Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (abbreviated to ZAZ) were an American comedy filmmaking trio consisting of Jim Abrahams (born May 10, 1944) and brothers David Zucker (born October 16, 1947) and Jerry Zucker (born March 11, 1950) who specialized in writing slapstick comedy films during the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s.
The trio knew each other during their childhood years, growing up in Shorewood, Wisconsin and attending Shorewood High School which is sometimes referenced in their work. While attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the trio founded a small theater known as The Kentucky Fried Theater in 1971 which led to their sketch comedy film The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), directed by John Landis.
This was followed by the trio’s breakout hit Airplane! (1980), with Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lorna Patterson; which remains a revered comedic milestone. Subsequent collaborations include Top Secret! (1984), with Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Omar Sharif, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, and Jeremy Kemp; Ruthless People (1986), Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Judge Reinhold, Anita Morris, and Helen Slater, with Bill Pullman; and The Naked Gun (1988), with Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalbán, George Kennedy, and O.J. Simpson.
All of their projects relied heavily on parodies, visual gags and breaking of the fourth wall, and established a strong cult following. The notable stylistic exception is Ruthless People, a more traditional farce that was directed by the trio but unlike their other productions, not written by them. The trio’s status as a three-person team of co-directors is highly unusual, although some of their later projects were directed by David Zucker working solo and with Jerry Zucker and Abrahams credited only as producers and/or writers. Each member of the group also had individual solo careers:
David Zucker directed the first 2 Naked Gun films, BASEketball (1998), with Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Yasmine Bleeth, Jenny McCarthy, Robert Vaughn, Ernest Borgnine, and Dian Bachar; My Boss’s Daughter (2003), with Ashton Kutcher, Tara Reid, and Terence Stamp; Scary Movie 3 (2003), Scary Movie 4 (2006), and An American Carol (2008), with Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Robert Davi, Trace Adkins, Jillian Murray, Dennis Hopper, and Nielsen.
Abrahams directed Big Business (1988), with Midler and Lily Tomlin; Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990), with Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels, and Francis Fisher; Hot Shots! (1991), with Charlie Sheen, Cary Elwes, Valeria Golino, Bridges, Jon Cryer, Kevin Dunn, Kristy Swanson, and Bill Irwin; Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), with Sheen, Bridges, Golino, Richard Crenna, Brenda Bakke, Miguel Ferrer, Rowan Atkinson, and Jerry Haleva; and Jane Austen’s Mafia! (1998), with Jay Mohr, Bridges (in one of his final films), Olympia Dukakis, and Christina Applegate.
Jerry Zucker directed Ghost (1990), with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), Tony Goldwyn, and Rick Aviles; First Knight (1995), with Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Julie Ormond, Ben Cross, and John Gielgud; and Rat Race (2001) with Atkinson, Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Wayne Knight, Jon Lovitz, Kathy Najimy, Lanai Chapman, Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Seth Green, Vince Vieluf, John Cleese, and Dave Thomas. Out of all the three, Jerry has found the most mainstream non-comedic success including Ghost and First Knight, which grossed $505 million and $127 million worldwide respectively.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) – directed by John Landis – co-writers
- Airplane! (1980)** – co-directors, co-writers
- Police Squad (1982) – TV series ￼- creators, writers, directors (pilot) – 6 episodes
- Top Secret (1984) – co-directors, co-writers
- Ruthless People (1986) – co-directors
- Big Business (1988) – directed by Jim Abrams
- The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) – directed by David Zucker – co-written by Jerry Zucker & Jim Abrams
- Ghost (1990) – directed by Jerry Zucker
- Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael (1990) – directed by Jim Abrams
- The Naked Gun 2 1⁄2: The Smell of Fear (1991) – directed by David Zucker
- Hot Shots! (1991) – directed by Jim Abrams
- Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993) – directed by Jim Abrams
- Naked Gun 33 1⁄3: The Final Insult (1994) – directed by Peter Segal – co-written by David Zucker
- First Knight (1995) – directed by Jerry Zucker
- …First Do No Harm (1997) – directed by Jim Abrams
- Jane Austen’s Mafia! (1998) – directed by Jim Abrams
- BASEketball (1998) – directed by David Zucker
- Rate Race (2001)* – directed by Jerry Zucker
- My Boss’s Daughter (2003) – directed by David Zucker
- Scary Movie 3 (2003) – directed by David Zucker
- Scary Movie 4 (2006) – directed by David Zucker
- An American Carol (2008) – directed by David Zucker