is one of Hollywood's most successful filmmakers, with such smash comic hits as Airplane! Ruthless People
, and the Naked Gun
series to his credit. Starting out after college with a few borrowed video tape decks and an old film camera, David convinced brother Jerry and family friend Jim Abrahams
to join him in creating the Kentucky Fried Theater in the back of a bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin. Moving to Los Angeles in 1972, their success continued with a new show, presenting their unique, satirical blend of videotaped, filmed, and live sketches. In five years, they became the most successful small theater group in Los Angeles history. In 1977, the team collaborated on their first feature film, the aptly titled Kentucky Fried Movie
. Essentially an extension of the live Kentucky Fried
experience, the movie, written and produced by, and co-starring the ZAZ team, became a hit independent release which remains a cult classic to this day.
But it was the next project, which created a whole new film genre. Conceived by David as a comedy without comedians, Airplane! featured dramatic actors like Robert Stack and Peter Graves performing zany dialogue with straight-laced sincerity. The spoof became the surprise hit of 1980, positioning ZAZ as kingpins of Hollywood comedy. They broke into TV with the Emmy-nominated Police Squad! which, in a weekly half-hour format, did for the detective drama what Airplane! did for its genre. Their streak of successful movies continued with the secret agent spoof Top Secret! starring Val Kilmer, and the biting farce of Ruthless People, with Bette Midler and Danny DeVito, which became one of the top-grossing films of the year. In 1988, David Zucker ventured on to his first film as solo director. The Naked Gun, based on Police Squad! with Leslie Nielsen reprising his role of Lt. Frank Drebin, was a runaway hit. The 1991 follow-up, Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, surpassed the original at the box office. The final installment, Naked Gun 33 1/3, produced by David, was also another box-office hit. Branching out into drama, Zucker co-produced, with partner Gil Netter, A Walk in the Clouds, starring Keanu Reeves, and the thriller, Phone Booth, starring Colin Farrell and Katie Holmes. Most recently, David directed Ashton Kutcher, Tara Reid, Terence Stamp and Molly Shannon in My Boss's Daughter.