Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky; June 28, 1926) is an American film director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer. He is best known as a creator of broad film farces and comic parodies. Brooks is a member of the short list of entertainers with the distinction of having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. Three of his films ranked in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 comedy films of all-time: Blazing Saddles at number 6, The Producers at number 11, and Young Frankenstein at number 13.
Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, a son of Maximilian Kaminsky and his wife Kate (née Brookman). His father's family were German Jews from the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (modern Polish port of Gdansk); his mother's family were Russian Jews from Kiev. His father died of kidney disease when Brooks was only two years old.
Brooks was a small, sickly boy who was often bullied and picked on by his classmates. Taking on the comically aggressive job of Tummler (master entertainer) in various Catskills resorts, he gradually gained in confidence. Following high school, he attended the Army Specialized Training Program conducted at the Virginia Military Institute (although not actually as a VMI cadet) and served in the United States Army as a corporal during World War II, taking part in the Battle of the Bulge.