I’ve come to the realization that, up until now, I have only been talking about serious movies and music on my blog. That changes now. I love comedies. While there are plenty of times for serious movies that explore deep topics and make us think differently, there are also many times where we just want to laugh. And if you just want to laugh, then there is no better movie to watch than Airplane!, the classic 1980 movie by Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker. Not only do I think Airplane! is a funny movie, I strongly believe that Airplane! is the funniest movie ever made.
There are two kinds of comedy movies: those made before Airplane! and those made after. Before Airplane! you had movies like The Jerk and Some Like it Hot. These movie were funny to be sure, but they were also very formulaic. The typical comedy consisted of the straight man and the joker. It made it very easy for audiences to understand where to laugh. All sorts of zany antics happened to the straight man and the joker, and laughs would derive either from the situations they were in, or the joker’s observations on these events. Airplane! put this predictable formula on its head.
Instead of having a joker and a straight man, Airplane! only had straight men. In fact, the Zucker brothers cast exclusively actors previously only known for serious roles. Instead of leaving cues for where the audience should laugh, the Zucker brothers kept all the actors faces completely serious. If anyone smiled or laughed at a joke, the directors would shoot the scene again. This sort of directing had been done rarely if ever before in comedy. However, without good jokes, none of this innovation would have made any difference.
Luckily, Airplane! has more jokes than any movie before. Before the Wayans brothers created a thing, Airplane! was pioneering their format. There is literally a laugh a minute in this movie. If you don’t find a joke funny, don’t worry, there’s another one coming faster than you can say, “I don’t get it.” Unlike the Wayans Bros, nine times out of ten you will find the joke funny. The jokes in Airplane! are not high concept in the least. They are stupid, ridiculous jokes that can really only be described as goofy. But if you go into the movie expecting high concepts, then you clearly don’t understand the point.
The jokes are classic. The drinking problem. The blow-up auto-pilot. “How do you like your coffee?””Black, the same as my men.” (A line delivered by an eight year old girl.) The jive talking nun. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a co-pilot. They are all immortal and timeless. We are now spoiled by movies like Anchorman and Caddyshack, that have aped this technique to great success. However, Airplane did it first, and still did it best.