What do Hannah Arendt and Mel Brooks Have in Common?

Mel Brooks, interview with Mike Wallace:

How do you get even with Adolf Hitler? How do you get even with him? There’s only one way to get even. You have to bring him down with ridicule….If you can make people laugh at him, then you’re one up on him…One of my lifelong jobs has been to make the world laugh at Adolf Hitler.

Hannah Arendt, interview with Joachim Fest:

In my opinion people shouldn’t adopt an emotional tone to talk about these things [the Eichmann trial], since that’s a way of playing them down….I also think you must be able to laugh, since that’s a form of sovereignty.


  1. David Lunn February 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm | #

    A interesting post (as usual) but also particularly well timed, given that Mel Brooks is currently trending in the UK due to the following gem:

    • gstally March 16, 2015 at 11:02 am | #

      Well whaddya know? It’s literally springtime for Hitler.

  2. John T. Maher February 27, 2015 at 1:23 pm | #

    Yes Arendt was correct that the focus should be on theory and not affect and the piddling individual or we risk getting nowhere as a society and Angela Davis has reiterated this reinvention of the wheel recently in the context of the Ferguson cop. Cool new blog graphics. Trivia: Mike Wallace was sort of a little Hitler in his backyard in Malverne, PA I hear and frequently patrolled his estate with a shotgun threatening teenagers who he believed wanted to irritate him.

  3. BillR February 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm | #

    This may be a more common sentiment than is supposed by people who weren’t around in the 60’s. There was a trope of Italian literature that also built on the power of laughter to bring the pompous to heel (Name of the Rose was one example that gained currency in the English speaking world), but there were others:

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