David Zucker has been in the entertainment industry since the early 1970s, directing films like “Airplane!” and films from the “Scary Movie” franchise, but he is currently disappointed with cancel culture infiltrating the film scene.
“Comedy is in trouble, of course,” the 75-year-old explained in an interview with PragerU.
Known for his spoofs and parodies, Zucker says that when he started out in the industry, the threshold for what qualified as offensive was very different.
“The theater served as a laboratory for our humor,” Zucker said of trying out material with his writing partner. “We got instant reactions, and we could be as offensive as we liked… We went where the laughs were, and we never thought that we were offending anybody. But if were offending people, then we knew we were on the right track.”
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His hit 1980 film “Airplane!” starring Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a spoof of the black-and-white film “Zero Hour!”
“When we would do screenings of ‘Airplane!’ we’d get the question, ‘Could you do “Airplane!” today?’” Zucker shared. “And the first thing I could think of is, ‘Sure, just without the jokes.'”
Speaking on the evolution of jokes in film today, Zucker notes, “As time went on, it got to be the 90s and the 2000s, then it did change. I mean we never worried about any of this stuff – with ‘The Naked Guns’ or even the ‘Scary Movies.’”
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The thing he’s talking about – crossing a line.
“My current writing partner, Pat Proft and I, you know, wrote a parody film on ‘James Bond’ and ‘Mission Impossible.’ One female executive said, ‘You know, this joke is getting pretty risqué here.’ … It was just a very mild joke about the lead female character, because she had, you know, come up through the police department and through the FBI, said she needed a breast reduction to fit into the Kevlar vest. It was pure oatmeal, so mild. Not one of our funniest things – but this was like too much. And I thought, ‘Gee if this was the criteria for it, we’re in big trouble.’ You know, they’re destroying comedy because of nine percent of the people who don’t have a sense of humor.
Although he thinks the current state of comedy is in disarray, he thinks it will make a comeback.
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“I just think there’s a pendulum. The pendulum will swing back. I would like to see comedy filmmakers do comedies without fear…. I mean, we always used to do whatever we wanted and then try it out in front of audiences. If something was really offensive, you’d just get a giant sucking sound out of the audience. And that’s not good… We don’t want to make a point, we don’t want to try to educate, we just want to make people laugh.”