Saturday, July 22, 2017

Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

A rather long one today...

First of all, don't panic, fellow babies! I realize that when a celebrity's face appears at the top of one of my posts, it usually means that the guy or gal has passed away. But thankfully, not this time!

As I have occasionally (rarely?) done in the past (for example, back in 2011, for Graham Nash), I'm posting to wish a Happy Birthday to one of my long-time favorite entertainers, none other than comedian/actor/director/author Albert Brooks, who turns seventy years old today!

First of all, contrary to what's believed by a very close friend of mine, Albert Brooks is not the son of Mel Brooks! They're not even related. For that matter, Albert Brooks wasn't even born Albert Brooks. (Mel Brooks wasn't born "Brooks" either, for that matter. His birth name was Melvin Kaminsky.)


Albert Brooks' birth name was -- wait for it -- Albert Einstein. Yes, really. Brooks' father was a successful and well-known "dialect comedian" named Harry Einstein, better known as Parkyakarkus ("park your carcass"). Harry had three sons before finally giving into temptation and naming his fourth son Albert.

Harry "Parkyakarkus" Einstein, 1904-1958

In 1958, Harry Einstein delivered a well-received comedy routine at a Friars Roast honoring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Einstein returned to his seat (next to Milton Berle) and soon fell over into Berle's lap. Despite attempts to save him, he died two hours later, victim of a heart attack.

Back to Albert...

Appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the mid-1960s, the one-and-only Carl Reiner once stated that the two funniest people he knew were Mel Brooks and a high school kid he knew, Albert Einstein.

I first became aware of Brooks through his unique stand-up appearances on The Tonight Show. In one, he played a truly awful ventriloquist. In another, he portrayed a writer of children's songs, doing such insipid numbers as "Brush Your Teeth" and "Eat Those Beans... Please!" (I can still sing both songs from memory. Not that I'm necessarily bragging about that...) He did a skit called "Rewriting the National Anthem" where he showcased several applicants from around the USA who'd written songs that could hopefully replace "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The "Rewriting the National Anthem" routine and several others appeared on Brooks' first album, "Comedy Minus One."

The front cover of "Comedy Minus One."

The back cover of "Comedy Minus One."

A few years later on The Tonight Show, he again did a ventriloquist act of sorts where he used a "dummy" made from a children's toy which played single letters aloud when you pressed the appropriate key on its keyboard. ("I" substituted for "hi," and so forth.) It was (purposely) pretty lame.

I even caught his 1972 appearance on an episode of the short-lived sitcom, The New Dick Van Dyke Show. I saw several of the short films he did for Saturday Night Live in the mid-1970s, and caught him in Taxi Driver (which I admittedly didn't see until a few years after it came out in 1976).

In Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro and (with her back to the camera) Cybill Shepherd.

Although I missed his initial effort at directing, 1979's Real Life -- an eerily prophetic look at what we now call "reality TV" -- I did manage to procure it years later. (It's part of the sizable videotape collection I'm planning on keeping.)

In Real Life, Brooks (playing himself, more or less), decides to "spice up"
his subjects' lives, because he doesn't think his movie is exciting enough!

I have to admit that to this day, I still haven't seen 1980's Private Benjamin, in spite of all the good things that I've heard about it... and in spite of the fact that I've been a fan of Goldie Hawn's since Good Morning, World, a sitcom she appeared in even before she showed up on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

With the lovely Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin.

In 1981, Brooks directed, co-wrote, and starred in my own personal favorite out of all his films, Modern Romance. He played a successful but neurotic and insanely jealous Hollywood film editor, Robert Cole, who breaks up with his girlfriend Mary (excellently played by Kathryn Harrold) and immediately regrets it. Their ups and downs as a couple, as well as Cole's personal quirks (explored both on and off the job), make this film an incredible treat for those who like something different.

In Modern Romance with Kathryn Harrold.

In Modern Romance with real-life director James L. Brooks (again,
no relation), who later cast Albert in Broadcast News, and Bruno Kirby.

A terrific Modern Romance scene, set in a sporting goods store. Brooks is shown
here with Bob Einstein, who IS Albert's brother in real life. Bob Einstein is
better known today as "Super Dave Osborne." He also played policeman
"Officer Judy" on the controversial 1960s Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

And now I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves, except where I felt it necessary to supply a detail or two.

With Julie Hagerty in 1985's Lost in America.

With Holly Hunter and William Hurt in Broadcast News, 1987.

With Meryl Streep in 1991's Defending Your Life.

With the incomparable Debbie Reynolds in 1996's Mother.

With Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell in The Muse, 1999.

Brooks appeared as Randall Harris in the vastly underrated
My First Mister (2001). He's pictured here with co-star Leelee Sobieski.

Brooks also supplied the voice of Marlin in 2003's
Finding Nemo, as well as its sequel, Finding Dory (2016).

In 2005's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim WorldAGAIN doing a ventriloquist's act!

And I've still left out a lot of things that he's done in a career of over fifty years.

So, there you have it: A tribute to someone who's still very much with us! Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

And thanks for your time.


  1. Still alive, that is rare. He better watch out for buses now haha I never knew that was his real name, too funny to resist. I'd have used it on my first kid. Lost in America was the most recent one I watched of his. Ignoring crappy Finding Nemo 2.

    1. Nice to see Mr. Brooks "survived" my post! I never saw the Finding Nemo sequel. I did see the original, but I don't remember why.

  2. I thought that skit with the toy on Johnny Carson was hilarious and didn't he do another one with food and impersonations. Hot potatoes made him do Curly from the 3 stooges etc... he is an underrated gem

    1. That impressions routine sounds vaguely familiar. I probably saw it.

  3. Very fun post. Loved the variety of photos, too. Yay for live celebrities. haha.

    1. My next post won't be so cheerful. I'm drafting it now.

  4. I enjoyed learning more about the man and his work. I did see Private Benjamin and it was good. We enjoyed Blazing Saddles as well.
    Visit me @ Life & Faith in Caneyhead. 😉

  5. Albert Brooks is brilliant and hilarious. My favorite Brooks' movies are Lost in America, Mother, and Broadcast News. I don't think I've seen Modern Romance--or maybe I've forgotten it. Apparently I need to see it again or for the first time.


    1. Oh, I just know you'd enjoy Modern Romance. I'm absolutely sure of it.


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