If Leslie Nielsen had his way, he probably would have wanted the world to remember him with a laugh instead of a tear. But while a healthy chuckle would be a good memorial for a man of his comedic caliber, a somber reflection is deserved for the loss of such a talented actor and comedian.
Nielsen died Sunday night at the age of 84 due to complications from pneumonia, according to CNN. He is survived by an extensive resume of campy cinematic achievements – like the “Naked Gun” series and “Airplane!” – that will forever be engrained in American pop culture.
On Sunday, MTV reported some of the reactions from Hollywood stars that the news elicited. Comedian Dane Cook even dedicated his Sunday night show in British Columbia to the late actor, a fitting tribute for the Canadian-born Nielsen.
Despite having been best known for his humor, Nielsen began his career in a diverse array of classic movie and television dramas like “Forbidden Planet,” “Colombo” and “Murder She Wrote.” But when he was cast as Dr. Rumack in the wildly hilarious, cult-classic “Airplane!” he had truly found his mark.
Nielsen would never stray too far from the signature silliness that he refined in “Airplane!” His bumbling character Lt. Frank Drebin was a hit with audiences who watched his silly sleuthing in three “Naked Gun” movies. This successful franchise further cemented Nielsen’s “just so stupid it’s funny” humor into America’s cinematic subconscious.
It was this utterly ridiculous brand of comedy that made him connect so well with audiences, like a screwy uncle that is always quick to share the latest water-cooler joke or inject “that’s what she said” into daily conversation.
So laugh, cry or rent “Naked Gun 33 1/3” and do both. In any respect, remember that Nielsen was “Shirley” one of the greatest comedians of our time.