By Michael Aushenker, Community Editor
Comedy maven Mel Brooks with his partner-in-crime, CarlReiner.
"Send in the Jews!" Mel Brooks shouted, throwing the floodgatesopen for the scores of fans who valiantly fought the drizzle lastWednesday evening, Nov. 19, to meet him and his "Your Show of Shows"partner-in-crime, Carl Reiner.
Fans lined Overland Avenue, in front of Westside Pavilion, waitingto meet the pair at Barnes and Noble Booksellers. Brooks and Reinerwere promoting their new book and companion CD, "The 2,000-Year-OldMan in the Year 2000."
One woman boasted that she had driven from a town 60 miles west ofPalm Springs to meet her humorous heroes.
True to their personas, the boisterous Brooks kept everyone aroundhim in stitches, while Reiner remained considerably low-key.
"I'm better than he is," Brooks kidded about his reticent friend.
The quips kept flying at breakneck speed. A bookstore employeeshouted, "So when's Part Two coming out, Mel?" alluding to Brooks'1981 film, "History of the World, Part One." No doubt asked thisquestion one too many times, Brooks shot back, "Thursday!"
Brooks and Reiner faithfully signed anything the enthusiastic fansoffered them, from memorabilia such as vintage "The Producers"soundtrack LPs to videotapes. Brooks even autographed a Tony Roma'stake-out box.
"Keep in touch; don't be strange!" Brooks shouted, pretending tolament that his fans never stay in touch or drop by his house.
The comedy legends' charm and charisma seemed to bring out thecomedian in everybody. When a spectator was asked why he came down tosee Mel and Carl, the smart alec cracked, "[Brooks] owes me money."
"They're the kings of comedy," Jennifer Roth of Santa Monica said."They embody everything about comedy, especially Jewish comedy. It'snot that often that you get to see two legends in person."
Brooks wrote in Roth's book: "Happy Chanukah '97."
"Brooks and Reiner are two of comedy's pioneers. [The Jewishpeople] are full of the prevalent desire to cope through humor," BobRich of Agoura Hills said, theorizing as to their comedic success.
As the signing continued, Brooks turned comically testy with thecrush of photographers interfering with the flow of faithful bookbuyers.
"Three more. Just three more!" he jested.
The pair repeatedly expressed concern for the people forced towait in the rain because of the paparazzi's insatiable appetite.
But there were playful moments with the press as well. When aCanadian television correspondent with a nasal voice shoved amicrophone and a superfluous question in their faces, the comediansinquired if her voice was real.
George Pennacchio, KABC-TV's giddy entertainment reporter, droppedby the autograph table to awaken the 2,000-year-old man insideBrooks, asking him if he still had sex. Brooks snapped intocharacter, assuming his thick Yiddish lilt.
"Are you trying to tell me I'm impotent?! I'm opulent!" heinsisted, proceeding to tease Pennacchio, grabbing thecorrespondent's head and pulling at his tuft of black hair.
Brooks and Reiner stayed past the event's scheduled end, happilyaccommodating the waiting crowds weathering the weather.
Meanwhile, a colleague and I went to the Panda Inn Restaurantacross the street for dinner. By 9:30, having completed our meals andleaving a tip, we headed for the exit, when in from the rain enteredReiner and Brooks -- just the two of them, no entourage, nopretensions -- looking for someone to seat them.
On my way out the door, inspiration hit me. I turned to Brooks andchided him in mock anger: "Where were you? We were waiting for you!We held the table for an hour."
"You were waiting for an hour?" Brooks repeated.
"Aw, forget it!" I said, waving my hand in mock disgust.
With that, I exited the restaurant, content that I managed toevoke some laughs from the Comedy Gods. A small compensation,perhaps, but an appreciation nevertheless for all of the laughs theyhave provided me -- and millions of others -- over the years.