Parody, by definition, must exaggerate. Yet some attempts at parody fail at this basic task. The spoof writer aims for clever jokes or commentary but instead directly duplicates the original work, resulting in Parody Failure.
This usually stems from ignorance of the source material. The writer underestimates the original's capacity for incongruous situations, characterization or dialogue, falsely thinking such elements will necessarily parody the source. Parody Failure also results from misunderstanding how works play with their own tropes. Works that deconstruct themselves or play their tropes for laughs render some parodies redundant.
The jokes in a Parody Failure may succeed on their own - they may have succeeded on their own in the original work - but they fail as a critique on or response to the original. Viewers may also simply enjoy a Parody Failure by interpreting it as a Shout-Out rather than a parody.
Contrast with Shallow Parody, when source material ignorance produces a parody that departs too much from the original.
Anime & Manga
- Early in Marvel Comics' parody What Th--?! series, writer-artist John Byrne penned a story in which Superman and the Fantastic Four meet. After the Thing shows up, Byrne adds a footnote saying, "I'm sorry, it's impossible to write parody Thing dialogue that doesn't sound like the real thing."
- In a rather sad related version of this, it's extremely difficult to write a parody of something curmudgeonly, arrogant, and hateful that John Byrne might say without it being nearly identical to something he's already said. (He once said that using what he considered the wrong term for thought balloons was the exact same thing as calling a black person a... well, you can guess.)
- At the height of Pottermania were many lame "parodies" that involved... get this!... Harry Potter entering puberty and being a very unpleasant teenager! Who wants to read a book about that? Apparently they were expecting the later entries to continue the "kid in a candy store" sense of wonder from the first book instead of maturing along with the target audience.
- When Emma Watson appeared on The Wayne Brady Show to promote the second film, Brady asked Watson if they were making the films quickly, saying "you can't have" it be "Hello, I'm Harry Potter and this is my chamber of puberty."
- Surprisingly, this is pretty much the only thing the terrible Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy parodies got right. In the second episode, their Harry Potter stand-in has become a teen... but the joke is that Billy and Mandy (who are standard Western Animation children who never grow up except as a Plot-Relevant Age-Up for a Flash Forward) are bewildered by the concept of aging.
- There are often Naruto parodies where other, better ninjas will mock Naruto for all of his negative traits, such as his lack of stealth, annoying attitude, and small movepool. Name a single Naruto character that DOESN'T do one of these and they're from Shippuden.
- Eiga Sentai Scanranger had an episode where the characters spoof various superspies. Including Austin Powers. The villain of the piece (a pseudo Blofeld named, get this, Blofish) is even referred to as a "monocle-wearing Dr. Evil." It also doesn't help that the writer's idea of parodying these movies was having his poor man's Bond take off his tuxedo to reveal a wetsuit underneath instead of the other way around, and his poor man's Lara Croft use .44's instead of .45's.
- Epic Movie decided to parody X-Men by having Wolverine bend his claws to look like he was flipping the bird, even though this same joke was used at one point in the original movie.
- Disaster Movie has a kid using foul language toward Hancock, at which point Hancock slaps him. Not exactly an amusing gag to begin with, but particularly not amusing since something even more hilarious actually happens to such a kid in the real movie. Even worse, this actually appeared in some of the trailers.
- Seltzer and Friedberg continue this in Vampires Suck. The trailer contains a joke where the Jacob ripoff character says his contract states he must be shirtless every 10 minutes. This might be amusing until you consider that his constant shirtlessness was already lampshaded by the Twilight movies already.
- Seltzer and Friedberg give us a tag-teaming Trope Codifier, as Film Brain (of That Guy With The Glasses) and Korey Coleman of Spill.com have pointed out that ALL of their films consist of nothing but allusions to summer/winter blockbusters that came out around each parody's respective release date, with hardly any actual "jokes" made at their expense (not to mention that some of these films, like Nacho Libre or Borat are already "spoofs" of some sort and hardly merit anyway).
- Spy Hard fell into this, among other things recreating the scene from True Lies with the horse in the elevator almost exactly. The scene tries to draw humor from how uncomfortable the scene is for everyone and how silly it is, and then goes the extra mile by having the horse defecate in the elevator. Except that the ridiculousness of the scene was intentional for humor in the original as well, and the horse's tail whipped around and almost thwapped the woman in the face, meaning that the Spy Hard joke is exactly the same as the True Lies joke... just cruder.
- The really sad thing about this and all the other examples of Parody Failure in Spy Hard? The creators knew what they were doing. Among other things they even bragged about how exactly they'd recreated the same scene, even hiring the exact same old couple that was in True Lies.
- Spot's Third First Christmas, according to author Kibo, was "a parody of those crappy 'Choose Your Adventure' books" with many bad endings and only one happy ending which is unreachable from any path. One actual book in the CYOA series, "Inside UFO 54-40," the best ending was deliberately unreachable (and not unreachable by oversight, as it was in plenty of others).
Live Action TV
- One of the very last Bob Hope specials on NBC tried to lampoon the 1989 Batman movie, and had Hope done up as Jack Nicholson's Joker. Both Batman and Superman were in the skit, and Hope refers to them by derisive names like "Bat-Brain" and "Super-Stupe", and getting laughs from his equally aging studio audience. Hope and his writers must have thought that villains do not talk like that to heroes, but especially since Denny O'Neil, this is almost exactly the way the Joker talks down to opponents.
- In 1995 Saturday Night Live did a Cirque Du Soleil spoof -- Alegria was in New York at the time—in which the highlight was a male performer presenting a female performer a bottle of wine, which was treated by the emcee as an amazing and whimsical feat. The skit suffers if you've seen the non-touring Las Vegas production Mystere (which opened in 1993), in which a clown presents a woman with champagne as part of an elaborate comic setpiece. And since nothing besides some costume details was specific to Alegria, this overlaps with Shallow Parody. Cirque parodies in general seem to ignore the fact that the shows are often extremely funny and not simply two hours of posing and pretentiousness.
- Saturday Night Live has a long history of lengthy skits centered on some irritating everyday person, group, or behavior, but that don't add enough of a twist to do more than replicate their irritating qualities.
- The Chronicle was a Syfy TV show that attempted to parody the tabloids, by stating that everything in them was true. The first episode parodied (or ripped off) the plot of the first Men in Black film. Thing is, Men In Black was already a parody/comedy, so there was very little that could be made fun of—and it had already used the joke of the tabloids being true.
- A particular problem with British comedy shows in The Eighties was impressionists "doing" people like "Dame Edna Everage", "Frank Spencer" and "Inspector Clouseau", completely ignoring the fact that these were already comedy caricatures created by Barry Humphries, Michael Crawford and Peter Sellers respectively, leaving absolutely nothing left to parody.
- The Office both parodies and invokes this trope; David Brent, the manager, fancies himself a genius comedian, but the very fact that his 'act' is basically limited to riffing on these kind of characters is a pretty clue that ultimately he's got nothing.
- Andrea Martin of SCTV once remarked that the only show they couldn't satirize was Laverne and Shirley, because they couldn't come up with any situation that was more ridiculous than what the show already did.
- Inverted by the famous SNL skit about Sarah Palin during the 2008 U.S. presidential race. The skit very intentionally consisted almost entirely of actual Palin lines from her interview with Katie Couric. A couple of judicious additions and Tina Fey's delivery were all it took.
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 guide book records the following story. While watching the film The Human Duplicators repeatedly and collecting jokes to work into the final script, one of the writers piped up with, "It looks like a state park" while the screen was panning through terrain that... looked like a state park. Realizing that this was less a joke than just an accurate observation, they didn't actually use it in the final script, but subsequently referred to similar instances as "State park jokes". Others could learn this lesson.
- Parodies of the Energizer Bunny, which tend to forget that one of the Bunny's original gimmicks was interrupting absurd parody commercials. That they all make the same joke (stretching the "it keeps going and going" line until it becomes annoying) doesn't help.
- SNL managed to avoid this by having the bunny interrupt a serious Public Service Announcement on drunk driving in one cold open. In another episode it interrupted Weekend Update but promptly tumbled from the desk into a vat of acid...and when Dennis Miller tried to pick up where he'd left off, Annoying Man (a Jon Lovitz recurring character) turned up in an Energizer Bunny costume to make matters worse, if only briefly.
- There's a parody out there of "The Blue Tail Fly" in which the chorus is changed to "Jimmy drinks corn, and I don't care", meaning that Jimmy is drinking corn whiskey. Apparently the would-be parodists were unaware that the most common interpretation of the lyric "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care" is that of "cracking corn", which is to say, making corn whiskey. They not only failed to parody it, they arguably watered it down a notch...
- There's a "response" to The Lonely Island's "Jizz In My Pants" called "Puke In My Mouth". Those behind it fail to see the original was a parody, self-deprecating and actually funny. The result is you get a bunch of attractive women acting like self important assholes who spend the entire song mocking other people.
- Lady Gaga' is often said to be parodying the pop-music genre by making her performances and appearance increasingly over-the-top and controversial to the point of being ridiculous. In other words, she's parodying pop stars by doing the same thing they've all been doing for decades.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Perform This Way," a take on Gaga's "Born This Way," ends up having the same messages as the original song - to wit, Lady Gaga is a strange person, but that's okay.
- The Youtube meme of taking isolated vocal tracks of classic songs and running them through Microsoft's Songsmith program has led to some hilarious musical juxtapositions ("Crazy Train" as bluegrass, "Ace of Spades" as folk-pop). But the lounge jazz version of "Runnin' With The Devil" by Van Halen, while amusing, totally sounds like something David Lee Roth would've put on one of his solo albums.
- There was a Mother Goose and Grimm comic once of a man watching TV with a woman behind him looking shocked, and the caption, "Scully discovers the XXX Files." Which wasn't actually funny if you had any knowledge of The X-Files, since it was well-established that Mulder really did stash porn all over the office, and that Scully was perfectly aware of it and didn't care. (Not that it would be all that funny anyway...)
- This was practically the specialty of Cracked Magazine:
- Several Mork and Mindy parodies, apart from some Breaking the Fourth Wall moments, could pass for real episodes. The corny dialogue was so dead on, some might wonder if the actual Mork and Mindy writers made them.
- In the late '70s, the people at Cracked seemed to figure out that featuring popular characters from, e.g., Star Wars or Happy Days was more lucrative than just parodying the works themselves, and could be done for a much longer time. The Fonz was so heavily featured that he was practically a Cracked "house character" for several years. Indeed, Cracked never actually did a parody, per se, of the Happy Days show. Instead, the magazine simply feature the characters, frequently, in other comedy bits.
- In later years, their South Park parody pretty much played it straight as well - nothing at all like Mad and its constant Lampshade Hanging, fourth-wall demolition and hilarious Deus Ex Machina endings.
- Mad, in its 1950s Comic Book incarnation, sometimes ended up committing this trope. In their Disney parody, for example, much of the humor derived from Donald Duck losing his clothes and getting captured by a duck farmer who could barely understand him. Pretty funny in itself, but Donald winding up naked and coming off as incomprehensible due to his quacking voice happened in quite a few actual Donald Duck cartoons.
- The Bob and Tom Show likes to cast its hosts and/or characters in wacky variants on recent hit movies, and fell victim to this when they cast white trash caricature Donnie Baker in "Funeral Crashers"—apparently unaware that the concept of picking up women at a funeral had already been explored in the third act of Wedding Crashers.
- Pretty much all the stuff that's played for laughs (like stupid guards and rescuing hostages on the toilet) in Mesal Gear Solid, the Metal Gear parody in Ape Escape 3, is stuff that was played for laughs (or at least played non-seriously) in the actual series. The ending line of the PAL version ("I go wherever the wind takes me. So long as war never ends, I will always have a place in this world.") would not sound remotely out of place in the actual games - the canon is already so deliberately over-the-top that it's pretty much impossible to parody.
- Cracked.com's How to Make Jokeless Comedy: Studying the 'Epic Movie' Guys.
- Of course, depending on your view of Cracked.com, it's fairly obvious that they have extensively studied this art, considering that a large amount of their articles can be summed up as "Top Ten List of Things That Are Ridiculous If You Deliberately Reinterpret Them To Be Ridiculous".
- Avatar: The Abridged Series suffers from this some of the time, due to parodying a show that already has a high joke quotient. For example, its parody of the episode "The Storm" has a scene where Katara says: "Aang would never run away! [Aang gets on his glider and flies off] Aang, stop running away!" The original was exactly the same, only with different wording.
- Before he became The Irate Gamer, Chris Bores made a "parody" of MythBusters. Though it's not as much a parody as it is a bland imitation.
- Key of Awesome's "I Need A Doctor" parody pokes fun at the Ho Yay between Dr Dre and Eminem by having Eminem hit blatantly on Dre, Dre responding with a sarcastic and only mildly irritated rejection, and Eminem desperately attempting to backpedal and pretend he didn't mean it to regain some shred of heterosexuality. Eminem used this exact same joke in the song and video "Lose It", where he hits on Dre at a bar, and when he gets shot down, claims he's blind. The song and video also had a Ho Yay-ridden hook that went "Yeah, boy, shake that thing - whoops, I mean girl. Girl girl girl" and a section where Eminem cosplayed gay icon Madonna.
- The author of the comics and articles featured on Platypus Comix sometimes makes parodies that highlight some moronic things he found out the subject performed in real life. (eg, Some of the answers Far East Movement gives in this fake interview got lifted from a real article, although the author also included some fabricated responses.)
- In The Nostalgia Critic's Top 11 Drug PSA's, he makes a joke about a Star Wars smoking one about robots not having lungs to damage...which C-3PO himself comments in the PSA.
- Referenced in his A Simple Wish review when he yells at the character with a magic wand, "stop turning my jokes into something that already exist."
- How It Should Have Ended's video for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake had Erin beat Leatherface by just kicking him in the balls. She did kick him in the balls in the actual film (in the meat freezer scene) and it barely slowed him down.
- How fast is your spaceship? series by Loopydave, got this bit of Self-Deprecation/metahumor on the page for Spaceballs:
- What is it called when you are spoofing a spoof?
- Robot Chicken and The TV Land Awards have both featured skits that combine Sex and the City with The Golden Girls, or at least were aimed in that direction. Problem is, 70% of the humor in The Golden Girls derives from these aging women unashamedly talking about their sex lives.
- The old cartoon Batfink is basically a spoof of... the silly Adam West Batman show. Which was a spoof of superheroes to begin with.
- The Family Guy episode "Blue Harvest" parodying Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope features a joke about the Cantina band, Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes, simply playing only one song over and over again (you know the one). It's a joke that isn't even unique to Family Guy, and is just plain nonsense if you ever watched the movie in question. Not only can you very clearly hear a change in music from the uproarious Benny Goodman-like "Mad About Me" to a mellower BGM, the friggin' soundtrack has both Cantina songs!
- South Park actually had a rare deliberate usage of this trope on their parody of Family Guy. While it may have been exaggerated, not every line on Family Guy is a setup for a cutaway gag after all, the cutaway gags themselves weren't too different from what one would typically see on Family Guy.