What’s really hard to believe about Leslie Nielsen until one learns the truth is that he used to be completely serious actor, without a comedic side to him at all. At one point in his career he was all drama and no comedy, which is an alien concept to a lot of us since we grew up watching him in movies such as Airplane, The Naked Gun, and many other comedies where he showed the world what deadpan humor was really about. Seriously, some actors and comedians can show deadpan humor like no one else, but Nielsen was the kind of guy that could pull it off without even trying as he was just that good at what he did. The fact that he came to comedy so late in life didn’t really make much of a difference since he was so easily accepted into the role that he might as well have been doing this kind of thing for years. He’s not the only actor that came to comedy later in life to be fair, but seeing as how he was a far more serious actor to start with it’s still amazing to see just how well he did just stepping into it. Learning that the director told him to simply deliver his lines as he normally would was a stroke of genius since Leslie’s ability to keep a straight face was legendary, even when it was obvious that what he was saying was going to make other people roll with laughter.
He did take on another serious role during his time among the more comedic acts when he starred in Creepshow as a very possessive man that buried two people up to their necks in the sand near the tide line on a beach. Still, this wasn’t really much of a comparison to his early works since it still gave him leave to be maniacal and absolutely different than anything he’d done before, though it also made him appear absolutely evil since he left two people to drown in a slow and agonizing fashion. From that point on though the comedy just didn’t stop as he went on to star in several movies that saw him appear as a truly comical character whether he was the lead or not. A lot of us probably recall his time spent in the Scary Movie franchise when he played the role of the president, and even in another spoof movie when he took on an Uncle Ben role such as was seen in Spider-Man. His deadpan delivery was just as great there as it was throughout his earlier years when he first made his way into comedy.
Any writer could go on and on about Nielsen and how great he was since even the movies he made that weren’t considered all that great were still funny since he turned out to be hilarious most of the time and was almost never the problem. Many of his comedies are bound to remembered for a long time yet to come simply because he was that good at what he did. Leslie passed away in 2010 sadly, but likely his name is going to be remembered for a long time to come since he’s one of the many pioneers that helped by contributing so much to modern comedy that to not remember him would a serious gaffe by anyone that grew up watching him. It’s fair to say that those belonging to younger generations might not know him that well since the reality is that his style of comedy is far different than what’s been pushed in such a big way these days, but it’s still of great importance since it has helped the comedy of today develop into what it is. In one of the biggest ways Nielsen became important since he inspired a whole new generation of comedians and fans through his work and gave them something to look up to and to work for since his level of comedy wasn’t exactly hard to figure out, but it was definitely more than a little difficult to match. Comedians today usually have a whole bag of tricks to pull from, including celebrity impersonations, personalized jokes, and other gimmicks that people like. Leslie had his deadpan humor and that was about it, and it worked every time he used it because people would break down laughing at his delivery since it was so perfect.
Everyone wants to say that there will never be another Leslie Nielsen, and they’re right to say so since there never will be. Marc Hirsh of NPR had more to say about Leslie. There will likely be someone just as accomplished, someone just as popular, and someone that’s able to make people laugh in a similar manner, but Leslie will remain unique. That’s fitting really, since during his run there was no one like him, and while some might aspire to be just like him, it’s better if they go their own way and let his legend tell itself.