Viking Night: Kentucky Fried Movie
By Bruce Hall
November 25, 2014
For the first time this century, I laughed so hard I’m pretty sure I almost died.
It happened while I was watching The Kentucky Fried movie, which isn’t really a movie so much as it is the greatest Saturday Night Live episode never made. I wasn’t expecting it, just like I wasn’t expecting the time I set the garage on fire, or the time I dressed up as Captain Kirk for Halloween, split my leg open like a coconut - but still remained in character the whole night. It’s times like these when you have to find the courage to stay frosty and find a fire extinguisher, or at least tie off the wound so you can get that green alien slave girl’s phone number.
So there I was, right in the middle of “Zinc Oxide and You,” laughing so hard I started to see spots. I was laughing so hard I literally couldn’t breathe. I had to stop the movie and clutch my chest like Fred G. Sanford, wondering if I would be found slumped over my desk, killed by a movie that as a child, amused me because the title reminded me of a bucket of chicken. I was determined not to go out that way, so I quickly regained my strength and watched the series finale of Dexter to make sure I could never laugh again.
Now that I am immune to its effects, I can tell you that Kentucky Fried Movie is the film debut of Jim Abrahams, along with Jerry and David Zucker. If you don’t know who that is, just think of them as “the guys who made Airplane.” If that still means nothing to you, then I am sorry to inform you that you are a horrible person who has no soul. It also stands as a first big break for John Landis, who would go on to killer projects like Animal House, Trading Places, and Twilight Zone: The Movie. Even if you don’t remember it, you need to know that without the success of Kentucky Fried Movie, we would never have had any of those movies, not to mention Top Secret!, The Naked Gun, Scary Movie, and Meet the Spartans.
I know, you had no idea how lucky you were. But you can thank me later - let’s talk about Kentucky Fried Movie.
Like Seinfeld, it’s really not about anything - it’s just 90 minutes of comedy sketches in which a bunch of horrible people do horrible things, or have horrible things done to them. Although the film is held together by a series of fake news sketches, there’s not really a direct connection between any of the stories. It’s sort of like an extended series of exaggerations and non sequiturs - not unlike watching Fox News, but with boobs, fart jokes and ninjas. The film is a rapid fire assault of tasteless, juvenile, misogynistic and fearless jokes that probably get harder to laugh at the older you get. This is the kind of movie you make when you’re young and desperate and because you CAN. Most of the gags are timely pop culture references circa 1977 - namely exploitation flicks, softcore porn, contemporary television - it’s a long list.