Mel Brooks is a towering figure in the world of comedies, but just how does he do it? Surely, there’s more to his humor than one-liners. In this video, we take a look at one of his most recognizable trademarks, the “meta” quality of his movies (his tendency to reference himself and other films and genres). He routinely breaks the fourth wall and has characters address the audience, he references moments and styles from serious films through a parodic lens, and he’ll utilize his characters and dialogue to generate cultural commentaries (in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, for example, two female characters serve as a springboard into a reference to the Bechdel test). You can see his style in countless other directors’ movies (Edgar Wright, anyone?), and his cultural fingerprints are sure to linger well into the future.

Mel Brooks isn’t the only filmmaker whose work gets meta. Check out our other videos on meta movies and the use of meta flashbacks. And for more on how other filmmakers get inventive with their storytelling, scope out our thoughts on the work of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.