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How do you write good satire/parodies? (1 Viewer)

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The Green Shield

WF Veterans
Ever have a story idea you wanted to write (think a parody/satire) along the vein of the Grand Theft Auto franchise*, but felt it was too mean-spirited?

Like I've toyed with the idea of writing a parody of Christianity (my religion) wherein a little girl (who symbolizes blind ignorance/naivety) takes everything the priest and her parents say literally, and when she finds a sliver of wood, she thinks she's found the True Cross and the priest believes her automatically.
That's it. That's her whole character. A parody/critique of fanatical Christianity.

That said, I don't want to just copy GTA and be all 'ha ha lol they suck so let's laugh at them'. These two videos, for instance, have much more subtle barbs.

The Simpsons mocking about the BBC documentaries - YouTube
Margaret Thatcher Out For A Meal With Her Cabinet Lol - YouTube

So, how do you write satire/parodies? What makes a good satire/parody to you?
 

Joker

Senior Member
I love South Park because it can parody ten different things an episode. Harping on any one topic for too long becomes a boring agenda push if done for too long.

It also keeps you on your toes. One episode claimed to be about the Chinese government but spent more time attacking Disney. Humor comes from the unexpected.
 

Sir-KP

Senior Member
My only trick is: do not call the brand name, which is also effective way to achieve subtler barbs. Less impact than a direct call-out, sure, but at least you can't be blamed and the offended ones would only imply that their community is as what being brought up in the joke.

Lastly, know the risk and don't compare yourself to older products that's already known have been doing it. They'll get free pass. You won't.
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
If I should do satire, I think I would do it on fanaticism, political or religious.
It is not easy, satire, humor, are personal things, regardless of the subject.
Some things make some people laugh, others don't.
I have a friend, we think the same about everything, but some things make her laugh and not me.
 

BornForBurning

Senior Member
I have little idea, because frankly most satire / parody is absolutely awful. There's no twist—they either portray things incorrectly, thus spoiling the joke, or portray them accurately but with a laugh track and alleged "exaggeration." Like, no offense Joker—but there's no punch line to Mickey Mouse being a fire-breathing demon. I knew Disney was bad already; I didn't need South Park to tell me. The linearity is grating. Nerd walks on stage; acts like nerd. Hilarious.

Some of my favorite parody toys with the comedic preconceptions of the audience. Evil Dead 2 is very funny, until you realize the creators are still taking themselves seriously. The Napoleon of Notting Hill is very funny, until you realize the author is actually rooting for the maniacal protagonist. Probably, the best parody allows us to both laugh at the ridiculousness of a thing while still delighting in it in and of itself. I like when ridiculousness is portrayed as a positive.
 

Joker

Senior Member
I have little idea, because frankly most satire / parody is absolutely awful. There's no twist—they either portray things incorrectly, thus spoiling the joke, or portray them accurately but with a laugh track and alleged "exaggeration." Like, no offense Joker—but there's no punch line to Mickey Mouse being a fire-breathing demon. I knew Disney was bad already; I didn't need South Park to tell me. The linearity is grating. Nerd walks on stage; acts like nerd. Hilarious.

Some of my favorite parody toys with the comedic preconceptions of the audience. Evil Dead 2 is very funny, until you realize the creators are still taking themselves seriously. The Napoleon of Notting Hill is very funny, until you realize the author is actually rooting for the maniacal protagonist. Probably, the best parody allows us to both laugh at the ridiculousness of a thing while still delighting in it in and of itself. I like when ridiculousness is portrayed as a positive.

I think you miss the point with South Park. The show is ridiculously absurd.

Here's another good example: the one parodying the 2008 election. It doesn't beat you over the heat with the idea that politicians only care about their careers instead of the American people. Instead it parodies heist movies (two birds one stone) by having McCain and Obama stealing a priceless jewel. It gets the point across in a hyperbolic, yet roundabout way that keeps the audience guessing.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
One of the potential problems with parody is that a reader/viewer won't understand the humour unless they've read/seen the item(s)/person(s) being parodied, so the parody might do better if it uses broad brushstrokes as well as specifics. That way, there's probably something for everyone.
Parodying a stereotype can work if that stereotype is well known. One of the problems these days is that members of the stereotype being parodied often call 'foul' or, possibly worse, others might call 'foul' on their behalf without consulting them first. Perhaps a little ludicrously, this can produce a situation where only members of that stereotype may parody that stereotype.
 

BornForBurning

Senior Member
I think you miss the point with South Park. The show is ridiculously absurd.
That's the thing. I don't find it absurd. I find it calling a spade a spade, often in the cruelest / least interesting way possible. The absurd is fundamentally opaque, illogical. It functions on a sudden unexpected incongruity, generally existing in poetic rhythm with the rest of the piece to accentuate the humor. South Park is like, "yup, that's evil...that's gross...boy don't politicians suck..." etc. There's a few good episodes that are actually absurd, like Imaginationland, anything with Al Gore, or the Mormonism one. Example: Al Gore saying: "Half man, half bear, half pig," is funny not because wow isn't Al Gore stupid but because it sounds almost correct. It's a twisting of language that holds a facsimile of reasonableness in its spoken element but not in its literal meaning. Then there's the episodes where South Park crosses into genuine coolness or horror (generally, this involves Kenny or Carman, respectively) and becomes post-ironic. But that's an entirely different discussion.
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
I'mma be real. I don't care for satire or parodies. Quite frankly, I'm not sure how to write a subtle one, as humor by nature tends to be a way of complaining about something. All I can suggest is that you find a parody that you find subtle and see how that media does it.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Ever have a story idea you wanted to write (think a parody/satire) along the vein of the Grand Theft Auto franchise*, but felt it was too mean-spirited?

Like I've toyed with the idea of writing a parody of Christianity (my religion) wherein a little girl (who symbolizes blind ignorance/naivety) takes everything the priest and her parents say literally, and when she finds a sliver of wood, she thinks she's found the True Cross and the priest believes her automatically.
That's it. That's her whole character. A parody/critique of fanatical Christianity.

That said, I don't want to just copy GTA and be all 'ha ha lol they suck so let's laugh at them'. These two videos, for instance, have much more subtle barbs.

The Simpsons mocking about the BBC documentaries - YouTube
Margaret Thatcher Out For A Meal With Her Cabinet Lol - YouTube

So, how do you write satire/parodies? What makes a good satire/parody to you?
Remember, satire and parody do not have to be funny. Just pointed. I miss Terry Pratchett.
 

noisebloom

Senior Member
The first novel I actually finished writing (six years ago?) was a parody. It was basically an urban fantasy-comedy with vampires, ghosts, mummies, etc., but the entire thing took place in a city with a very prominent company that sold microchips, and several of the characters interacted with that company in different ways, so it was a satire on corporate culture.

While my novel had a lot of issues that eventually put it on perpetual hiatus, I do believe I succeeded at parody (I held a beta-reading "party" and I believe 70% of them laughed out loud a few times and thought it was successful satire). My strategy was to for my satire to be kind of tangential to the plot... Underneath the objectives of the protagonist(s), there was satire, analogy, etc., but it wasn't actually what drove the story forward. My characters were pretty "light" and silly, even though the satire was rather biting, but even if someone (for example, a young adult) didn't get the corporate satire, they would still hopefully enjoy the characters and plot.

Since I'm a huge Douglas Adams fan, I suspect this approach was 95% influenced by him (and to a lesser extent, Terry Pratchett; the man's a genius but I just haven't read enough). Adams had such a lively silliness to everything, but there was a lot of intelligent satire when you looked under the hood.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Point fun at moral conventions and manners. That is a good definition imo. An example could be rewarding a child by giving them ice cream for bad behavior (breaking a window) while the other one gets punished with the rough end of a stick. (for telling on him) The possibilities are endless. (I got this definition from a book on playwriting)
 
I'm with BFB. The best parody is simultaneously a celebration of what it parodies. It could be a warm jabbing at an idea or personality (i. e. in your case, the little girl could be a likeable character but her blind naivety is a funny quirk) or it could be a complete comedic upheaval of the audience's expectations, like the 2 examples BFB mentioned (or in your case, the splinter could actually turn out to be a piece of the true Cross).

On the other hand, satire that successfully deconstructs what it's parodying, I've noticed, draws out the paradox or incongruity in its subject. It doesn't merely exaggerate: a good thing exaggerated is still clearly good, and if the satirical subject is actually very bad, a mere exaggeration won't be very funny--it will be sad or scary. Watchmen uses satire well, but it's not funny. It's disturbing. Funny satire finds the incongruities.
 
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