2000 Year Old Man
The 2000 Year Old Man is a comedy sketch, created by Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks in the 1950s and first publicly performed in the 1960s. Brooks plays a 2000-year-old man, interviewed by Reiner in a series of comedy routines that were turned into a collection of records and also performed on television.
The foundation for the routine was laid during production of Your Show of Shows, where Reiner was an actor and Brooks was a writer. Reiner describes the first instance:
I remember the first question I asked him. It was because I had seen a program called We the People Speak, early television. [He puts on an announcer voice] "We the People Speak. Here’s a man who was in Stalin's toilet, heard Stalin say, 'I’m going to blow up the world.' I came in, I said this is good for a sketch. No one else thought so, but I turned to Mel and I said, "Here's a man who was actually seen at the crucifixion 2,000 years ago," and his first words were, "Oh, boy." We all fell over laughing. I said, "You knew Jesus?" "Yeah," he said, "Thin lad, wore sandals, long hair, walked around with 11 other guys. Always came into the store, never bought anything. Always asked for water." Those were the first words, and then for the next hour or two I kept asking him questions, and he never stopped killing us.
It began as a joke between the two that was then shared at parties. Reiner started bringing a tape recorder to the parties as Brooks never said the same thing twice. Numerous people such as George Burns suggested to the two that they put their material on an album, but only Steve Allen managed to coax the two to come record it in his studio. Reiner recalls the moment he and Brooks realized the first album was going to be a hit:
When we made the album, the album came out, we weren't sure yet whether everybody was going to like it. And it was Cary Grant, who was my neighbor at Universal Studios, he came over and I gave him a record and I said the new record came out, you may like this. And he came back a week later, said, Can I have two dozen? I said, What are you going to do with them? He said, I'm going to take them to England. I said, You'll take these to England? He said, Yeah, they speak English there. Anyway, he came back and said, She loved it. I said who? The Queen Mother. I said, You played this in Buckingham Palace? He said yes. And then Mel says, Well, if the biggest shiksa in the world loves it, we're home free.
Reiner was the straight man, asking interview questions of Brooks, who would improvise answers in a Jewish-American accent. The free-wheeling semi-improvised sketches covered a wide variety of topics from marriage ("I have been married several hundred times") and children ("I have over 42,000 children and not one comes to visit me!") to transportation ("What was the means of transportation then? Mostly fear.").
The quality of the sketch was elevated by the quick improvisational wit of Brooks, who would usually use a question as a springboard to unplanned exposition and tangents that would be as much of a surprise to his partner as it was to the audience. Reiner continued to act as the voice of the audience, providing questions and challenging Brooks' answers. "He was like a district attorney" claims Brooks. Reiner's knowledge of history and momentous events raised the bar on the exchanges. "I knew the questions" quipped Reiner, "but I didn't know the answers." While Reiner deferred the great lines to Brooks, he knew his friend well enough to follow along and cross paths enough to prop him up for more opportunities.
Recordings and performances
Reiner and Brooks released five comedy albums. The 2000 Year Old Man character appeared on one track for each of the first three albums and the entirety of the final two.
- 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1960)
- 2000 and One Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961)
- Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks at the Cannes Film Festival (1962)
- 2000 and Thirteen with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (Warner Bros. Records, 1973)
- The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000 (1997)
|2000 Year Old Man|
|Genre||Animated television special|
|Directed by||Leo Salkin|
|Theme music composer||Mort Garson|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||30 min|
|Original release||January 11, 1975|
A half-hour animated television special, The 2000 Year Old Man, premiered January 11, 1975. The dialogue for the special was taken from the live recordings of Reiner and Brooks. This special has since been released on home video. The musical introduction was Bach's Sinfonia to Cantata #29 performed on a Moog synthesizer by Mort Garson.
Most of the jokes were previously heard routines and/or eventually brought to the screen in Brooks' film History of the World, Part I (especially the caveman jokes).
All five comedy albums were compiled and newly remastered on a 3-CD / 1-DVD box set by Shout! Factory for the 50th anniversary. The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History DVD was released November 24, 2009, and features an interview with Reiner and Brooks; the 1975 animated 2000 Year Old Man television special, and clips of the two appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and The New Steve Allen Show.
Appearances in other media
Mel Brooks appeared as the 2000 Year Old Man to help celebrate the 2000th episode of the original Jeopardy! hosted by Art Fleming (February 21, 1972), in which the three highest-scoring undefeated champions at that point returned to play an abbreviated game for charities. During his pre-game appearance he recounted how the show was done 2,000 years earlier—"It wasn't this hippy-happy-dappy game you've got here … the moment you walked out of your cave—Jeopardy!" On the March 17, 2014 airing of the current Jeopardy! hosted by Alex Trebek, Reiner and Brooks read an entire category of clues as their characters.
Brooks adapted the character to create the 2500 Year Old Brewmaster for Ballantine Beer in the 1960s. Interviewed by Dick Cavett in a series of ads, the Brewmaster (in a German accent, as opposed to the 2000 Year Old Man's Jewish voice) said he was inside the original Trojan horse and "could've used a six-pack of fresh air."
In the episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer vs. Patty and Selma", Brooks appears as himself, riding in a limo being driven by Homer. After Homer incorrectly identifies the act as "The 2000-pound man thing," he and Brooks engage in a brief sketch, with Homer playing the part of Carl Reiner. When Homer is pulled over by the police, Chief Wiggum offers to give Brooks a ride and says they can do "the $2000-Man thing." Brooks agrees, but asks that he not play Reiner's part—"I hate Carl Reiner!", he says.
In an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip entitled "The Option Period", comedy writer Rick Tahoe uses The 2000 Year Old Man as an example of an ideal comedy sketch.
- Karpel, Ari (November 12, 2009). "A Shtick With a Thousand Lives". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
- Holmes, Bill (February 3, 2010). "The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History". popmatters.com. PopMatters. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
- Lee, Tom (January 18, 1974). "The Musical Fruit". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
- Manilla, Ben; Strolovitch, Devon (September 6, 2018). "Mel Brooks and 'The 2000 Year Old Man'". pri.org. Public Radio International. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
- "Brooks And Reiner's 2,000-Year-Old Man Turns 50". npr.org. NPR. November 28, 2009. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
- Brooks, Mel (October 1966). "Playboy 1966". Playboy (Interview). Interviewed by Larry Siegel. Archived from the original on May 12, 2013 – via ysos.sammigirl.com.
- "2008". loc.gov. Library of Congress. June 10, 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
- This album was originally released in 1960 as World-Pacific #1401. It was reissued as Capitol #1529 in 1961. See, Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks The Complete 2000 Year Old Man (Los Angeles, CA: Rhino Records), 1994, p. 32.
- "Carl Reiner – Artist". Grammys.com. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- "Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks - 2000 And Thirteen". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Parish, James Robert (2008-02-26). It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-22526-4.
- "41st Annual Grammy Awards | 1998 Grammys". grammy.com. National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- "CVINYL.COM Vinyl Price Guide: Reiner, Carl & Mel Brooks - Best Of The Two Thousand Year Old Man (Capitol ST 2981)". www.cvinyl.com.
- "Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks - Excerpts From The Complete 2000 Year Old Man". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Erickson, Hal. "2000 Year Old Man (1975) - Leo Salkin". AllMovie. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 339–340. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
- "J! Archive - Burns Cameron". www.j-archive.com.