Blazing Saddles is arguably Mel Brooks’ masterpiece, a deft blending of Western parody, Looney Tunes silliness, and razor-sharp racial satire into one enduring, Frankie Laine-crooned package. It’s also a work full of elements that can make it hard for modern audiences to fully embrace it, thanks to the numerous racial slurs in the script, and jokes that not only mock, but occasionally invoke, harmful stereotypes. According to Brooks, it’s a film that would be impossible to make today, thanks to what he called our current “stupidly politically correct” society in a recent interview with BBC Radio 4.
“It’s OK not to hurt feelings of various tribes and groups,” Brooks said, acknowledging the important role of empathy and picking your comedy battles. But, he said, “It’s not good for comedy. Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering in the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.” Brooks also flatly stated that it would be impossible to take the risks he took with Blazing Saddles today. “Without that,” he said—i.e., the willingness to examine and play with prejudice that informs the movie’s sensibilities—“the movie would not have had nearly the significance, the force, the dynamism, and the stakes that were contained in it.”
Despite his comments, Brooks did acknowledge that he also has one or two areas where he is incapable of joking. “I personally would never touch gas chambers or the death of children or Jews at the hands of the Nazis,” he said. “In no way is that at all usable or correct for comedy. It’s just in truly bad taste.”
“Everything else is ok.”