Surely You Can't Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!

David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker

Book cover for Surely You Can't Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!
Book cover for Surely You Can't Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!

Surely You Can't Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!

Surely You Can't Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!

David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker

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Surely You Can't Be Serious is an in-depth and hysterical look at the making of 1980's comedy classic Airplane! by the legendary writers and directors of the hit film.

Airplane! premiered on July 2nd, 1980. With a budget of $3.5 million it went on to make nearly $200 million in sales and has influenced a multitude of comedians on both sides of the camera.

Surely You Can't Be Serious is the first-ever oral history of the making of Airplane! by the creators, and of the beginnings of the ZAZ trio (Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker) - charting the rise of their comedy troupe Kentucky Fried Theater in Madison, Wisconsin all the way to premiere night. The directors explain what drew them to filmmaking and in particular, comedy. With anecdotes, behind the scenes trivia, and never-before-revealed factoids - these titans of comedy filmmaking unpack everything from how they persuaded Peter Graves to be in the movie after he thought the script was a piece of garbage, how Lorna Patterson auditioned for the stewardess role in the back seat of Jerry's Volvo, and how Leslie Nielsen's pranks got the entire crew into trouble, to who really wrote the jive talk. The book also features testimonials and personal anecdotes from well-known faces in the film, television, and comedy sphere - proving how influential Airplane! has been from day one.

Four decades after its release, Airplane! continues to make new generations laugh. Its many one-liners and visual gags have worked their way into the mainstream culture. This fully organic expansion of the ZAZ trio's fan-base, prompted solely by word-of-mouth, comes as no surprise to longtime fans. When all around us is in flux - laughter is priceless.

About the Author

DAVID ZUCKER, JIM ABRAHAMS, and JERRY ZUCKER knew one another growing up in Shorewood, Wisconsin. While attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the trio founded a small theater known as The Kentucky Fried Theater in 1971. They moved to Los Angeles in 1972, which led to their first film The Kentucky Fried Movie in 1977. ZAZ's next film was their breakout hit Airplane! in 1980, which remains a revered comedic milestone.

Critical Reviews

"The multiple-voiced, oral history approach works so well for relaying the making-of story of a big comedy project because funny films are collaborative and often, as such books demonstrate, chaotic. It's the best way possible to tell the comprehensive tale of Airplane!, the monumental 1980 comedy film that changed the game." --Vulture

"The Zucker brothers and Abrahams debut with a rollicking oral history unpacking how their 1980 comedy Airplane! was made ... This is a must-read for anyone who loves the film." --Publishers Weekly

"This delightful book, like Airplane! and many other ZAZ productions, is multilayered, incisive, and surprising ... A hilarious, well-structured account of and tribute to a significant film." --Kirkus Reviews

"[A]n affectionate oral history ... Fans of the film will likely enjoy this engaging behind-the-scenes look." --Library Journal

"This is a wonderful book, full of laughs, surprises, high drama, low comedy, and that delightful feeling of excitement when the underdog scores big. For fans of the movie, a must-read. Ditto for fans of making-of books." --Booklist

"'Airplane!'" is one of the most beloved and influential comedies to ever hit the silver screen. Surely you want to know more about it. The new book "Surely You Can't Be Serious: The True Story of 'Airplane!, '" is an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how the iconic 1980 movie was made ... The book is chock full of fun facts and stories that fans will no doubt find fascinating."

"The book is a gift for anyone remotely interested in the art of comedy .. wonderfully vivid." --Haaretz

"If some day they ever wrote a book about how Airplane! got made, I'm sure it would be a bestseller." --The Pittsburg Picayune

"When you make a list of the best movies of all time, you're always going to put Airplane! on it. And if movies like that aren't being made right now, it's because people aren't smart enough or funny enough to make them." --Judd Apatow

"Seeing the movie for the first time taught me a great lesson: You've got to play comedy as if it's deadly serious. You've got to play weirdness as if it's the most normal thing in the world." --Patton Oswalt

"Airplane! changed comedy...It was such a specific genre of comedy that no one really has been quite able to rip off, astonishingly." --Sarah Silverman

"Honestly, Airplane! was sort of the Star Wars of comedy...We went to see it several times, with different friends and everything. It was a big deal." --Trey Parker & Matt Stone

"It's weird. It's unexpected. It's absurd. And it never pauses for a laugh, because there's always another one coming." --The Guardian

"Within months of its release in July 1980 "Airplane!" became one of the highest-grossing comedies in box office history. And it remains one of the most influential... a compact, even classical piece of filmmaking. " --The New York Times

"Frequently imitated but never surpassed, this seriously funny disaster flick made a mockery of itself...a nonstop parade of jokes--absurdist, frequently childish, some certainly in poor taste by contemporary standards, but mostly just...funny." --Smithsonian Magazine

"[A]side from still being ridiculously funny, it's the rare Hollywood comedy that doesn't rely on quickly-dated pop culture references for its humor. It's both of its time and of no time. More than anything, it's a satire of a certain style of acting--a wooden earnestness that will always come with a bullseye pinned on its back. After all, as long as there are actors who take themselves too seriously, puncturing and deflating them will never go out of style. Like Airplane! itself, it's timeless." --Esquire

Publishing Information

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub date: 2023-10-03
Length: 352 pages

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