Who else but Hollywood veteran David Zucker could possibly direct a brainless Spidey spoof like Superhero Movie? This is the guy, after all, who teamed up with Jim Abrahams and brother Jerry Zucker to deliver gut-busters like Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, Top Secret!, and The Naked Gun; and, after Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker split in the late 80s, he kept his stronghold in cornball fare by directing BASEketball and producing the highly anticipated Untitled Onion Movie.
Some might think Zucker went off his rocker recently after cranking out anti-leftist propaganda for the G.O.P., but the Weinstein Company managed to separate funny business from politics when it came to Superhero Movie. After all, Zucker has pulled through more than once for Bob and Harvey (namely Scary Movie 3 and 4) and they expect more of the same when his latest hits theaters March 28. Zucker recently sat down with _Heeb_ to discuss his films, politics and the legendary comedy trio that was ZAZ.
When you look at all the cornball comedies ZAZ made over the years, is it possible to claim certain lines in the movies as yours?
The truth is we never remember who came up with what lines. It became a way of working in collaboration. Though all the really out there stuff—the nasty stuff—was probably Abrahams. If you ever saw Zero Hour, it was the exact plot as Airplane!. When the old commander had to talk the pilot down, one of the airport controllers actually used the line ‘I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.’
So the three of you were responsible for transforming all those lame films into comedy gold?
Give [screenwriter] Pat Proft credit, too. In 1972, when the three of us did our live stage show on Pico Blvd in LA, Pat was on stage with us. We would go to see his standup routine at The Comedy Store on Sunset. We were regulars. We would see Letterman, Leno, Robin Williams, but we thought Pat Proft was the funniest.
When did the three of you to part ways?
We were together almost 20 years, since around ’71. We wrote the original Naked Gun draft together, then decided to loosely be involved with one another. So Jim did Big Business and Hot Shots. Jerry did Ghost and First Knight and I started with the Naked Gun sequels.
What caused this breakup?
We all directed Ruthless People together, and we took a hit—then there was no back end. It was silly for all three guys on the set together to share one salary.
Have you ever been given flack for the separation? I mean, has your work since been dismissed as less edgy or not as funny?
The humor is a lot broader now. Scary Movies 3 and 4 have a different tone than the first two. The Wayans could say or show anything, but the PG-13 rating requires a different skill. The studio needs a younger and wider audience, so you can have the alien walk by while the horse is shitting instead of a penis sticking through the restroom stall gloryhole. If you can keep that consistency, then you can get your PG-13.
But what about in comparison to your older movies, like Airplane! And Naked Gun? Do your fans think your funny bone has changed?
It’s more hip now, I think, because the writers are younger. We have writers doing jokes about Amy Winehouse. I don’t even know who she is, but I get it. Once they explain to me what we’re doing, then I’m in.
Well you might be out of touch with pop culture, but at least you can make whatever the hell you want—like agit prop for the Republican Party. Have people in the industry written you off because of these videos?
In 2004, other parents at the school my kids go to looked at me like ‘How could you betray the cause?’ I have my own political views. I voted for Gore, but I changed. I think people look at me like I’m eccentric. Hollywood swims in a very far left sea, and the air we breathe is Kerry and Obama and Hilary. If you come out voting for McCain, then you’re regarded as a Republican … as bad people.
So do Hollywood players see you as ‘bad people’?
Where does the funding come from for these videos?
Everybody kind of chips in between The Hollywood Republicans. It’s like the new gay, and there are more than maybe people realize in this town. Whenever I’m on these movie sets, people come up to me in quiet voices and say ‘I voted for Bush, too.’
What about your family? I imagine you grew up in a house of super-liberal Roosevelt Jews. Do they think you’re meshug?
It’s a testament to how much they love me. I was in Milwaukee and was doing a morning talk radio show, and I asked my mom afterwards if I was the black sheep of the family. She goes, ‘Oh no not at all. You do a lot of good things too.’
What can we expect from The Untitled Onion Movie?
We have been working on it for like six or seven years. We had these directors who did one version, and about 50 minutes of it was really good. So we needed to reshoot a couple weeks for the 80 minutes we needed, but the studio changed hands and didn’t want to spend the extra money. It’s all written by The Onion staff and still pretty outrageous stuff, though.
Are your kids looking forward to it?
My kids are eight and five, so they don’t really know. But Charles loves Airplane! His favorite scene is always the boobies. That’s all he ever remembers from it.