One of the comedic greats has been taken from us and honestly it feels like he was taken too soon. Granted, Leslie Nielsen was 84 and no spring chicken, but it still feels awful when we lose one of the best.
No one could deliver a line like Nielsen. He was the definition of deadpan delivery, spouting out classic comedic lines like it was child’s play. I’m not sure how many times I have seen some form of “Don’t call me Shirley” since learning of his passing, but in re-watching the famous clip you can see his character Dr. Rumack actually believes what he is saying and that’s what sets him apart. A nod or a wink would’ve ruined it, but the classically trained Nielsen, who had been a working actor since the 1950s in films like Forbidden Planet, Dark Intruder and The Poseidon Adventure, serves it up just right. The current trend in comedy is ironic self-awareness and his obliviousness will be sorely missed.
Like all actors, Nielsen had a few duds late in his career, but thanks to his involvement in Airplane!, the Naked Gun series, and Police Squad he’s got an eternal pass from me. He was the staple of spoof, a legacy that has only recently been sullied by the likes of Friedberg and Seltzer. Yet he still graced those their pieces of garbage that operate under the guise of satire with his presence (Naked Gun’s credits were funnier than those movies). A good samaritan to the end. His mantle of white hair will be sorely missed.
Yes, yes, I remember, I had lasagna.