Stars from Billy Crystal to Sarah Silverman were on hand to toast and roast Brooks.
HOLLYWOOD — Mel Brooks has collected awards across the spectrum – Tonys, Grammys, Emmys and Oscar – but Thursday night he took home a new prize, the AFI Lifetime Achievement award.
The tribute gala, sponsored by Audi at the Dolby Theatre, feted a lifetime of work from Brooks, from film and Broadway hits The Producers and Young Frankenstein to movies including High Anxiety, History of the World – Part I, Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles and The Elephant Man.
(But if you want to know the film Brooks wants you to see the most, it's 1991's Life Stinks.)
The night was full of stars happy to toast and roast Brooks, including Billy Crystal, Robert DeNiro, Cloris Leachman, Amy Poehler, Conan O'Brien, Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Kimmel, David Lynch and Larry David. As attendees dined on salad with cherries and almonds, pastrami-spiced beef filet and chocolate cake, the evening kicked off with a performance from Martin Short, who was rolled out on stage in a bed and dressed in pajamas, belting out the unforgettable Producers tune "Springtime for Hitler."
Here's a selection of the evening's best toasts and roasts:
Martin Short: "What's great about Mel is that he never lets his love of Scientology affect his work."
Billy Crystal: "It's very rare that you get a chance to say in public 'thank you' to one of your heroes. To me he's an original, a true comic icon who made me want to be a comedian. So tonight, Carl…" Crystal then paused and nodded at Carl Reiner, Brooks' oldest friend sitting at his head table, as the audience laughed.
Sarah Silverman: "Finally, a lifetime achievement award for Mel Brooks! Wow. What an elegant way to say, 'Hey: Let's wrap it up.' " And, "Handsome Mel Brooks taught us that when we contrast levity with great sadness we can get not just hilarious but also important comedy with a beautiful and deep inner core. And we also learned from another Mel – Mel Gibson, who taught us: 'Never drink and hate Jews.'
Robert DeNiro: "You know the one that really hurt? Overlooking me for the monster in Young Frankenstein. I mean, I was born to play that role."
Cloris Leachman: "I learned two Yiddish words from you. The first is mensch. The other is schtoop."
Conan O'Brien: "Mel's appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show are some of the most explosively funny and hilarious moments in the history of all late-night television. When I was growing up and word would get out that Mel Brooks was going to be a guest on Johnny, my whole house would stay up late.
Jimmy Kimmel: "We love you much more than Conan's family loves you."
Larry David: "I'm going to share something with you. Lavishing praise on people does not come easy to me. In fact, I find it distasteful…but not so tonight. When I first heard The 2,000 Year Old Man I was laughing so hard my father came into my room and turned off my record player."
Martin Scorsese: "Mel has always made his own comedy his own way, and reminded us yet again what is all too easy to forget: You can be a great filmmaker, just for laughs."
And Brooks? He ticked off a few reminders on a white notecard: "Thank AFI, friends, family and colleagues for coming. Try to be sincere. Don't forget the splendor of the event."
The broadcast will air on TNT Saturday, June 15, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.