around, smiled and remarked, "This is one of the most beautiful theaters I've ever been in." He then joked that, like the building itself, he too, "was also built in 1926."
Brooks also spent a good amount of time delving into his friendship with late comedy legend Sid Caesar (the latter of whom brought Brooks on board as a monologue and sketch writer for Your Show of Shows), landing his first acting gig at age 14 and having dinner with Alfred Hitchcock.
Asked what made him want to get into show business, Brooks recalled his uncle taking him to see "Anything Goes" on opening night on Broadway and making a conscious decision to pursue a career in the industry.
It quickly became clear that Brooks' early fascination and love of theater continues to define who he is as a performer; he can still hold a crowd's attention just by being himself on stage. Brooks was self-deprecating, genuine, personable and, most importantly, funny.
And his comedic timing is as sharp as ever. Brooks answered an audience question of "Boxers or briefs?" with a quick and well-timed "Depends" (cue rim shot). He also joked that he is not the best comedian but nobody does a better cat squeal than him -- a trait he recalled awkwardly bluffing on live television.
Though it was fun to watch Blazing Saddles on a big screen, the real treat was witnessing a master of his craft open up and share bit of himself with his fans. It was an experience no piece of celluloid can truly replicate.