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Five Rules For Making a Modern Spoof Film

Five Rules For Making a Modern Spoof Film (photo)

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“Dance Flick,” from a group perhaps best described as the Wayans Brothers: The Next Generation (Keenen Ivory’s nephew Damien Dante produced and directed the film, which stars his cousin Damon Jr.) opens today, the fifth parody movie (or spoof) since the start of last year. This astonishing burst of productivity has coalesced around a new set of rules for making spoof films that places them in stark contrast to watershed predecessors like “Young Frankenstein” or “Airplane!”

Here are five reliable new school spoofing guidelines. There’s a 50/50 chance these will work for “Dance Flick” too, though there’s only a ten percent chance of that.

1. You can never have too many references.

It’s not that the spoofs of yesteryear didn’t reference other movies — they did. But they were traditionally woven into the film by way of flashbacks or dream sequences – think of the “Battleship Potemkin”/”Untouchables” opening to “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.” Recently, spoofmakers have dispensed with these devices in order to pile on the parodies. A single scene from last year’s “Disaster Movie” by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer contains 14 different pop culture send-ups, including “Superbad,” “Wanted,” “Juno,” “High School Musical” and most surreally, “No Country For Old Men.” What does one have to do with the other? Or, for that matter, the notion of disaster movies? Absolutely nothing. At a certain point, all the non-sequiturs become simply nonsensical. But modern spoofs prize topicality over all else; to compete with the immediacy of an ever-shortening news cycle and the world of Internet video, they must sacrifice coherence and selectivity, not to mention the benefit of hindsight.

05222009_DisasterMovie.jpgThe spoof genre’s epochal texts feasted on the clichés accumulated over decades of formulization. Their creators were historians with senses of humor. Now, spoofers must play cultural meteorologists, forecasting which movies we’ll be talking about by the time their next one comes out. Guess wrong, and you get “Disaster Movie,” with references to such conversational non-starters as “10,000 B.C.,” “The Love Guru” and “Jumper.” Perversely, these “timely” spoofs are already more dated than their decades-old predecessors, though they do come close to fulfilling the now-ominous line from the trailer to 1998’s “Fugitive” spoof “Wrongfully Accused.” “It’s not just a movie,” it warned, “It’s every movie!” Something like “Disaster Movie” very nearly is.

2. Spoofing a celebrity is just as good as spoofing a movie.

True to its title, the trailer for Friedberg and Seltzer’s “Epic Movie” promises parodies of cinematic epics as varied as “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Harry Potter,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and… Paris Hilton? Yes, betwixt all the movie spoofs appears a dead-on Hilton look-alike who coos “I’m hot” before getting cartoonishly flattened. She’s not the only one, either: the trailer also promises an appearance by a P. Diddy P. Doppelganger, who appears during a “Narnia” sketch, dances around awkwardly and gets smashed in the face with a bottle of Cristal. Sensing a pattern? It goes something like this: dress someone up like a celebrity (like, say, Michael Jackson), drop them into an incongruous movie spoof (like, say, “Speed Racer”), konk them over the noggin (like, say, with the trunk of a car), repeat.

05222009_EpicMovie.jpgThe audience gets hit over the head with this stuff too: despite the fact that the impressions make it perfectly clear who’s getting mocked, the filmmakers always have someone announce who they’re razzing — “Look! It’s Michael Jackson!” — before they do it. There’s not much more to these gags than the discrepancy between the celeb and the setting they’re placed in, with a couple of outlandish pratfalls tossed in; often these bits smack less of satire than outright bitterness. David Zucker, the old school spooficist behind “Airplane!” and “Naked Gun” series, even deployed an unflattering celebrity impersonation as the lead of his last film, 2008’s right-wing diatribe “An American Carol,” where Kevin Farley stood in for documentarian Michael Moore. To Zucker’s credit, the Paris Hilton cameo in his movie was provided by the real deal.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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