Is parody dead?

Several readers either have failed to see that the Quintus Pfuffnick piece was a parody, or, more bothersome to my amour propre, have believed that I didn’t realize that the Pluffnick piece was a parody.

Among the latter (and larger) group, Chuck Ross wrote:

I need to warn you … your Gregory Mankiw piece was a parody of Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. it’s about a naive econ student winning the prize with no credential. amazing parody by Mankiw. just wanted to let you know….

I wrote back to him:

How could you think that I’m taking it straight?

He replied:

Your email to Mankiw. You asked a straight question. If you were joking back, you didn’t use enough irony.

I replied:

Let’s look at this objectively. You saw me copy an article about a first year graduate student named Quintus Pfuffnick who had won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Then you saw an e-mail from me to the blogger who had originally posted this item asking him an earnest-seeming question about the article.

At that point there were two logical and mutually exclusive possibilities before you:

1. I understood that a news story reporting that a first year graduate student named Quintus Pfuffnick had won the Nobel Prize in Economics was a parody on the Nobel Peace Prize going to Obama, and I was playing along with the gag by writing a “straight” letter to the author of this spoof.

2. I seriously believed that a first year graduate student named Quintus Pfuffnick had won the Nobel Prize in Economics. And, morever, I believed this to be true on the same day that Barack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and I had hosted a long and often humorous discussion on that subject.

Of those two possibilities, which was more likely to be true?

Now you may say say that I needed to do more to show that it was a parody or, rather, that I needed to do more to show that I knew that it was a parody. But if it’s not self-evident to everyone (1) that a news story about the awarding of the Nobel Economics Prize to a first year graduate student named Quintus Pfuffnick is a parody, and (2) that the person posting that parody knows that it’s a parody, then parody is dead.

I have no inclination to do what the Weekly Standard used to do and have a huge title at the top of its parody page, “PARODY.” If a parody has to be announced as a parody, that spoils the whole thing.

Chuck Ross replies:

I agree. Announcement of parody destroys the whole point. But implicit in the parody is a clue that the writer is in on it. Your response to Mankiw was too straight. I don’t know enough about you to know if you, perhaps, are gullible. Usually the parody alarm goes off about a quarter way through a piece (assuming no prior knowledge of the subject), but mine didn’t go off in your response. Oh well.

LA replies:

I understand that my letter to him was completely straight sounding, and it would have been better, to avoid any misunderstanding, for me to show some awareness that it was a joke. But still, in order for you to believe that I believed it was real, you had to believe … the things I’ve already mentioned.

No harm done. There were several people who wrote letters similar to yours. So clearly the fault for the misunderstanding was mine.

- end of initial entry -

Mike writes:

It’s not your fault. It’s the fault of the Nobel Committees for creating a surreal environment where, it seems, anything is possible.

I have to admit that when I read the news of Obama’s Nobel at 6:30 this morning, I triple-checked the official sources before telling my roommate. It really had the air of a hoax.

Philip M. in England writes:

A VFR reader e mails LA.

VFR reader: ‘Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

LA: We’re closin’ for lunch.

VFR reader: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parody what I read not half an hour ago on this very site.

LA: Oh yes, the, uh, the Quintus Pfuffnick …What’s,uh…What’s wrong with it?

VFR reader: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!

LA: No, no, ‘e’s uh,…he’s resting.

VFR reader: Look, matey, I know a dead parody when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.

LA: No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’! Remarkable sketch, the Quintus Pfuffnick , idn’it, ay? Beautiful irony!

VFR reader: The irony don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead.

LA: Nononono, no, no! ‘E’s resting!

VFR reader: All right then, if he’s restin’, I’ll wake him up! (bangs on monitor) ‘Ello, Mister Quintus Pfuffnick ! I’ve got a lovely fresh Nobel Prize for you if you show…

(LA changes the font)

LA: There, he moved!

VFR reader: No, he didn’t, that was you changing the font!

LA: I never!!

VFR reader: Yes, you did!

LA: I never, never did anything…

VFR reader: (yelling and hitting the monitor repeatedly) ‘ELLO QUINTUS!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o’clock alarm call!

VFR reader: Now that’s what I call a dead parody.

LA: No, no…..No, ‘e’s stunned!

VFR reader: STUNNED?!?

LA: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin’ up! stun easily, major.

VFR reader: Um…now look…now look, mate, I’ve definitely ‘ad enough of this. That parody is definitely deceased, and when I viewed it not ‘alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein’ tired and shagged after being forwarded to other blogs.

LA: Well, he’s…he’s, ah…it’s set in Norway, where they give out Nobel prizes…he’s probably pining for the fjords.

VFR reader: PININ’ for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did the joke fall flat on its back the moment I re-read it?

LA: The Quintus Pfuffnick prefers keepin’ on it’s back! Remarkable joke, id’nit, squire? Lovely wordplay!

etc, etc

October 11

Carl Simpson writes:

Yes, I think you may have a point about parody being a dying art. Things have degenerated into such a theatre of the absurd, that it is sometimes difficult to separate the parody from the real thing.

For example, CNN did rebuttal of a “Saturday Night Live” skit making fun all of the Mocha Messiah’s non-accomplishments to date, which I suppose would fill the entire universe with books if they were to be written down.

Speaking of parodies, Steve Sailer wrote a fairly amusing sci-fi type parody of Zero’s acceptance speech:

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 09, 2009 05:18 PM | Send

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