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Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett on HBO tonight

From the time he first posed as "The 2000 Year Old Man" for rollicking interviews with Carl Reiner, five or six decades ago, Mel Brooks has dug into the deep frictions of history and modern life and American culture and sent them rocketing up to a slapstick, wisecracking surface. His canny mix of low and high comedy clears the air of any cant about race, religion, sexual identity and Good Taste -- and any illusions about the dignity of popular art and entertainment. Reiner will be in the audience tonight on at HBO at 9, not on the stage; Brooks' main sparring partner will be Dick Cavett, and "The 2000 Year Old Man" will only appear (if at all) as a guest persona. But this is likely to be the funniest talk you'll see and hear all year -- all Brooks has to do is be as spontaneously witty and engaging as he's been in his previous thousand appearances.

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