American Jewish comedian Albert Brooks, born Albert Enstein in 1947, grew up in Los Angeles among Hollywood royalty. His father was radio comedian Harry Einstein, who had a recurring Greek-language character on Eddie Cantor's radio program named Parkyarkarkus (“park your carcass”), and his mother Thelma Leeds Bernstein was a dancer. Brooks is famous for his starring or supporting roles in many feature films such as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1975), Lost in America (1985), Broadcast News (1987), and Out of Sight (1999). He has contributed his voice to several animated projects, including the leading role as Marlin the clownfish in Disney and Pixar’s Finding Nemo (2003) — his biggest box office hit to date — and has made guest appearances on The Simpsons five times. His most recent film, Looking for Comedy in Muslim World (2005), in which Brooks starred and directed, is about an American Jewish comedian sent by the U.S. government to India to find out “what makes Muslims laugh.”
Brooks attended Beverly Hills High School with Joey Bishop’s son Larry and Carl Reiner’s son Rob, both who are actors and directors. He spent many days at the Reiner residence entertaining Carl and Rob, leading Carl to one day tell “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson that the two funniest people he knew were Mel Brooks and his son’s high school friend “Albert Einstein.” After perfecting a smart and audacious stand-up comedy routine, Brooks began appearing regularly on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and eventually “Saturday Night Live.” He was also one of Johnny Carson’s most asked-back guests on the “Tonight Show.” His neurotic and self-analytic stand-up persona has led admirers and critics to compare him to comedians Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen.
Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World has drawn some controversy because of its title, which Brooks refused to change under pressure from Sony Pictures. After Sony dropped the film, it was picked up and released by Warner Independent Films. Brooks claims that he made the film in response to the increasingly violent rift between the West and the Muslim world after the attacks of September 11, 2001 because the topic has not been thoroughly explored by the arts. He says that “there had to be some way to separate the 1.5 billion people who don't want to kill us from the 100,000 or so who do. I thought if I could get five Muslims and six Hindus and maybe 3 Jews to laugh for 90 minutes, then I've accomplished something.”
Sources: The Jerusalem Report, (February 20, 2006); Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World; Wikipedia