Jim Abrahams

Active - 1977 - 2006  |   Born - May 10, 1944   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

In collaboration with longtime partners David and Jerry Zucker, producer/director Jim Abrahams has created some of the funniest send-ups of the '70s and '80s, most notably Airplane!, Ruthless People, and Naked Gun. Boyhood friends from Milwaukee where their fathers ran a real-estate business together, the three pals developed a passion for making fun of movies and television shows. Shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the three teamed up to found the Kentucky Fried Theater and with it produced a popular multimedia comedy show that blended improvised sketches with short films. In time, they moved the troupe to L.A. Their first Los Angeles production ran for two years. In conjunction with director John Landis, Abrahams and the Zuckers made their satirical parody of modern culture, The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). During production, the three carefully watched Landis at work and decided that directing looked easy enough that they too could become directors. Their first solo effort as a team was Airplane!, a lowbrow but hilarious and highly successful takeoff of the Airport series of disaster films. Like many of their subsequent parodies, it is distinguished for its ghastly puns, running gags, and use of good-natured second-string actors who seem to relish the opportunity to make fun of themselves and the roles they played. Leslie Nielsen, who was once known as a dramatic actor, gained a whole new career from his role in the film and went on to staff several more of their projects including their short-lived but riotous television series Police Squad! (1982). Their next movie parody, Top Secret! (1984), took on spy movies, but it was not as successful at the box office as Airplane! In 1986, they had better success with Ruthless People, a more traditional comedy starring Danny DeVito and Bette Midler. In 1988, Abrahams broke away from the Zuckers to make Big Business, a more conventional comedy starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. Abrahams has occasionally dabbled in drama in films such as Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael (1990) to mixed reviews. In 1997, his dramatic television movie First Do No Harm brought Meryl Streep back to the medium after a nearly 20-year absence.

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