Sad news folks. Leslie Nielsen is no longer with us. The dead-pan comedy actor shrugged off his mortal coil at 84 years old after complications concerning pneumonia. Sadly, there’s no punchline to this.
Nielsen, of course, was the star of the brilliant ‘Airplane!’ and the ‘Police Squad’ TV show (unbelievably, only six episodes long!). He was also the man at the helm of the Naked Gun franchise (brilliantly awful in places) and spoof flicks like ‘Repossessed’.
After starting out as a serious actor who wasn’t very good, his fortunes turned when he gravitated toward comedy. His straight-faced dumbness and ability to completely not react to a joke won him fans all over the world. And so, we look at some of the highlights from his career.
Nielsen’s skill lay in making preposterous material incredibly straight. He always saw himself as a closet comedian, which was coaxed out in Airplane! and Police Squad.
Nielsen was the perfect comedic foil to spiralling farce, nonplussed by his surroundings and prone to taking things so literally, it made you feel a little drunk when he delivered his dynamite lines.
And now, we look at some of the highlights from his career. It’s okay to laugh – it is almost certainly what he would have wanted.
1. Terrible Kung Fu from Project: Kill
Sadly for Nielsen, this fight scene down by the docks in Project: Kill (surely the greatest film title ever?) is remembered for being really rubbish. However, in this clip, you can see why people felt that Nielsen had it in him to play the straight-face of comedy. It’s Nielsen’s woodenness that made Drebin so fall-down funny.
2. Mind boggling word play from Police Squad
The perfect example of just how great Nielsen was in the middle of wild wordplay. There isn’t a more perfect clip of Drebin in action than this one.
3. “Don’t Call Me Shirley”
One of the most iconic lines in comedy history. Magic!
4. Police Squad Epilogues
Toying with the format, the closing scenes of Police Squad are just too good.
5. “Unless he’s a drooling vegetable…”
Nielsen nails this scene where he shows the blithering idiocy of Drebin in full-on insensitive mode. Quite how Nielsen managed to make scenes like this so likeable is beyond mere mortals like us. All we need to do is sit back and laugh at him being a tit!
6. “Nothing to see here…”
Only Leslie Nielsen could get away with such ludicrous hammery in this famous ‘driving instructor’ scene’.
7. “He’s got a signed Picasso!”
Again, Drebin finds himself in the most preposterous situation and Nielsen goes about this fight scene in a similar way to Project: Kill. Alas, we’re supposed to laugh at this one.
8. Hydraulic Car
Even in absolute crud like Wrongfully Accused, Nielsen had the ability to make you burp up a proper chuckle.
9. Nielsen reviews morning television with his arse.
Nielsen appears with Lorraine Kelly and lets out a cheeky little Tommy Squeaker. It’s puerile as hell, but Leslie Nielsen brought out the tittering child in us all, right?
10. Freaking out on the plane
Nielsen’s cheeky second slap makes this scene so memorable. Throw a nun into the mix and you’ve got grade A comedy gold!
Of course, you could make a Top 10 clips from Airplane! alone and indeed, the same goes for Police Squad. Instead of complaining about the clips we missed, why not join in the celebration of Nielsen’s life and share your favourite memories with everyone in the comments. Feel free to link to videos or simply get dewy eyed and tell us about how much you loved him!
Leslie Nielsen will be greatly missed ’round these parts. Time to settle in with some Police Squad episodes and maybe revisit the schlocky-but-fun Repossessed.