“Shirley You Can’t Be Serious!” The Oral History Of “Airplane!”


“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!”

Of course you know the line, just as you know this classic movie exchange:


And of course, this film is also known for the greatest comedic exchange of all time:

Rumack: “I won’t deceive you, Mr. Striker. We’re running out of time.”
Ted Striker: “Surely there must be something you can do.”
Rumack: “I’m doing everything I can… and stop calling me Shirley!”


Time For The “Oral” History Of “Airplane!”

Whenever you ask people to name the funniest movie of all time, “Airplane” is near or at the top of the list…a non-stop barrage of sight gags, hilariously over-the-top dialogue and genuinely funny scenes performed in perfect deadpan, “Airplane” was directed by the team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker…


Now, thanks to The Onion’s “A.V. Club”, there is a terrific oral history of the movie! That’s right, The AV Club has a very entertaining look at one of the funniest films ever made….

funniest movies of all time

“Airplane” is actually a comedic remake of the 50’s film “Zero Hour”, but the trio used that plot as the taking off point for their comedic madness….as the oral history says:

“We were so fortunate to have had Zero Hour! as our blueprint, because we really knew nothing about film structure. We were funny guys, but we knew nothing about crafting a movie. The people at Paramount really taught us about making plot points into jokes, about making jokes into plot points, and showed us places where we were probably taking too much time with plot and needed to make cuts.”

There is so much more great stuff, which you can read here:


Now, let’s take a look at some of the most hilarious moments from “Airplane!”

Airplane movie poster

“Airplane!” – Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker!

Yes, these are the guys who wrote “Kentucky Fried Movie” – more on that in a moment, but here is the trailer for “Airplane!”

The idea was simple and classic: make a parody of that old movie standard – the disaster film – using “Zero Hour!” as the template – and hit the audience with a non-stop barrage of comedy set pieces – with recognizable Actors who had NEVER done comedy and play the entire movie as a straight drama!


Still craving for the love of his life, Ted Striker follows Elaine onto the flight that she is working on as a member of the cabin crew. Elaine doesn’t want to be with Ted anymore, but when the crew and passengers fall ill from food poisoning, all eyes are on Ted.

Of course, Capt. Oveur is more interested in getting to know Joey…


Captain Oveur: “Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

Leslie Neilson Airplane

This is the movie that turned Leslie Nielsen into a comic legend…

Rumack: You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Rumack: It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.

best comedies of all time

And what about Barbara Billingsley, the “Leave It To Beaver” Mom in a hilarious cameo as the “Lady Who Speaks Jive”:

Randy: Can I get you something?
Second Jive Dude: ‘S’mofo butter layin’ me to da’ BONE! Jackin’ me up… tight me!
Randy: I’m sorry, I don’t understand.
First Jive Dude: Cutty say ‘e can’t HANG!
Jive Lady: Oh stewardess! I speak jive.
Randy: Oh, good.
Jive Lady: He said that he’s in great pain and he wants to know if you can help him.
Randy: All right. Would you tell him to just relax and I’ll be back as soon as I can with some medicine?
Jive Lady: [to the Second Jive Dude] Jus’ hang loose, blood. She gonna catch ya up on da’ rebound on da’ med side.
Second Jive Dude: What it is, big mama? My mama no raise no dummies. I dug her rap!
Jive Lady: Cut me some slack, Jack! Chump don’ want no help, chump don’t GET da’ help!
First Jive Dude: Say ‘e can’t hang, say seven up!
Jive Lady: Jive ass dude don’t got no brains anyhow! Shiiiiit.


And what about classic Actors Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges – hilarious by playing the movie as a straight drama…here’s Robert Stack speaking to Ted Striker:

“Do you know what it’s like to fall in the mud and get kicked… in the head… with an iron boot? Of course you don’t, no one does. It never happens. Sorry, Ted, that’s a dumb question… skip that.”

best movie comedies

And of course Lloyd Bridges – who ALMOST steals the movie as he continues to lament his decisions that week:

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.”


“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.”

best comedies


“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

And finally:

Airplane Lloyd Bridges

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines!”

Airplane movie lines


And of course, probably the most well-known line from the movie – a comedy classic…

Rumack: “I won’t deceive you, Mr. Striker. We’re running out of time.”
Ted Striker: “Surely there must be something you can do.”
Rumack: “I’m doing everything I can… and stop calling me Shirley!”

“Airplane” is one of cinema’s funniest films – and it holds up every time you watch – so read The Onion’s terrific oral history – and then check out the trio’s FIRST movie – the brilliant:


Yes, they began as “The Kentucky Fried Theater”, and comedy sketch group whose first film was directed by John Landis, who directed this classic comedy:


Landis then was hired to direct “Kentucky Fried Movie”, a collection of sketches that includes such brilliantly funny gems as:


And the flawless parody of Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon”:

A fistful of yen

To read all about this cult classic, click on my story here:


And make sure you buy the blu-ray versions of both films, which come packed with great extras!

kentucky fried movie comedy

Categories: 70's Cinema, Action Films, Books / Media, Comedy Movies, Cult Movies, Exploitation films, Funny Pictures, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Los Angeles, Movies, Movies About Movies, Obscure Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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3 replies

  1. I think my husband will really enjoy this, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on johnrieber and commented:

    Came across “The Naked Gun” the other night and it reminded me of just how funny this movie is…



  1. Incredible Nightclub Movie Mashup “Hells Club”! Star Wars! Boogie Nights! Scarface! | johnrieber

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