Winner, Individual 2023

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Peabody Career Achievement Award Winner

It’s difficult to think of an individual who personifies the meaning of “show business” in American cultural history more than Mel Brooks.  Whatever the medium for his signature form of zany yet deeply human comedy—television, film, recordings, stage plays—Brooks has shaped the very nature of our sense of humor across eight decades of entertaining show performances.  His television work was groundbreaking. His albums hilarious. His films iconic. His Broadway plays record breaking. All wildly successful. All wildly entertaining. 

Brooks broke into the business with his friend Sid Caesar, working in live television variety when the medium was in its infancy. From the short-lived The Admiral Broadway Revue on NBC and Dumont in 1949, Brooks and Caesar launched another live variety show the following year, the very popular Your Show of Shows staring Caesar and Imogene Coca.  With fellow writer, performer, and friend from that show, Carl Reiner, the two crafted numerous funny sketches they would perform for friends and late-night TV, one of which was “The 2000 Year Old Man” routine that led to a Grammy award for a comedy album featuring that act. Brooks also left his mark on 1960s television with Get Smart, a spy-spoof written with Buck Henry about a remarkably unsmart secret agent. 

In the 1960s, Brook’s career shifted to directing for film, in particular spoofs of popular genres, launching a series of hits that would shape American comedy across the ensuing decades—The Producers (1968), Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), Silent Movie (1976), High Anxiety (1977), History of the World Part I (1981), Spaceballs (1987), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). 

In the early 2000s, Brooks launched one of Broadway’s most successful shows, a remake of his film The Producers as a musical starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The show was immensely popular with audiences, went on to break the record for number of Tony Awards wins, and lived on in numerous iterations for almost two decades. 

And, of course, being one of the funniest and most recognizable faces of comedy, Brooks has made innumerable guest appearances on television shows over the last two decades.  Never one to quit while he’s ahead, Brooks even launched a long-awaited sequel to his 1980s film, History of the World Part II in 2023 on the streamer Hulu. 

With this year’s Peabody Career Achievement Award, Brooks joins the elite club of performers to achieve PEGOT status, earning Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards.  Along with Barbra Streisand, Mike Nichols, and Rita Moreno, now only four individuals have reached such a career milestone. 

Mel Brooks has gifted us with his indomitable spirit, his desire to find the funny in darkness (“Springtime for Hitler,” anyone?), his love of laughter and gaiety, his belief that any genre could be turned on its head, and his willingness to poke fun at almost any facet of the human condition.  For his long life in shaping show business and American comedy, we are honored to recognize Mel Brooks with this year’s Peabody Career Achievement Award.