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Virtual Book Talk – Before the Invention of Smiling with David Zucker

Date(s) - Thursday, June 24th
12:00 pm CDT - 1:00 pm CDT


dsc0801-version-2Join David Zucker, director of such classic off-the-wall comedies like Airplane!The Naked Guns, and Scary Movies, as he discusses his recently published book, Before the Invention of Smiling, described as part family history, part scrapbook, part autobiography and part Zucker’s “rantings.”

From as early as he could remember, growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the 1950s, David would listen as his grandmother, Sarah Zucker, would tell tales of her upbringing in a tiny village in turn-of-the-century Hungary. He was fascinated hearing of her escape overnight across the border, and journey to America. After moving to Los Angeles to establish his film career, David returned to Milwaukee for a weekend in 1976 to sit down with his grandmother, then 86, to record the whole story. It wasn’t until twenty years later, during post-production of Scary Movie 3, when he happened to review the transcript, that he was struck with the extent to which his own family’s journey had shaped who he was and influenced the career he had embarked on.

Like everything David Zucker does, Before the Invention of Smiling, throws out any previous notions and does not follow a traditional book format, resulting in a unique and original creation that combines Sarah’s story with accompanying family and contemporary period photographs. The book also features illustrations by award-winning artists Cynthia Angulo and Gary Thomas to complete the visualization of the family’s history. David’s original notion of attributing special value to “photolooms,” (objects appearing in old photographs) and incisive commentary by other family members add a colorful dimension to the storytelling. Of course, the author doesn’t hold back his often outrageous and unorthodox views on architecture, history, decorating, genealogy, and of course, a generous dose of Zucker humor!

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This program is free and open to the public.
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Before the Invention of Smiling is a warm and charming reminder of how the immigrant experience has built and enriched our country and is enjoyed by all ages. Available on Kindle through Amazon.

About David Zucker – Writer, Director, Producer

With a string of worldwide box office hits and the invention of an entire film genre, writer/director/producer David Zucker has established himself as a Hollywood legend. 

Starting out after college in 1971 with a borrowed video tape deck and camera, David, with brother Jerry, and friend Jim Abrahams, created the Kentucky Fried Theater on the UW Madison campus. After only a year, they moved to Los Angeles where KFT became the most successful small theater in Los Angeles history with its’ groundbreaking style of outrageous sketch comedy.

After parlaying this success into The Kentucky Fried Movie, the three conceived the idea that would create a whole new film genre. Airplane! broke all conventions, featuring dramatic actors like Robert Stack and Leslie Nielsen performing zany jokes with straight-laced sincerity. The spoof became a surprise global hit beginning a streak of hilarious films including Top Secret! and Ruthless Peopleafter which David wrote and directed The Naked Gun film franchiseBASEketballalong with Scary Movies 3and 4among many others. 

Outside of the entertainment world, David has cultivated a keen interest in history, co-writing a screenplay based on the life of Davy Crockett and hosting a series of gatherings at his Ojai ranch, attracting historians, artists, educators, craftspeople, and flintlock rifle enthusiasts.  This historical fascination led him to finish his decades long research into his own family history, resulting in, “Before the Invention of Smiling,” adding yet another title to his list of groundbreaking creations. 

Book Review from JMM Archives Director, Jay Hyland

This story really gets one thinking about the need for interviewing our older relatives, before they are gone, about their life experiences. David Zucker does a great job combining his grandmother’s interview, with additional family stories/photos and also present-day images of historic places discussed by his grandmother. The warm illustrations help add to the story, and there are also plenty of humorous anecdotes that showcase the trademark Zucker sense of humor.

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