Top Secret! was funnier than Airplane! because it didn't have Stephen Stucker doing that annoying unfunny camp shtick which completely killed the last few minutes of the movie. And I must be one of the few people who didn't find the "Guess I picked the wrong day to give up drinking" gags very funny. Don't get me wrong, both are classics and among the funniest films ever made, but the Top Secret! gags are often more clever (e.g. Swedish bookshop) and not as topical, therefore less dated.
The main criticism seems to be the scattered, ahistorical plot, to which I say:
a) This is a comedy, you idiot, not a drama. It's meant to make you laugh, not to educate you, not to make you philosophise, and not to be the subject of an essay to assess the viewer's grades.
b) The idea that Elvis would go to East Germany and join the French Resistance only to be betrayed by the bloke from the Blue Lagoon is freaking hilarious!
While I'm on the topic, let me slaughter another sacred cow and say that on the whole, the ZAZ movies are funnier than the Monty Python movies. I say this as an Aussie, where Monty Python is very much understood and appreciated (perhaps even more than in England), not as an American, where the cultural gap tends to limit appreciation to a cult audience. The great bits in Python stand out because they are usually surrounded by long setups and many gags that fall flat. The joke density of ZAZ movies is incredible, and most are at least good. Python tend to go for long sketches and running gags taking the one idea to its logical conclusion, which kills the whole scene if it doesn't work.
Whereas ZAZ references tend to be exclusively popular culture references (save for the odd Jewish joke), Python tend to make far too much of their intellectual pretensions. Python displayed excessive class neurosis and too much of a "Beyond the Fringe" influence with their superfluous references to philosophers and European history and the like. Sometimes it works (e.g. Philospohers' Drinking Song) but you often wish they'd find a funnier target for their humour.
"I say this as an Aussie, where Monty Python is very much understood and appreciated (perhaps even more than in England), not as an American, where the cultural gap tends to limit appreciation to a cult audience."
I love the fact that you had to point out that you were Australian and not American. It's almost as if you knew that someone would reply with "You're probably just a stupid American who's too dumb to understand our sophisticated English humor" God, I'm sick of hearing that crap on these boards. Not that I'm accusing you of such trite, your post just reminded me of all of it.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? Stucker was the best thing that ever happenned to Airplane! The whole film is great, but Stucker lifted it to a higher level in comedy!
Uncle sandler went to the mall!!