Happy 96th birthday Mel Brooks b. (Melvin Kaminsky).  An iconic Comedians, Actor, Writer and  Film Maker.  A World War II Veteran and one of very few individuals to win the entertainment ‘Grand Slam’ of an Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy award!  When I offer a light remark during a keynote address, it usually involves a reference to one of the gags from Mel’s decades of work.  His inspirational style: 

  • TEAMWORK:  Mel famously built trust, comity and loyalty with his fellow writers and performers.  He envisioned comedy goals and worked hard to achieve them, selflessly sharing credit along the way fellow writers (Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen) on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950’s, and with Buck Henry for “Get Smart” in the 1960’s.  According to Mel, “No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I decided to be the first.” His partnership with the late Carl Reiner in “2000 Year Old Man” skits is comedy genius.
  • TONE:  A patriotic WWII Vet.  Mel was a Combat Engineer who fought in the Battle of the Bulge!  His courageous boundary-breaking slapstick, parodies and satire attacked social norms from every direction.  “Being stupid and politically incorrect doesn’t work … You can be politically incorrect if you’re smart.” 
  • TENACITY:  Mel’s seven decades of boundary-breaking efforts still makes us laugh out loud: “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “High Anxiety,” “Silent Movie,” “History Of The World, Part I,” “Space Balls,” “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” and more!   And, there’s word on the street in Hollywood that he’s in discussions for a “History of the World: Part II”!

Ask any leading comedian to name a role model they greatly respect and who influence them, and chances are they’ll include Mel Brooks.  There’s something to be learned from Mel’s motivational style for professionals in any field.  Most strong leaders possess critical strengths such as integrity, courage, and self-awareness.  It’s good practice to supplement those with a sense humor.  It’s my experience that a sense of humor, and an occasionally inserted Mel Brooks cultural comedy reference, can positively influence others, particularly during times of stress and uncertainty, when that sentiment becomes a powerful performance multiplier. So here’s to Mel Brooks, 96 years young today, and to all leaders who take humor seriously!

– Rear Admiral Paul Becker, USN (Ret) is a motivational and national security keynote speaker.  He is a leadership professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and the CEO of The Becker T3 Group. In 2016, The Naval Intelligence Community established “The Rear Admiral Becker ‘Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity Award for Leadership” in his honor.  To connect with Paul to be the speaker, visit his website:

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.