x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Leslie Neilsen: The deadpan genius

Whether as Dr Rumack in the Airplane films, or Sergeant Frank Drebin in the The Naked Gun trilogy or the TV series that inspired them, Police Squad, Leslie Nielsen was never anything less than inspired.

Surely you can't be serious? "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley." The famous exchange between Leslie Nielsen, who sadly passed away on Sunday, and Robert Hays in 1980's gag-fest Airplane is rightfully considered to be one of comedy's most memorable set pieces. Indeed, with its stunning laugh-to-jokes ratio, Airplane can lay strong claims to being one of the funniest films of all time, if not the funniest. And at the heart of it is Leslie Nielsen's career-defining performance.

Whether as Dr Rumack in the Airplane films, or Sergeant Frank Drebin in the The Naked Gun trilogy or the TV series that inspired them, Police Squad, Nielsen was never anything less than inspired. His films even coaxed out fine comedic performances from co-stars like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Priscilla Presley and, curiously, OJ Simpson.

Nielsen's genius lay in his unerring ability to deliver the most deadpan of punchlines in the midst of the most farcical of scenes.

Nielsen once said, "Yes, it's true, I've been called the Laurence Olivier of spoofs. I guess that would make Laurence Olivier the Leslie Nielsen of Shakespeare." For a comedian, that's as good as it gets. Surely.