Albert Brooks (born July 22, 1947) is an actor, comedian, and director. He was born Albert Einstein in Los Angeles, California.
His father, Harry Einstein, was known as Parkyarkarkus, a Greek dialect comedian who performed on Eddie Cantor's radio program. Albert grew up among showbiz royalty in southern California, attending high school with Carl Reiner's son Rob and Joey Bishop's son Larry. To break into acting Albert attended Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, then changed his surname and began a standup career which quickly made him a staple on variety and talk shows during the late '60s/early '70s. Brooks's onstage persona of an egotistical, nervous comic influenced such other comedians as Steve Martin, Martin Mull, and Andy Kaufman.
After two successful comedy albums, Brooks left the standup circuit to try his hand as a filmmaker; his first film was a satiric short The Famous Comedians School which appeared on PBS and was an early example of the mockumentary comedy sub-genre. He then directed six short films for the first season of NBC's Saturday Night Live in 1975 and appeared in his first film, opposite Cybill Shepherd in Scorsese's landmark Taxi Driver (Scorcese allowed Brooks to improvise much of his dialogue). Brooks also made a brief cameo in Goldie Hawn's Private Benjamin (1980).
Brooks directed his first feature film, Real Life, in 1979. Real Life was a witty sendup of PBS's American Family documentary, in which Brooks obnoxiously films a typical suburban family in an effort to win not just an Oscar, but a Nobel Prize.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, Brooks would co-write (with longtime collaborator Monica Johnson), direct, and star in a series of moderately-successful comedies, playing variants on his standard neurotic and self-obsessed character. In Modern Romance Brooks played as a film editor desperate to win back his ex-girlfriend.
His best-received film, Lost in America (1985), featured Brooks and Julie Hagerty as a couple who ditch their yuppie lifestyle to live in a motor home, only to find the disadvantages of poverty. The movie has several bravura scenes, including Brooks' unsuccessful negotiations with Vegas casino owner Garry Marshall as well as his "nest egg" monologue.
Defending Your Life (1991) placed Brooks's lead character in the afterlife, put on trial to justify his human failings and to determine his cosmic fate. Critics responded to the offbeat premise and recognized Brooks and the comedic performance from Meryl Streep as his post-death love interest. Mother (1997) starred Brooks as a middle-aged writer moving back home to resolve his tensions with Mom (Debbie Reynolds). The Muse (1999) presented Brooks as a down-and-out Hollywood screenwriter using the services of an authentic Greek muse (Sharon Stone) for inspiration.
Brooks also continued acting in other people's films during the 1980s and 1990s. In James Brooks's Broadcast News (1987), Albert won an Oscar nomination as an insecure, supremely ethical network TV reporter. He also won accolades in Out of Sight (1999) and My First Mister (2001) and has appeared as a guest voice on The Simpsons four times during its run. He countinued his voice over work in Disney and Pixar's Finding Nemo as the voice of Marlin the clown fish.
A longtime bachelor (he was romantically linked to such celebrities as Linda Ronstadt and Kathryn Harrold), Brooks married in his late 40s and became a father in his 50s.