From the Moment Magazine seminar:
“I’m part of the generation that changed their name so they’d get hired. I went from Kaminsky to Brooks. My mother’s name was Brookman. But I couldn’t fit Brookman on the drums. I was a drummer. So I got as far as Brook and then put on an 's.' There was a lot of comedy when I was a little kid, street corner comics. We couldn’t own railroads, so prize fighting and comedy were open to us. We’re still comedians. Maybe because Jews cried for so long, it was time to laugh. Who knows?
"I started in the Borscht Belt with terrible jokes. The first joke I ever wrote, I think, was, 'You can’t keep Jews in jail, they eat lox.' I’ve seen Jews come through an awful lot in my life, especially the Holocaust. In the Army, I suffered a lot of anti-Semitism. Sometimes, I suffered a lot of curiosity from southerners: 'Mel, what’s a Jew? What do you people eat?'
"There’s much less stigma attached to being Jewish today than there used to be. But it’s still an excuse for gathering hate and anti-Semitism. What can we offer the world? We can still offer what Maimonides and Moses laid down. We can offer the law of human behavior. We astonishingly were one of the first cultures to create this thing called law, what is right and what is wrong, based on the tenets of the Old Testament. And, if they want something tasty, we can certainly offer matzoh brei.”