ZUCKER, DAVID (1947– ), U.S. film producer. Born in Milwaukee, Wisc., Zucker studied film making at the University of Wisconsin. With a few borrowed video tape decks and an old film camera, Zucker and his brother, Jerry, and a friend, Jim Abrahams, formed Kentucky Fried Theater, a theatrical sketch group, in the back of a bookstore in Madison, Wisc. Moving to Los Angeles in 1972, they presented a satirical blend of videotaped, filmed and live sketches that in five years became the most successful small theater group there. In 1977 the team collaborated on their first feature film, Kentucky Fried Movie, essentially an extension of their sketches, and it became a financial success. Their next project created a new film genre. Conceived by David Zucker as a comedy without comedians, the film Airplane! featured dramatic actors performing zany dialogue with straight-laced sincerity. The spoof became a surprise hit of 1980, positioning the trio as kingpins of Hollywood comedy. They broke into television in 1982 with the series Police Squad!, which did for the detective drama what Airplane! did for its genre. Their streak of successful movies continued with the secret agent spoof Top Secret! (1984) and the biting farce Ruthless People (1986), which became one of the top-grossing films of the year. In 1988 David, on his own, directed The Naked Gun, based on Police Squad!, and it was a runaway hit. The 1991 follow-up, Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, surpassed the original at the box office. The final installment,Naked Gun 33⅓, which David produced, was also another box-office hit. David also co-produced several serious films, including Phone Booth (2001).
[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]