Parodying the Parodists
by Jake Kroeger on November 6, 2012
Believe it or not, those goofy parodies of anything and everything that fill every Internet feed of any kind are made by real people. As of late, with the way that SEO works, a good way to get hits/views/etc. is to parody some trending topic and mix it up with another trending topic, which often times results in something not so great that everyone ends up watching because of those carefully selected buzz words (see the second column I wrote for Nerdist). Still, those people responsible for such things are real people, and that was made all the more apparent with Funny or Die’s radical take on the Gangnam Style parody trend, Gungan Style. (Please watch the whole video above before reading further)
Gungan Style, made by Funny or Die staffer Nick Wiger, is a parody of parodies, specifically making fun of the Korean pop mega hit from recording artist Psy, and has been written about by many as their “favorite Funny or Die video in a long time”. Interestingly, many of those real people who make parodies for a living found the video to be funny, but also a very moving piece, questioning what the intrinsic value is in what they do and what their “legacy” will end up being down the road. Maybe that’s why Gungan Style only has 61% on the Funny or Die scale even after surpassing 100,000 views. Perhaps, people just signed off after the first minute for how disgusted they were at the first level parody of the video, but it’s hard to really tell if that’s the reason.
Conversely, Mitt Romney Style by College Humor, a mashing of the politics and quotes of Mitt Romney and Gangnam Style — the very type of parody FoD is parodying — almost has 8 million views. Few people have spoken, written about, or had a reaction afterwards towards Mitt Romney Style like they have about Gungan Style, but it has 92% likes on YouTube. According to the disparity in numbers, it would seem as though the more valuable video to make, objectively (in terms of audience size, that is), is Mitt Romney Style. Very funny stand-up, writer, and staff member at College Humor Adam Conover, who wrote Mitt Romney Style, and tweeted, “Speaking as the guy who wrote CH’s ‘Mitt Romney Style’, I really enjoyed / was cut to the CORE by ‘Gungan Style.’ Bravo.”
To try to compare the two as to which is funnier or better is not really the point being made here (just in case that’s where your mind went). The dichotomy of the two, the parody and the parody of the parody, is a great example of why comedy is crucial as a check and balance for society and culture. Specifically, Gungan Style showed how even the most absurd, tangential, and possibly esoteric thing to make fun of, a parody, can still cut to the bone emotionally, as it did a lot of people that work professionally in comedy. There’s no way to completely avoid hitting a nerve tension of every single person with regard to humor, because hitting a nerve is essential to the things that make us laugh the hardest. Jokes about 9/11, rape, the Holocaust, pedophilia, etc. can be done and done in such a way that is almost undeniably hilarious (Dana Gould did 3 in 1 at the top of a set).
The only point here is that nothing is off limits in comedy, including the people in comedy what they create, just as long as it is, first and foremost, intended to be funny (see the first column I wrote for The Nerdist).