Almost two decades after the big-screen release of Mel Brooks’ 1987 sci-fi spoof Spaceballs, a loyal cult following remains for the gag-filled misadventures of evil space commander Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), rugged hero Lone Starr (Bill Pullman), and plucky Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). Those fans will want to tune in next fall, when cable network G4 gives their favorite cartoonish characters a second life as literal cartoons in Spaceballs: The Animated Series — with a pilot episode co-written by Brooks himself. EW.com got the sultan of shtick on the phone for an exclusive chat about what to expect from the new show and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before your film career, you worked on series like Get Smart and Your Show of Shows in the ’50s and ’60s. What was it like for you to write for television again?
MEL BROOKS: I just love creating the stuff. How it’s transmitted, you know, whether it’s on a Broadway stage, or whether it’s a little black-and-white movie, or a big wide color musical movie, or whether it’s an iPod, or a website, or you’re talking about television — I think that’s secondary for me. Who knows what the next delivery system is for the craziness that comes out of my mind?
What makes this the right moment to revisit Spaceballs?
I don’t know if there’s ever a good moment for anything. When something rears its crazy head, that’s the moment.
You’re voicing the wizened alien Yogurt and the diabolically moronic President Skroob, whom you played in the original movie. Do the characters still feel fresh to you?
Oh yeah. Because the characters all reflect various types of idiots running the government and running society. For me it’s always fresh. All you gotta do is just kind of bring it up to date with a new attack or incursion.
What pop-culture phenomena do you think are ripest for mockery these days?
Well, there’s always the oil industry. I mean, we know we could have an electric car. We know that. There’s always those interests. And that’s handled by Dark Helmet and his crowd — that’s what they do. They ran out of air in the first [movie], they just want to steal air. It’s really a metaphor for oil and energy.
Is the new show going to go mostly after those kind of targets, then?
Yeah, I think it’s more society than having fun with Madonna and stuff. I don’t think we’ll make fun of show-business icons, because I don’t think they resonate enough in the common man’s life. It can’t compare to invading Iraq, you know?
Will anything be off-limits?
I don’t think anything is off. Anything that’s politically correct is our target. We’ll aim for anything sacred. The government, religion, whatever we can have fun with.
You brought The Producers to Broadway a few years ago, and you’ve announced plans for a stage musical of Young Frankenstein, and now this new Spaceballs series. Any other revivals in the works?
Listen, I’m rinsing everything. I’m getting the last bit of suds out of everything I’ve ever done. So don’t worry, you’re gonna see plenty.
I’m still waiting for the sequel that you promised at the end of History of the World Part 1.
I get 20 letters a week, at least, from disgruntled fans saying, ”Hey, I wanna see Jews in Space! What happened?” I might actually have to do History of the World Part 2. Just to satisfy all the baby boomers that’ve grown up. And there’s a lot of history that’s happened since the Inquisition, so there’s a lot to cover and have fun with. I’m seriously thinking that may be a future endeavor.
Your son Max Brooks’ new zombie novel World War Z has been getting a lot of positive attention. Ever think about collaborating with him?
We may, way in the future. But he struggled and strived for his independence. I cast a big shadow, and he had to flee from it. And he’s done a remarkably great job. His first book, [2003’s] The Zombie Survival Guide, sold 300,000 copies. That’s on his own. At the beginning they used to say, ”Mel Brooks’ son.” There’s no mention of me anymore.