KEPT ALIVE by a strict diet of cool mountain water and stuffed cabbages, the sorely missed 2000 year-old man was dusted off last summer to share with us his wisdom and his constipation. Thirteen years older, and no wiser for it, he has cut his first record in a decade: 2000 and Thirteen. Sadly, the wizened Jewish sage, created by Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, is not aging as gracefully as his old material.
Reiner and Brooks actually created the 2000 year old man ten years before the 1960 hit album. Both were working on "Your Show of Shows," Reiner as a straight man to Sid Ceaser and Brooks as a writer. Reiner was trying out a new tape recorder, and instead of saying, "testing, testing" into the microphone, he turned to Brooks and asked "Is it true that you were on the scene of the Crucifixion some 2000 years ago?"
Brooks leaned back as the old man's ancient recollections came back in a rush: "Oooooooooboy," he moaned.
The 2000-year old man became a private joke that Reiner and Brooks occasionally shared with friends in show business. But the bicentenaries's fame spread, and in 1960 Steve Allen persuaded them to record some of their material. That tape turned into 2000 years with Reiner and Brooks. 2001 Years with Reiner and Brooks and Reiner and Brooks at the Cannes Film Festival followed quickly, and though neither enjoyed the popularity of the first album, a large cult of Reiner-Brooks fans mourned when the old man was put out to pasture in 1963.
Reiner devoted more time to writing and producing for Dick Van Dyke, and Brooks went on to win academy awards for writing "The Critic" and "The Producers." Both, however, were plagued by constant appeals to revive their creation. Finally, they relented, and to celebrate, Warner Brothers bought the three old recordings from Capitol, and re-released them in a slick Christmas package, optimistically titled The In complete Works of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks.
MUCH OF THE new album is unused material from the fifties, resurrection of what Brooks calls their "Dead Sea Scrolls." And, spaced throughout 2000 and Thirteen, flashes of the delightful younger old man show through. Asked for his opinion of the greatest medical advance of his time, he pauses, and finally croaks," Liquid Pr ell --You put a heart-lung machine in your medicine cabinet, you open the door, it falls out--and what happens? It breaks!" And discussing his 400 or 500 marriages, of which exactly 71 per cent were successful, he boasts of his 42,000 children. "21,000 doctors," he says. "And not one comes to see me."
Sexually liberated by the seventies, the old man recounts his slow development 200 years of breast-feeding. Listing great discoverers of history, he mentions Onan--"He discovered himself." But after relating his sensuous experience with Dolly Madison in a vat of ice cream--"My tush was cold for a week" he cracks a stale Playboy joke: "The presidents if they're not doing it to their wives, they're doing it to the nation."
Too much of what might have been cynical humor ten years ago come across as a collection of worn-out retreads now. The old man recommends selling the whole country to Japan, because "they're going to get it anyway." He urges a halt to the spinning of the earth, so that "we all won't be so dizzy and nauseous." And he recites a poem that looking back on it I enjoyed in 1960.
The musical fruit,
The more you eat,
The more you toot.
We've all come a long way. In 1960, we had Like and Khruschev, Kennedy and Nixon. That year, in the last at-bat of a long career, Ted Williams hit a home run over Fenway's center field wall. A dose of cynicism was exactly what we needed. Rhetorical questions deserved good old Jewish common-sense answers:
Tell us, sir--with the benefit of 2000 years`of wisdom and experience is there any hope for the world?
Lines like this are too infrequent in 2000 and Thirteen, and these days, it takes more than mushy bananas, nausea, and Jewish in-laws to get a laugh. Before they put this album out, along with the new collection of their older works, Reiner, Brooks and their 2000 year old man should have remembered the oldest and most famous show biz saying, one even better known than "There's a sucker born every minute:"
"Always leave them calling for more.
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