Surely the six best Leslie Nielsen lines

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He became known as a serious actor in the 1950s and then reinvented his career with spoofy turns in “Airplane!,’ “Police Squad” and “The Naked Gun” in the 1980’s and ‘90s. Leslie Nielsen, who died Sunday at the age of 84, was part of numerous comedies and even more water-cooler conversations. He didn’t write his trademark lines, but you wonder if we’d remember any of them if he didn’t deliver them in his daffy deadpan.

Herewith, then, a quick study in Nielsenology. Your contributions welcome.


--The hospital quip. (“A hospital? What is it?” “It’s a big building with patients but that’s not important right now.”) Admittedly an overused one compared to his other misplaced-modifier specials (“That’s the red-light district. I wonder why Savage is hanging around down there.” “Sex, Frank?” 'Uh, not right now, Ed.’) But still a classic.

--The political Leslie, as evidenced in an exchange with George Bush in “Naked Gun.” “Frank, please consider filling a post I’m creating. It may mean long hours and dangerous nights, surrounded by some of the scummiest elements in our society.” “You want me to be in your cabinet?” Before the tea party, apparently, there was Leslie Nielsen.

--The Goodyear blimp gag. “It’s the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girl dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.” “Goodyear?” “No, the worst.” Never fails to get a laugh. Who else could pull off wordplay involving vulcanized rubber?

--The moment-of-panic Leslie, with a who’s-on-first spin. “Captain, how soon can you land?” “I’m just not sure.” “Well, can’t you take a guess?” “Well, not for another two hours.’ “You can’t take a guess for another two hours?”

--The standard-bearer. ‘Can you fly this plane and land it?’ ‘Surely you can’t be serious.’ ‘I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.’

--And finally, not from a movie, but somehow appropriate the day after Nielsen’s passing. “Doing nothing is very hard to do -- you never know when you’re finished.”

--Steven Zeitchik


Leslie Nielsen dies