Airplane! Director David Zucker Talks About the Left and His New Movie An American Carol


As part of the Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker filmmaking team in the ’80s, David Zucker pioneered the non sequitur spoof-comedy genre with Airplane! and The Naked Gun. ZAZ split up in the ’90s, but Zucker has kept his hand in the comedy game with the last two Scary Movie installments. His latest, An American Carol, is something else altogether: a gag-filled satiric attack on the American left. Unleashing a rapid-fire series of jokey bits around the usual Fox News talking points—liberals are inherently unpatriotic, the universities are run by post-’68 radicals, etc.—the cast of all-star conservatives (Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Dennis Hopper) centers on Kevin Farley as Michael Malone, a Michael Moore doppelgänger who wants to ban the Fourth of July. (Fat jokes galore.)

An American Carol is set to open on over 2,000 screens on Friday (though it’s not being screened ahead for critics to review), and Zucker is already getting the hero treatment from conservative bloggers and magazines. In a glowing Weekly Standard profile, Zucker compares Obama to “a really clever virus who adapts” and who once “associated with all of those crazies—terrorists, preachers of hate.” Referring to the left, he also claims we’re living in a “new McCarthy era.”

The Voice spoke to Zucker—who says An American Carol isn’t political—about his (non)agenda.  

After 9/11, you had a conversion of sorts to the Republican Party.  

I’m not sure I’d call it a “conversion.” I just realized that the views I’d always held had been more taken over by the Republicans than the Democrats, without surrendering my environmentalist beliefs. It was like Reagan used to say—he didn’t leave the Democrats; they left him. I saw the reactions to the terrorist attacks, and think I saw that the Democrats were saying how we are to blame for this, and the Republicans were saying we have to build up the military and defend ourselves, because there are people who are trying to kill us. But I’m not at all about politics.  


A lot of Michael Moore’s image is built upon populism. Your movie suggests the opposite: Michael Malone hates country music and NASCAR and looks down on people who aren’t on the East Coast.  

I mean, he’s gone and said that Americans are the dumbest people on the planet. We’re pretty much taking these people at their word. I don’t know Michael Moore. The thing about the country music, for example, is from a real quote.  


In his book Downsize This!, he encourages people to listen to country music as the voice of America . . .  

Well, there must be different quotes.  


Do you actually believe Moore or liberals in general would try to ban July 4th?  

Absolutely not. I’m sure never in his wildest dreams would Michael Moore try to ban July 4th. Having him do that is an obvious exaggeration, a way of moving the film through three acts. It’s just Screenwriting 101.  


The movie’s coming out roughly a month before the election and two weeks before Oliver Stone’s W. Is it an attempt at intervention? 

That’s a little bit too optimistic—but it’s no accident that it’s being released before a major presidential election. I think you can only make a movie like this once every four years and have people interested.  


Malone goes through his own conversion in the movie. Do you think liberal audiences could go through the same thing after watching it?  

A lot of my liberal friends have seen the movie—I mean, they’re all liberals out here—and they enjoyed it, but . . . yeah, I don’t think that’s likely.  


Some of the movie’s champions, especially on conservative blogs, say that this is a test case for openly conservative satire.  

James Woods makes a joke in the movie where he says: “You know, Michael, people who like your movies don’t actually go to movies.” I don’t know if this will actually get a conservative audience to come out. I do think that it’s the most radical movie of this kind that’s been made—left or right. I don’t think even JFK was as politicized as this.

[But] I wasn’t trying to press the point without being entertaining; I was very conscious of that. I was just looking for a new subject for a joke, something other than scary movies or detective movies or airplane-disaster movies. That’s the challenge of doing humor, trying to find new targets. What I’m doing is kind of like a survey course of liberal politics, to point out what I think are its excesses. All of my humor is just exaggeration of reality. Hopefully that leads to laughs, and it’s certainly outrageous enough to be discussed.