In 1980, Elmer Bernstein wasn't known for comedies. The Oscar-winning composer had already been in business for over 25 years, making a name for himself scoring more dramatic fare from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Magnificent Seven.
But after ZAZ collaborator Jon Landis tapped Bernstein for his 1978 classic Animal House, the composer's comedic potential was unlocked. Bernstein's score for Animal House was stately and refined, an ironic juxtaposition to the absurd shenanigans going down at the fictitious Faber College.
ZAZ saw that same potential for Airplane!, bringing in the veteran composer to create a serious soundtrack which would emphasize the craziness of the movie's action. Bernstein's score for Airplane! is intentionally over-dramatic, exactly the type of soundtrack you'd expect to accompany a serious disaster flick.
With business booming, Bernstein would go on to compose the scores for other hit comedies like Ghostbusters, and Stripes.