DID YOU READ

Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010

Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010 (photo)

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Leslie Nielsen wasn’t at the top of the list of actors David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker wanted to play Dr. Rumack in “Airplane!” The way his career was going in 1980, he was lucky to make the list at all. On the DVD commentary for “Airplane!” Jerry Zucker says, “The casting director could not understand why we wanted to cast Leslie Nielsen. ‘Leslie Nielsen is the guy you cast the night before!'” That guy you cast the night before died of complications from pneumonia and a staph infection Sunday, after a career that was undistinguished in the best way possible. He’ll be remembered for his unlikely reinvention as a comedic titan after decades as a dramatic also-ran.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1926, Nielsen always wanted to be an actor. At least that was the story he told in his “autobiography” “The Naked Truth.” “From my earliest memories,” he wrote, in a very silly book that reads like a ZAZ screenplay, “I’ve known precisely what my nietzsche in life was: To be an actor. It is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, with the possible exception of driving against traffic in the Indianapolis 500.”

Nielsen moved to New York City, studied at the Actors Studio, moved into television, and slowly worked his way into films. His best known “serious” role was in the 1956 sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet” though — let’s face it — he gets upstaged by the robot. Mostly he made a lot of forgettable dramas and schlock. When disaster films came into vogue in the 1970s, he did those too, including playing the captain in “The Poseidon Adventure,” the part that gave him the slightest of casting edges for the disaster spoof “Airplane!”

Introduced asleep and wearing a stethoscope, Nielsen was reborn as the Zuckers’ muse. Now he was the guy upstaging others, never more famously than when replying to the line “Surely you can’t be serious!” with the immortal comeback “I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.” Though he was far from the biggest name in “Airplane!”, had far from the biggest part, the Zuckers knew they’d found a star. And though he parlayed the surprising box office success of “The Naked Gun” series into many parody vehicles without them, he was always at his best with the Zuckers. Their collaboration lasted over 25 years and remained strong until near the end of Nielsen’s life. He’s the unquestionable highlight of David Zucker’s two entries in the “Scary Movie” franchise, playing a President of the United States who makes W. look like George Washington. His joy, stumbling around the United Nations with no clothes on as his 80-year-old flesh flaps in the wind, is palpable.

Though everyone loves “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” series, not everyone appreciates Nielsen’s gifts. He’s been perennially dismissed as the “dumb guy” in those “dumb movies,” as if his work was almost anthropological in nature. But look at all the skills he possessed. He could deliver the silliest dialogue seriously and the most serious dialogue with a wicked comedic edge. He was an amazing physical comedian. He was believably tough in an onscreen fight. And he gave a double take like nobody else in the business. His was the burly, silvery face of masculinity and stupidity combined or, as some* have labeled Nielsen’s unique onscreen charisma, “masculinipidity.”

Movies like “The Naked Gun” are often deemed less important than more “artistic” films that have things like “plots” and “characters” and “less than three dick jokes.” And I’m not denying there’s a place in this world for “Battleship Potemkin” and “Tokyo Story.” But think about how many times you’ve watched those movies, and then think about how many times you’ve seen Leslie Nielsen’s films. How many times you’ve stumbled across “Airplane!” on television and gotten sucked in all over again. Or how many times you’ve quoted one of his signature lines (“It’s true what they say: Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like eating a spoonful of Drano; sure, it’ll clean you out, but it’ll leave you hollow inside.”). He wasn’t as acclaimed as Brando or Pacino, or as venerated as Hepburn or Olivier. But few in the history of movies gave more people more pleasure than Leslie Nielsen.

And now he’s gone. The Guy You Cast The Night Before is officially The Comedian Who Will Never Be Replaced.

*By some, I mean me.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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