Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jerry Zucker, along with his brother David Zucker and childhood friend Jim Abrahams, were influenced by the pages of Mad Magazine. To hone their comedic skills, they put on plays and sketches, and participated in student variety shows while in high school. Reconnecting after college, Jerry, David, and Jim moved to Los Angeles and continued in theatre by writing and staring in the sketch comedy show Kentucky Fried Theater. By 1977 they had gathered enough notoriety to have a film produced, the cult classic The Kentucky Fried Movie. Together, the trio directed, wrote, and produced an array of satirical comedies from Airplane! (1980) to The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad (1988). His solo directorial credits include Ghost (1990), First Knight (1995), and Rat Race (2001).
Zucker, who is best known for his comedy features, believes a director must understand the differences in directing parody or slapstick and directing other forms of comedy.
With a career spanning more than 30 years, Jerry Zucker has worked with a variety of actors from Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges to Danny DeVito and Bette Midler. He observes that part of understanding comedy is to understand how to direct performances and provide the proper atmosphere for creativity. In response to directorial style, Zucker identifies his interest in directing to induce emotion from his audience, be it laughter or tears.
Jerry Zucker was a co-recipient, with David Zucker and Jim Abrahams, of a WGA Award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium for Airplane!, and also shares a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for the television show Police Squad.