There is much to decry about the careers of Jim Abrahams and Jerry and David Zucker—chiefly their role in ensuring that parody has surpassed satire as a mode of American humor, which implies some ugly things about our national sense of complacency and self-congratulation—but at their best, which is to say in their stuff with Nielsen, their work had a quick, compulsive taste for absurdity at its most, well, primal. Watching stuff like this as a grown-up is basically a matter of figuring out how hard, and for how long, you're willing to keep up the act of being a reasonably sophisticated adult. It's not funny, it's not funny, it's not funny, and that's why it's so much funnier than it has any right to be.
Kael also loved the movie Kershner made right before Empire: in a 1978 piece in the New Yorker, she somewhat battily asked whether American moviegoers were "afraid" of movies like Kershner's The Eyes of Laura Mars, in which controversial fashion photographer Faye Dunaway has p.o.v. visions of the serial killer murdering all her friends. (It should be better than it is—if memory serves it feels more slack than louche. Worthwhile for the unibrow on young Tommy Lee Jones.)