Like a flower blooming in winter, KFT somehow managed to overcome this inhospitable environment and flourish. The show not only thrived, it quickly became a local institution, eventually moved to Hollywood, and ultimately became a powerful influence on modern American comedy. If this seems like hyperbole, it isn’t.
Kentucky Fried Theater’s films, including such memorable movies as Airplane!, Ghost, The Naked Gun series, Ruthless People, Top Secret, and Hot Shots!, have earned well over a billion dollars at the box office. But considering the lofty heights of show business success that KFT was to reach, its beginnings were humble.
David zucker’s first summer after graduating from the UW was marked by a distinct lack of direction. Without professional prospects, he unhappily settled for a job gluing together furniture. To entertain himself, whenever a fly would pass his booth, he’d spray it against the wall with glue and then label it like a museum exhibit, with the date and time of extinction. His fly collection quickly became a factorywide attraction.
At twenty-two, however, with a degree in radio, film, and television, gluing insects was not the career David had expected. His father tried to think of a way to raise his son’s spirits. David had made some humorous and inventive student films starring his brother. One of them, The Best Things in Life Are Free, was about a “high”-spirited student on campus who desperately needed to urinate but couldn’t find anyplace to do so until he finally climbed the Lincoln statue on Bascom Hill.
Fred Bliffert x’70, whose popular R&B band, Freddy and the Freeloaders, often played concerts for the frat houses on Langdon Street, remembered laughing so hard when he first saw the films at a private screening that his jaw got numb.