Leslie Nielsen, the inevitable Jewish reference


Leslie Nielsen, the late funnyman of Airplane! and Naked Gun fame, gets the affectionate career review treatment by the New York Times’ A.O. Scott:

Looking back, it is easy to see that the times required someone like Leslie Nielsen: a handsome silver-haired gentleman of fatherly demeanor willing to commit and submit to any kind of indignity without losing his cool. But only the man himself had exactly the right background.

Not only because he was originally from Canada. That in itself is not special. Lorne Greene — a historical precondition for Leslie Nielsen — was Canadian. So is Lorne Michaels, the godfather of “Saturday Night Live,” who helped pave the runway for “Airplane.” So are most people named Lorne and most people who manage to be funny on television or in movies without also being black or Jewish.

I would add, without a trace of modesty, that being Jewish and Canadian is some kind of funny bone double whammy. (Wanted: A black Jewish Canadian comic, to pull us, the collective, worldwide us, out of the doldrums.)

I would also add that Scott is right about most Lornes being Canadian — there were at least two in my elementary school. Interestingly, the two he mentions — Lornes Greene and Michaels — were Jewish as well.

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