The Truth About Mel Brooks' Kids

The following article includes mentions of domestic abuse allegations.

There are few in the world of comedy who compare to Mel Brooks. The man who encapsulates parody in his work is one of just 16 EGOT winners (winners of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards) in his nearly three-quarters of a century of work in Hollywood and beyond. Besides just being the writer behind some of the best farces of our day, including "Spaceballs" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," Brooks is an actor and comedian in his own right. He even finds creative ways to use his comedic talents: He added a review from himself in his memoir "All About Me!," which came out in December 2021.

"Not since the Bible have I read anything so powerful and poignant," Brooks wrote, per AP. "And to boot — it's a lot funnier!" In his 95 years, he has lived quite a life. Brooks been married twice, has kids and grandkids, and has seemingly led most of them into his artful world. Having a patriarch like Brooks must be an exciting adventure to be sure — if not just silly.

Florence Baum and Brooks had three children together

According to a 2019 biography on Mel Brooks by Patrick McGilligan, Mel's first marriage to Florence Baum was not much of a happy one. Per the Daily Mail, the book "Funny Man: Mel Brooks" asserts that Brooks would "slap" three single dollars onto Baum's dresser every day as her "daily allowance." Book critic Alexandra Jacobs of The New York Times noted that Brooks didn't even name Baum in his 2021 memoir despite the fact that they were married for almost a decade.

In those nine years, the couple had three children together: Stephanie, Nicky, and Eddie. Brooks and Baum divorced in 1962, just two years before Brooks would marry his second wife, Anne Bancroft, per Closer Weekly. According to McGilligan's book, Brooks not only cheated on Baum several times with Eartha Kitt, but he would also get physically violent. Baum even said he had hit her during their divorce proceedings (per Daily Mail.)

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Marrying Anne Bancroft was Mel Brooks' proudest moment

Mel Brooks spends a lot of time talking about his second wife Anne Bancroft in his memoir. In talking to People, Mel explained that his proudest moment was marrying Bancroft. "She always said, 'Follow your heart. It will be a good adventure. What an adventure life turned out to be!" he enthused. Mel told People that he loved Bancroft the moment he saw her rehearsing in 1961 at the Ziegfeld theater, and her support helped him get through their first years as a married couple.

Bancroft and Mel had their son Max in 1972. Uterine cancer took Bancroft in 2005, but before she died, she and Mel were "inseparable," according to CBS News. Mel told the outlet that Bancroft was the love of his life and she always encouraged him. "She's always been an inspiration," he said. "She always thought I was talented. She believed in me right from the beginning, as a songwriter as well as a screenplay writer or whatever I wanted to do. She said, 'You can do it.'"

In 2019, Mel even put together and released a box set of Bancroft's films as a way to honor her legacy, per CBS News. The films include the classics "The Miracle Worker," "The Graduate,"  "To Be or Not to Be," "Agnes of God," and "84 Charing Cross Road." He wants to ensure that her career as an actor isn't forgotten. Who could forget Mrs. Robinson?

Childhood with Mel Brooks for a dad

When your dad is legendary comedian Mel Brooks, it's safe to assume people are always asking you about your childhood. That's been the experience of Max Brooks, according to a piece he penned for Men's Health. And his answer is often surprising to people who expect a story of privilege and nonstop laughter. "They're half right," Max wrote. "My privilege didn't come from my father's money or fame. My privilege came from being a son of Corporal Mel Kaminsky, the World War II veteran." (Kaminsky was Mel's last name before he changed it to avoid confusion with a famous trumpet player, per Rolling Stone.)

Max explained that his father often shared life advice learned during his time as a soldier at war, which didn't scare Max; it struck him with "awe." His dad's "courage and resilience" inspired him. (The war stories also probably provided some background for Max's future novel "World War Z.") Still, the Brooks kids had a "stable" childhood, Max told NPR. He recalled that his father was home every night by 7 p.m. for dinner and didn't come home as "Mr. Funny Man." "He came home as this very stressed, overworked man, self-made man, who had risen himself out of extreme poverty and had built an empire of comedy and was trying to maintain that in an ever-changing world of morphing tastes," Max said. He added that he is "grateful" for the stability of his childhood home, which many of his Gen X friends did not have.

Max Brooks is a well-known author and actor

Along the lines of his father, Max Brooks has a peppering of an acting background, largely in voice work with a few live-action appearances. However, his big career is that of a New York Times best-selling author. His biggest success is the post-apocalyptic zombie novel "World War Z." (Though he also encouraged his dad Mel Brooks to write a memoir during the pandemic, per The Orange County Register; that could be considered an accomplishment too!) Per Max's website, he helped "propel zombie-lore from niche sub-culture fascination to mainstream pop-culture obsession" when his book was published in 2006. But to be fair to "The Walking Dead," the comic book series does predate "World War Z" by three years.

"A zombie story gives people a fictional lens to see the real problems of the world," Max once wrote on his website. "You can deal with societal breakdown, famine, disease, chaos in the streets, but as long as the catalyst for all of them is zombies, you can still sleep." Those real problems became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when Max told The Guardian that his genre of science fiction helped him understand disasters like pandemics. In fact, he told the outlet that he knew the ramifications of the coronavirus before most of us even realized it was a threat. After all, the zombie virus in "World War Z" is one that begins in China before making its way around the world. He gets how pandemics work, to say the least.

World War Z became a movie and was linked to a hate symbol

In 2013, Max Brooks' "World War Z" became a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt. It was received with fairly mixed reviews. Matt Zoller Seitz for wrote that, although he hadn't read it, it seemed like a departure from Max's book because it doesn't explain much about the zombie apocalypse. "'World War Z,' in contrast, is just bloody eye and ear candy," he opined. Whereas Film Comment's Calum Marsh thought that the chaos lent itself to the film's benefit. "That it never quite coheres seems to be the point," he wrote. Wherever folks land on the good movie or bad movie spectrum, one thing is for sure: the "World War Z" zombies are not to be messed with.

Maybe that fear element is why pro-Russian propaganda co-opted the letter Z in the weeks following the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Independent notes that the letter "Z" doesn't "exist in the Russian alphabet." Drawing likely unwanted comparisons to the phrase "World War Z," Russian soldiers began putting "Z" on their shoulders, tanks, and other military outfits. The Independent compared it to the Nazi use of the swastika (which makes the "World War Z" comparison more troubling, as Mel and subsequently Max are Jewish, as is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky). No one is entirely sure what the letter is meant to stand for at this point, though it could mean "we finish wars," or it may stand for "zapad," which means "West" in Russian, per NPR.

Max is open about his dyslexia

While Max Brooks is a best-selling author, he is also an open book about his dyslexia. His candid interview with The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity showcased how hard he worked as a kid in school, even post-diagnosis at age 8 because his self-esteem had already taken its "nosedive." Still, he used humor as a way to cope with his frustrations over dyslexia. But even that could only go so far when teachers didn't believe him.

"But my teachers were convinced I was lazy," Max told the center. "I think my having famous parents allowed them to create a narrative that I was a spoiled brat, that my parents would bail me out." He explained how his mom, Anne Bancroft, tried diligently to get his teachers to understand that he wasn't being difficult in class; he simply couldn't always do what was being asked of him. Not only did his childhood education teach him to traverse a difficult system; it made him keenly aware that the system is also a problem.

Max, upon saying that he sees "Minecraft" as one of "the most important teaching tool[s] we have since the printing press," told The New Yorker that using a "binary" educational system doesn't prepare children to be "creative problem solvers." Being able to solve problems is a big part of the books Max has written. So maybe "Minecraft" can give us the skills we need to battle the hypothetical zombie apocalypse?

Daughter-in-law Michelle Kholos Brooks is an award-winning playwright

In the Brooks family, the apple doesn't seem to fall far from the tree even in marriage. Mel Brooks' daughter-in-law Michelle Kholos Brooks (married to Max Brooks) is an award-winning playwright. She is also a former public radio journalist and works with the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security – an organization that develops "sustainable, nonpartisan strategies" for the security issues faced by both the United States and others. Specifically, she is a nonresident senior fellow in the center's Forward Defense division.

Her plays have won awards such as the Reva Shiner Comedy Award and the Susan Glaspell Award, and they have been finalists for several others. Michelle's award-winning play "Hitler's Tasters" scored a month-long Off-Broadway run from April 14 to May 7, 2022, with New Light Theater Project (per BroadwayWorld.).

When "Hitler's Tasters" was going to make its Los Angeles premiere, Michelle spoke to the Los Angeles Times about it and her famous father-in-law. "I didn't have a conversation with him about it beforehand, but he has really encouraged me to be brave: Go for what you know you want to say," she told the newspaper. "If you're going to walk up to the bell, ring it. And just by knowing him for so long and watching how hard he still works, he worked on me by example and osmosis."

Eddie Brooks keeps his life lowkey, but his daughter seems to enjoy the limelight

Unlike the other Brooks siblings, Eddie Brooks is more out of the public eye. He was in charge of digital effects and sound editing for a short film titled "The Green Room" in 2012. And his two cinematic roles of note were as Sheldon Hocheiser in "Where's Poppa?" in 1970 and the New Son in "Armchair Theatre" in 1961. Acting must have been just a blip in Eddie's childhood radar considering that his "Armchair" role was when he was two years old! Per Closer Weekly, he was born in May 1959. The outlet added that his daughter is Samantha Brooks.

Samantha is an actor with five roles under her belt so far, per IMDb. Having graduated from NYU Gallatin with a concentration on The Ideal Narrative: Fiction, Film, and Performance with a minor in Creative Writing, Samantha is making her way in the Big Apple in her grandfather's footsteps. She hosts a podcast called "Alakazam! With Alex & Sam" while honing her craft as an actor, writer, and filmmaker.

Nicky Brooks is a producer

Not unlike his brother Eddie Brooks, Nicky (Nicholas) Brooks has a couple acting credits to his name, in addition to a writer/director credit for his film "Sam." But most of Nicky's work is while wearing his producer hat. Evidently, Mel Brooks attended and even introduced Nicky's New York premiere for "Sam," per The Interrobang. The outlet said Mel told the audience he couldn't "praise [Nicky] too much," explaining that Eddie was also in attendance. Mel went on to say he was "proud of Nick" because he had seen and liked his new film. Nick then thanked him "for 50% of his chromosomes."

Of creating his film, Nicky said, "Writing, producing and directing 'Sam' has been an incredible experience thanks to an amazing cast and crew. I am excited to finally be sharing her with the world. Working with my dad on my first feature has been a fantastic experience — he is a continuously supportive, caring and wonderful executive producer," per The Fan Carpet.

Stephanie Brooks starred in Human Traffic and Henry went viral

Unsurprisingly, Stephanie Brooks also dipped her toe into acting in Hollywood with her role as Fleur in "Human Traffic" in 1999. In 1975, Mel Brooks told The New York Times that Eddie should do "film or theater" and Nicholas could be a "doctor or filmmaker" but had something else in mind for his oldest Stephanie. "My daughter Stephanie should write — she's at Brandeis," Mel told the newspaper. "Papers about Henry James, that kind. Very smart, brilliant."

Though Henry Michael Brooks, Max Brooks' son, is still young, he's already been getting a spotlight of his own. In 2020, Henry went viral along with his dad and grandfather Mel in the latter's first-ever political video, per Max's Twitter. The video featured Mel in the foreground talking about how he couldn't see his family because of COVID-19 and announcing that he was endorsing Joe Biden for president. At the end, you can hear Max say, "Bye dad, love you" from outside, with Mel replying, "Thank you, see you soon."