In the mid ‘70s, Jerry and David Zucker and Jim Abrahams were local celebrities in the college town of Madison, Wisconsin, where they performed as the frenetic sketch comedy troupe Kentucky Fried Theatre. (Madison is also birthplace of The Onion and Chris Farley -- there must be a high concentration of the funny microbe in the tap water.) Fledgling director John Landis lived a couple of hours away in Chicago where he chummed with the cast members of The Second City. When their forces were combined to make the sketch anthology Kentucky Fried Movie, the result was magical.
The funniest sketches are the parodies: movie trailers for sexploitation (Catholic High School Girls in Trouble), blaxploitation (Cleopatra Schwartz) and disaster flicks (That’s Armageddon!), commercials for Willer Beer (which Hare Krishnas drink to wind down after a hard day of leaflet distributing), Scot Free (a board game version of the JFK assassination) and actor Henry Gibson speaking on behalf of the United Appeal for the Dead. The centerpiece of the anthology (and frankly, the Zucker’s best parody film) is a short entitled A Fistful of Yen that lampoons Enter the Dragon with precision.
Released in 1977, Kentucky Fried Movie holds up surprisingly well. While a few of the bits are old school, most of the comedy material doesn’t play dated at all. In fact, post-political correctness, the sketches are refreshingly offensive and not just gross out for gross out sake but pointed in their satire. But even when it’s just plain silly, Kentucky Fried Movie is hilarious.