What makes Airplane! such a good comedy is that it mixes different kinds of humor. If you don’t like its parody of disaster movies, you can enjoy its great slapstick and surreal bits. And if you don’t like that, there’s always Leslie Nielsen’s hilarious deadpan delivery. And if you don’t like that, then I’m sorry … I’m sorry, Unit XZ-15, for not being able to program you a soul before your escape.
The only type of humor that Airplane! doesn’t seem to do is political humor, but it only seems that way because you don’t instantly recognize this guy:
Early on in the movie, he gets into a taxi right before the driver jumps out to chase after his ex-girlfriend, telling the passenger that he’ll be back in a minute. But instead he boards the titular airplane, while the clueless customer sits in the cab with the meter running. At the end, there’s even a quick scene showing him still waiting, having accumulated hundreds of dollars in cab fare, and telling himself that he’ll give the driver another 20 minutes.
On its own, it’s a pretty good joke, but it becomes a million times cleverer if you know who the taxi passenger is. As it so happens, he was played by Howard Jarvis, an American businessman and politician who lowered California’s property taxes by spearheading Proposition 13. And that’s the joke. Jarvis, who was primarily known for his strong views on fiscal responsibility and limited spending, played a character on Airplane! who’s the exact opposite of careful with money, unless he was always planning to murder and rob the driver.