Airplane! Director David Zucker Says Cancel Culture Is Stifling Comedy


The cancel culture debate has given rise to wide-ranging opinions from many comedians, some of whom claim there jobs have become harder than ever before in a world where one wrong word is enough to see their career hit the skids.

Seth Rogen thinks that if you’re good enough at being a comic, then you won’t have much trouble writing jokes to enjoy sustained success as a stand-up, but older films are coming under a harsher spotlight than ever before thanks to some gags that definitely wouldn’t fly in a modern context.

David Zucker was once the king of Hollywood comedy thanks to Airplane! and The Naked Gun series, the former of which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. In an essay published in The New York Post, the filmmaker shares his belief that cancel culture is having an effect on the artform at large, citing his own work as an example.

“Paramount discussed withholding the re-release over feared backlash for scenes that today would be deemed “insensitive. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said to me, ‘You couldn’t do that scene today’. But I always wonder, why not? Half the gags in that joke were aimed at white people, given that the translation for ‘sh*t’ is ‘golly’, and the whole gag is topped off by the whitest lady on the planet, the actress who played the mom on Leave It to Beaver, translating.

I admit that their fear of audience retaliation is not entirely unwarranted. There is a very vocal, though I believe small, percentage of the population that can’t differentiate between Glue Sniffing Joke and Glue Sniffing Drug Problem. It is these people whom studio executives fear when they think twice about re-releasing Airplane! on its 40th anniversary, when they put disclaimers in front of Blazing Saddles, or when they pressure writers to remove jokes that are otherwise perfectly offensive.”


It’s a double-edged sword for a number of reasons, not least of all the fact Airplane! remains one of the funniest movies ever put out by a major Hollywood studio. It’s sensitive subject that not everyone’s ever going to agree on, but it’s one that won’t be going away for a long time, either.