opinion

Porn Parodies Explode

Acme Andersson
The parody has been around almost as long as porn, but somewhere along the way it became a mockery of itself — lazy, unfunny and mostly reduced to titles playing on Hollywood without the scripts to match.

Then something happened. Director Will Ryder put out Britney Spears and Brady Bunch parodies that were funny, popular and profitable. Suddenly, it was a great idea, shared by studio heads from Woodland Hills to Sunland. Soon, everyone wanted a piece of the action. X-Play, Hustler, New Sensations, Adam & Eve and several other companies rushed to put out their own spoofs. As happens in the adult DVD industry, if there is something even remotely fresh and apparently making money, it will be mimicked, which has led to an explosion of parody titles

The movement is led by director Will Ryder of X-Play, who ushered in the revitalization of the genre with his “Not the Bradys XXX” and the enormous attention it got from both the industry and mainstream press. Mmmm, mainstream. Just the word had directors tuning in to Nick at Nite, trying to wrap their heads around how to turn “Family Matters” and “The Nanny” into adult fare.

“I think we’re at a point where people were looking for something a little bit more entertaining, a little bit more fun,” said Ryder, winner of the 2009 XBIZ Director of the Year — Individual Project, for “Not Bewitched XXX.” “We had seen so many years of gonzo, which was wonderful, but you can only watch so much of it and there was so much competition for that shelf space that when we introduced the parody again it caught on like wildfire because it really appealed to massive amounts of people in multiple generations.”

Ryder used to work for New Sensations and even told NS owner Scott Taylor about his Brady parody a year before it came out. While New Sensations has recently found success in the parody market with “The Office: A XXX Parody” and with titles based on “Scrubs” and “30 Rock” in the can, Taylor didn’t get on board as early as he would have liked.

“Jeff told me about a year before it came out that he was doing the ‘Brady Bunch’ and I told him it was a great idea, it would do really well,” Taylor said. “Does it start my brain doing anything? Absolutely not! Somebody would come and punch me in the face with a great idea and I’m like, ‘Sounds great, wish I’d thought of it.’ Never even thought of the 900 other things we could have done.”

The parody was a lost art in porn, despite being popular in the 1980s. The genre was predictably vulgarized to the point of obscurity. Ryder remembers working with Roy Karch on parodies like “Cagney and Stacey” and “Funky Brewster” more than 20 years ago, and suggested the director may have actually been the first to explore the genre. Taylor recalls the days of HIP Video and titles like “Flintbones,” “Smeers” and “Joannie Pneumatic.”

“HIP Video put out ‘Married With Hormones’ and a ‘Cheers’ knockoff and ‘Splatman’ and I believe they got sued by Warner Bros. over the Batman cowl and they got knocked out of business,” he said. “But they really sold well back in the day because they took the time to make the cast very reminiscent of the cast of whatever they were parodying. That’s the last ones I remember that got done. I think people forgot about it along the way.”

Now that the concept is back, producers are racing to find which shows are doable and would resonate with audiences. It’s not as easy as it might look. A good parody means not only finding the right script, but hiring a believable and capable cast and building a set that looks enough like the original to pass with audiences. Fans instantly recognize the living rooms from “Married With Children” or “Seinfeld” or the main bridge on “Star Trek.”

“I try to stay as close as I can to the spirit of the original series,” said Axel Braun, who directed Hustler Video’s “Star Trek” spoof that came out last month. “I try to capture what the mood was. I replicate the way they used the camera and the lights and the framing, I want it to feel like the original. To have a successful comedy you have to watch the timing. Also, you have to have a script that blends the story with the sex. I try to work with a series that already had a lot of sexual tension. ‘Happy Days,’ if you think about it, you can’t wait to see what these people will really do. ‘Star Trek’ is a whole different ballgame. I don’t think there is any show with a more rabid following and I think we did something really, really great with ‘Star Trek.’”

Selecting the right show to work with is key. One of the great advantages of parodying a popular TV show is that it comes with a built-in audience some with multiple generations of fans

“The TV show has to have been popular and successful on its own,” Ryder said. “A parody of a dog will still be a dog. Some of the TV shows you really have to nail some of the characters. Like with the ‘Cosbys,’ we wouldn’t have done the movie if we couldn’t nail that character. Just to put a black guy in the role and having him read lines would have been a mockery. Porn has a history of mocking subjects and we don’t want to do that. The key ingredient is to nail the casting.

“I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to pull these things off well. People can pull them off like shit all day long and I think people know which ones are the shitty parodies.”

The familiarity allows the mainstream to package up an item in a way that is acceptable to their audience. Ryder’s alter ego, publicist Jeff Mullen, is a hot dog at hype, and coverage of “Not the Bradys XXX” was vast. CBS’ The Insider ran several segments, fueling a media frenzy. But it was a spot on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” that was most amazing. With “Scrubs” star Zach Braff on as a guest, Kimmel and Braff went through a series of pictures that compared the original cast to the XXX versions in New Sensations’ “Scrubs: A XXX Parody.” It was a minute and a half that no publicist would dare dream could happen.

“It was an exciting moment for me, especially because getting mainstream coverage is a struggle for everyone in the industry,” New Sensations’ publicist Janeen Gensen said. “I worked on that for a while and still could barely believe it when I saw it. Sometimes things just come together.”

For NS President Taylor, it was a personal and professional high that he will never forget.

“I’m speechless,” he said. “It’s one of those momentous times in your life: you learn to ride a bike, you lost your teeth, and that time Zach Braff was on Jimmy Kimmel talking about my movie.”

As long as there is an interesting, marketable product and a market that isn’t oversaturated, the opportunities should continue to present themselves. But the time will come when interest wanes. Until then, the industry’s production companies will ride the wave.

“Someone threw us a life preserver,” Taylor said. “We did really, really well for a long time, so we dropped significantly but were still making good money, but parodies are like found gold. We haven’t had anything like this in a long time.”

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