The Backstory of Funny: From Airplane to Scary Movie, At Home With David Zucker

David Zucker sat down with The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk in the latest episode of “At Home With The Creative Coalition,” a podcast featuring unplugged and uncensored conversations with today’s biggest stars. In the newest episode, Zucker talks about how he got started in directing, his work on “Ruthless People”, cancel culture in comedy today, and more. Highlights below.

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Highlights from “At Home With The Creative Coalition” featuring David Zucker —

Zucker on when he decided that he wanted to make a living out of directing:
“I knew I wanted to make jokes but, when you grow up in Milwaukee, you never imagine becoming a Hollywood director. That was like not even on the horizon anywhere in the universe. I did want to become an advertising person and write copy and create, direct funny commercials… After I graduated from college I actually applied for jobs at advertising agencies and film companies but they were like just film distribution companies and also I think I was singularly unimpressive… When I was there (University of Wisconsin) as a student, I would make student films with my brother and one the professor liked so much, because I showed it in my study group. My TA took it to the professor and the professor wanted to show it for the entire 600 student lecture and we did. That was like our first taste of ‘Wow, we can make people laugh’.”

Zucker on having an easier time to get his movies made post-Airplane!:
Yeah, Paramount wanted us to do Airplane 2 and we said, ‘Well, we don’t want to do an Airplane movie anymore’, but we will do a movie called Airplane 2 if it’s this: Striker and Elaine land the plane and he brings her home to meet his family and it’s The Godfather and so the rest of the movie is The Godfather…. Eisner and Katzenberg liked the idea but I think that Francis Coppola weighed in and did not approve of that because he wanted to continue with The Godfather movies.”

Zucker on Ruthless People and the star-studded cast involved:
“At the time, we didn’t want to do another spoof so Katzenburg called me and said, ‘I got this script called Ruthless People, will you read it?’ and I did and it was funny, it wasn’t the stuff that we did but I was laughing out loud. I think we met with Launer and he was a great guy so we proceeded to do a rewrite. Jerry, Jim and I had suggestions but Dale wrote the whole thing… I remember our first meeting with Danny DeVito and we said ‘do you mind three directors?’ and he said ‘I’m used to five directors and ten directors’… he was great and Bette and Danny got along fine… In Ruthless People, Danny is just reading the lines, he’s being Danny, not that anyone else could have done that but he was amazing and so it was better.

Zucker on cancel culture in the comedy genre:
“The sad thing is, there’s probably 9%, I call them the nine-percenters, who don’t have a sense of humor and so they bring in all sorts of other criteria, like it’s this or that, if it’s funny, then it’s funny. I mean, imagine going to a studio and saying, ‘Okay, in this movie we’re going to have an old white lady translate the speech of black people because people can’t understand it’. I think the actual humans in audiences, except the nine-percenters, will laugh hysterically at it. If you’re in a studio executive room, you’ll think, well these trolls on the internet are going to kill us on this. There’s a lot of fear and I’m not sure what to do about it but funny is funny. Airplane wouldn’t get made today or maybe it would be R-rated.”

Zucker on streaming and comedy:
“Comedy can work on streaming and cable however, there’s nothing like being in a crowded theater with other people laughing because laughter is contagious and if you’re watching it alone in your den, it’s not going to be a good experience.”


More about “At Home With The Creative Coalition”
Hosted by The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk, “At Home With The Creative Coalition” brings listeners intimate portraits, key moments of discovery, and “art and soul” conversations with iconic entertainment industry personalities from the big screen to the boardroom, from L.A. to D.C. Listen now at

Upcoming guests include Griffin Dunne (“This Is Us,” “Dallas Buyers Club”), Willie Garson (“Hawaii Five-0,” “White Collar”), New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Isaacs (“Compromising Positions,” “Takes One to Know One”), Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace,” “Travelers”), Haley Joel Osment (“Future Man,” “Entourage”), Yolonda Ross (“The Chi,” “How to Get Away with Murder”), Reid Scott (“Why Women Kill,” “Veep”), and Matt Walsh (“Veep,” “UCB Comedy Originals”).

Previous guests include Jason Alexander (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Harley Quinn,” “Saturday Night Seder”), David Alan Basche (“The Exes,” “United 93”), Asante Blackk (“This Is Us,” “When They See Us”), Carly Chaikin (“Mr. Robot”), Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “My So-Called Life”), Alan Cumming (“Briarpatch,” “Instinct,” “The Good Wife”), The Creative Coalition President and actor Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary”), Lea DeLaria (“Orange Is the New Black”), Jim Gaffigan (“Tesla,” “The Jim Gaffigan Show”), Judy Gold (“The Other F Word,” “Nightcap”), Clark Gregg (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “The Avengers”), Jason Isaacs (“The OA,” “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Harry Potter”), Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Big Mouth,” “Gotham”), Chad Lowe (“Supergirl,” “Life in Pieces,” “Pretty Little Liars”), AnnaLynne McCord (“Nip/Tuck,” “90210”), Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs,” “Reno 911!”), Katherine McNamara (“Shadowhunters,” “Arrow”), Rob Morrow (“Billions,” “The Fosters”), Kathy Najimy (“Hocus Pocus,” “Sister Act”), Bill Prady (“The Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon,” “The Muppets”), Jessica Queller (“Supergirl,” “Gossip Girl”), Anthony Rapp (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Rent”), Julie Taymor (“The Lion King,” “Frida,” “The Glorias”), Alfre Woodard (“Clemency,” “Luke Cage”), and Constance Zimmer (“Condor,” “UnREAL”).

More about The Creative Coalition
The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating its members on issues of public importance. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns including #RightToBearArts to promote the efficacy of the arts. For more information, visit