The funniest man alive laments the demise of his pet insult

Humour is a personal thing, so I cannot expect a total vote of support for my statement, but I believe that Mel Brooks is the funniest man alive. In recent years, he’s gone through horrific loss (Anne Bancroft,  his wife and partner of many years, died of cancer in 2005,) and great victories (the Broadway production of his early play “The Producers” , which Brooks turned into a musical, was a huge hit on Broadway and won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.)

The musical is also a worldwide mega-success on stage and in a movie, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The hilarious rendition of “Springtime for Hitler” or the hysterically choreographed dancing sequence involving hundreds of old ladies and their walking contraptions are irreverent, rude and side-splitting funny.

Recently, Brooks started a campaign to save the word “Schmuck” from extinction. He announced the creation of “Schmucks for Schmuck” a private non for profit organisation dedicated to preserving the word. Lamenting that “Schmuck is dying,” Brooks argued that the once revered expletive is being replaced by lesser invectives such as ‘prick’ and ‘douche bag,’ “I just shake my head and think, ‘I don’t want to live in a world like this,'” he said.

Insults in history:

  • In his online essay “On the History of Insults“, Bill Long documents insults from as early as 1549 (‘Blockhead’) and 1673 (‘Nincompoop.’)
  • Shakespeare used insults to ram a point home — “Thou art like a toad; ugly and venomous,” (As You Like It); “A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality,” (All’s Well That Ends Well); “Peace, ye fat guts!” (Henry IV Part 1).
  • Literary insults were delivered by some of the best literary minds, usually about the close competition. Oscar Wilde quipped “There are two ways of disliking poetry. One is to dislike it. The other is to read Pope.” Voltaire commented on ‘To Posterity’ – an ode by George Sand – by saying “This poem will not reach its destination.”
  • Royals were not exempts – Martin Luther (1483-1546) thought that Henry VIII (1491-1547) was “… a pig, an ass, a dunghill, the spawn of an adder, a basilisk, a lying buffoon, a mad fool with a frothy mouth,” while Harold Nicolson, English diplomat and writer, described the reign of George V (1865-1936) like this: “For seventeen years he did nothing at all but kill animals and stick in stamps.”
  • Modern culture (such as pop) has its own history of insults,  for example – in his 1971 solo album ‘Imagine’, John Lennon told his ex-mate Paul McCartney “those freaks was right when they said you was dead” (‘How Do You Sleep?‘ )