To Mel Brooks, the absence of comedy is misery. That becomes clear early in “Mel Brooks: Make a Noise,” the latest in PBS’s “American Masters” series. In 1958, Brooks’s success writing for Sid Caesar on television came to an end. He was broke and divorced, and perhaps more importantly, had no outlet for making people laugh. Brooks says he spent two years sobbing. Carl Reiner says his best friend was sometimes suicidal. “You know what it is,’’ says Reiner, “when you know you’ve got something, you don’t know how to peddle it.”
Brooks figured it out. He became a comic legend, and the “Masters” special reminds us of the breadth of his triumphs through archival footage and interviews with collaborators such as Reiner, Joan Rivers, and Barry Levinson. Brooks was an architect of modern sketch comedy with Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar’s Hour.” He had a successful sitcom with “Get Smart” and comedy albums with Reiner with “The 2000 Year Old Man.” He took chances, filming “Young Frankenstein” in black and white and wrecking the contemporary sensibilities of good taste with “Blazing Saddles.” More quietly, he supported such artists as David Lynch and David Cronenberg, and Richard Benjamin with his production company, Brooksfilms. “The Producers” won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.