Leslie Nielsen: King of Comic One-Liners

Leslie Nielsen, who has just passed away in Florida aged 84, must have been a dream to write for, especially for a comic writer. His blend of occasionally moronic earnestness and utter silliness were the perfect tools to tackle even the most ridiculous of lines without ever compromising the integrity of the character.

As any midwife will tell you, it's all in the delivery, and in Nielsen comedy fans had the best.

Not only were his lines always perfectly pitched, occasionally thrown away, mostly said with the confused air of a man who fully knows he is the sole island of rightness in a sea of idiocy but he also played his characters in a way that encouraged us to laugh even more. There is nothing funnier or more enjoyable than the invitation to laugh at self-important, outwardly dignified people who have no self-awareness: to them, they are the pinnacle of human integrity and intellect, to everyone else, that demeanour just makes their inevitable fuck-ups more enjoyable.

Today, in light of the great man's death, we at Obsessed With Film celebrate a few choice examples from his two greatest comic creations, Detective Frank Drebin (Police Squad and The Naked Gun) and Dr Rumack (Airplane)...

Dr Rumack- Airplane!

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it? Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious. Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.
Frank: I'm single! I love being single! I haven't had this much sex since I was a Boy Scout leader! Music Stops. People stare.Frank: I mean at the time I was dating a lot. Rumack: You'd better tell the Captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital. Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it? Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now. Rumack: Captain, how soon can you land? Captain Oveur: I can't tell. Rumack: You can tell me. I'm a doctor. Captain Oveur: No. I mean I'm just not sure. Rumack: Well, can't you take a guess? Captain Oveur: Well, not for another two hours. Rumack: You can't take a guess for another two hours? Rumack: What was it we had for dinner tonight? Elaine: Well, we had a choice of steak or fish. Rumack: Yes, yes, I remember. I had lasagne
And the genius of Frank Drebin, Police Squad and Naked Gun... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k03ho19FiGA
Frank: Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes. Frank: Like a blind man at an orgy, I was going to have to feel my way through.. Quentin Hapsburg: Que sera sera... You do speak French, don't you? Lt. Frank Drebin: Unfortunately no, but I do kiss that way. Hapsburg: I don't recall your name on the guest list. Frank: That's OK. I sometimes go by my maiden name.
Frank: It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. Jane: Goodyear? Frank: No, the worst.
Frank: We're sorry to bother you at such a time like this, Mrs. Twice. We would have come earlier, but your husband wasn't dead then.
Mayor: Now Drebin, I don't want any trouble like you had on the South Side last year, that's my policy. Frank: Well, when I see five weirdos, dressed in togas, stabbing a man in the middle of the park in full view of a hundred people, I shoot the bastards, that's *my* policy! Mayor: That was a Shakespeare-In-The-Park production of 'Julius Caesar,' you moron! You killed five actors! Good ones!
Frank: That's the red-light district. I wonder why Savage is hanging around down there. Ed: Sex, Frank? Frank: Uh, no, not right now, Ed.
And easily the funniest exchange of the lot- and one that still makes me laugh with glee every time I hear it... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJEmtLxkEoI
Frank: Now, Jane, what can you tell us about the man you saw last night? Jane: He's Caucasian. Ed: Caucasian? Jane: Yeah, you know, a white guy. A moustache. About six-foot-three. Frank: Awfully big moustache.

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