The 1980 movie Airplane! was a parody of the disaster films so popular at that time. Written and directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, it placed a whole slew of dramatic actors into a generic plot and had them deliver non-stop one liners, puns, and sight gags through the entire movie -all in deadpan seriousness. It became an infinitely-quotable classic. Vulture, delving deeper into their 100 jokes timeline, sat down with Abrahams and the two Zuckers to talk about how the movie came about, including the line, “Don’t call me Shirley.”
Jerry Zucker: The origin of that joke is similar to the origin of a lot of jokes in the movie: While we were writing, we used to watch a lot of old, serious movies that had a lot of this overly dramatic dialogue. We’d say, “Wait, wait, wait. Stop the tape,” and we’d go back and we’d put in our punch line or our gag in the background. That was one of those lines where someone actually did say, “Surely you can’t be serious.”
David Zucker: The other person might have even said, “I am serious.” But we added the “Don’t call me Shirley.”
There’s a lot more that went into the making of Airplane! that you can read at Vulture.