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Wildlife Commentary Spoof

Invoked by many a work in the name of Rule of Funny is the Wildlife Commentary Spoof. At its most basic, this gag is when one character imitates the style of commentary used on Nature Documentaries in describing, not wildlife, but a person or some other object or event. Generally this is to spoof both the shows that use this type of commentary, and to imply the person being described is some kind of exotic or weird animal whose behavior has to be documented to be understood, and exists as a form of entertainment and curiosity to normal people.

This gag is pretty versatile but there are some elements particularly associated with it.

  • Set-up: It often begins with one character sneaking up "unsuspectingly" on another, usually hiding behind a bush and possibly wearing some sort of safari or Adventurer Outfit, completely in khaki if they want to be really authentic (and/or imitate Steve Irwin). The character then begins to commentate as if he were a scientist observing a rare creature, often noting "this is the rare [insert name/stereotype/other gag of person]". Speech is in the same volume level as golf commentary, so as not to disturb the "creature" being observed.

  • Voice: Often the 'documentarian' will affect an accent of the wildlife adventurer or commentator of their choice. Popular English language examples are David Attenborough's soft, clipped British Accent ("Hee-re, in the Amazonian rainforest..."); the iconic Awesome Aussie Steve Irwin's easily recognizable Australian Accent ("Crikey! She's a beauty!"); Jacques Cousteau's famous French accent; and recently, imitating the voice of Morgan Freeman, due to the popularity of the March Of The Penguins documentary.

  • Content: The character being observed will often be given a fake "scientific name" in Dog Latin, that usually sounds like some funny or insulting description of the person. ("Here we have the stupidus idius, the dumbest creature on the planet...") There may also be references to a character's "mating habits" or a "courting ritual" as a common joke, especially if this is what is prompting the spying in the first place. Sometimes the joke ends with a "tune in next week!" line, saying they will observe more behavior from the subject, or sometimes promising dangerous and crazy stunts with animals ("Tune in next week, where I'll crawl inside a tiger's mouth and tickle its stomach! For Science!!") or alluding to more observations of the 'animal'.

A Dead Horse Trope variation would have an elderly man commenting, "While Jim is wrestling the giant alligator [or some other deadly place we've just left Jim], I'd like to take a moment to talk to you about life insurance." This based on the Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom series, popular in the 1960s and 1970s. (Marlin Perkins got too old to go out into the field and began doing commentary - and commercial breaks - from the studio, hence the comedy.)

A big component of what makes this amusing is the fact that Large Ham Announcer. Compare Mockumentary. Mock Cousteau is a sub-trope.

Examples:

Advertisements
  • There are a set of Geico commercials where there's an 'animal adventure' guy imitating David Attenborough watches the Geico Gecko doing various every day activities like filling papers and going to a cafe. He ducks behind bushes (and trash cans) as he does so, wearing full safari gear.
  • Played with in a Finnish soda commercial. (Can be seen starting at the 2-minute mark here.)

Film
  • In Armageddon AJ does a Wildlife Commentary to animal crackers on his girlfriends stomach in a faux British (maybe) accent.
  • In It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (a Wonderful Life plot), the "Safari Animal Tracker" follows Fozzie Bear while narrating about the bear in his environment. And then tries to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart.
  • The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human in its entirety.

Literature
  • In Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked, Elphaba gives running commentary on Boq's clumsy flirtation with Galinda as if they were wildlife.

Live-Action TV
  • On MythBusters, Adam frequently describes Jamie as a "wild Hyneman in its natural environment." See most of the clips of this in this video.
    • Jamie is well aware of this; in one episode, while Adam was in the middle of doing this, he turned around and said "Is he doing his David Attenborough thing again?", causing Adam to bust up laughing.
    • On the episode when the Build Team tests out the Sand Necktie myth:
    Grant: Right, here we have a very rare sight—the Burrowing Belleci. He's almost formed his little burrow, and that'll be his home for the next five years.
    • Adam also does a similar gag while guiding a big ballistics gel block through a swimming pool:
      Adam: Now, the box jellyfish is one of the most lethal foes you'll encounter in your average swimming pool. They prefer temperatures between 79 and 82 degrees, and they give a nasty stink. If you see one, just swim in the other direction, and remember: he's just as afraid of you.
  • Done in an early Mash episode, with Hawkeye describing an encounter between Frank and Margaret in this fashion:
    "Observe the female of the species. Seemingly calm and detached, her tiny GI bosom is beating wildly, because she senses the presence of her frequent partner, the notorious red-necked nose-breather. Uh-oh, the signaling process has begun. Eyeballs are exchanged, and our khaki lovers do their famous 'Where'll we meet today?' ritual. It is almost impossible for the uninitiated to discern any connection between these two US Army majors. Yet, the trained observer will see that what these two officers have in mind is to arrange a bit of brass rubbing."
  • There was an episode of Whose Line wherein Wayne made a crack about observing "the wild Canadian in his natural habitat".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander studies the other students.
    "We shall mingle among them, learn their mating rituals and tag them before they migrate."
  • In That 70s Show, they do one on Red and Kitty having sex. After Eric catches his parents having sex.
  • On the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank", Brain Guy attempts to study Bobo in this manner during a clip from the Public Pearl TV program "The Nature of Bobo". It doesn't end well for Brain Guy.

Music
  • The Bloodhound Gang's song "The Bad Touch" begins with a sample that apparently came from a Discovery Channel documentary, referring to "the act of mating." (The song itself contains the chorus "Let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.")
  • Plunderphonics artist Cassetteboy has a track based around this, where David Attenborough's narration from a real nature program is edited so it sounds like he's describing social interactions at a night club instead:
    This small British male listens attentively to the pulsing rhythm. He shakes his body and rubs himself against the female. The female then leaves him. She is seeking a man with bigger muscles, and the male's sexual organ is no bigger than a grain of salt.

Newspaper Comics
  • Dogbert studies "Engineers In The Mist" in this Dilbert strip:
    A small band of creatures were known to live high in an artificial structure. ... The dominant male had a gray back. He controlled the others by waving little envelopes.
  • An early Over the Hedge strip has Verne documenting R.J. on camera. Yes, he's wildlife (in theory), but so is Verne.

Radio
  • One episode of The News Quiz had Phil Jupitus imagining David Attenborough in a strip club: "The female is now displaying..."

Sketch Comedy
  • In Portugal, Herman Jose had a recurring skit where he channeled an English-speaking Attenborough ersatz with a Brazilian Portuguese voice-over usually as means to criticize behavior foibles: case in point.
  • In Germany, Bernhard Grzimek and to a lesser extent, Heinz Sielmann were targets for parodies like that. Loriot did one on the former.
  • This was the basis for the David Rabbit-burrow sketches on The Comedy Company, with David Rabbit-burrow commenting on aspects of ordinary Australian as if they were some kind of exotic animal activity.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus had a fake documentary sequence in which an accented announcer narrated examples of "life-or-death struggles" between real animals, between Pantomime Animals, and also a few humans:
    "Here we see Heinz Sielmann engaged in a life-or-death struggle with Peter Scott. They are engaged in a bitter punch-up over repeat fees on the overseas sales of their nature documentaries. Now they have been joined by an enraged Jacques Cousteau. This is typical of the harsh and bitchy world of television features."
  • MTV's The State had a man treat an office boss that way.

Theatre
  • In the (originally deleted) prison scene from The Adding Machine, a guide introduces a small crowd of tourists to view Mr. Zero eating his last meal (ham and eggs) in prison:
    "This, ladies and gentlemen, is a very in-ter-est-in' specimen—the North American murderer, Genus homo sapiens, Habitat North America. This specimen, ladies and gentlemen, exhibits the characteristics which are typical of his kind. He has the opposable thumbs, the large cranial capacity, and the highly developed pre-frontal areas which distinguish him from all other species. He learns by imitation and has a language which is said by some eminent philologists to bear some striking resemblances to English. He thrives and breeds freely in captivity. This specimen was taken alive in his native haunts shortly after murdering his boss."

Video Games
  • In RuneScape, the various dialogues when speaking with the Arctic Bear familiar have the animal observing the human in the style of Steve Irwin of Crocodile Hunter.
    Arctic bear: Crikey! We're tracking ourselves a real live one here. I call 'em "Brighteyes".
    Player: Will you stop stalking me like that?
    Arctic bear: Look at that! Something's riled this one up good and proper.
    Player: Who are you talking to anyway?
    Arctic bear: Looks like I've been spotted.
    Player: Did you think you didn't stand out here or something?
  • A random encounter in Improbable Island has you fight David Attenborough after he does one of these on you, and inadvertantly insults you while doing so.
  • The original Leisure Suit Larry has a brief bit of the "Wild Kingdom" type when you are changing channels to try to distract the pimp.
    Not Marlon Perkins And while my assistant is wrestling the tiger, I'm going to slip into this tent with our native guide and a pitcher of mai tais.

Webcomics

Web Original
  • One of the bonuses in the Red vs. Blue DVD is a movie spoof that has Sarge doing this to Grif (framed as a hunting show, naturally).
  • The Nostalgia Critic's review of Jungle 2 Jungle.
  • Let's Player Critikal has done something similar to this, making a few spoofs using commentary over videos of animals, usually speaking for the animal and talking about how they will take over the world, escape their human captors, asking humans for sex of sexual acts, or something else funny.

Western Animation
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen". Twilight Sparkle does this while spying on Pinkie Pie and trying to disprove that her random ability (called Pinkie Sense) exists. She even gives Pinkie Pie the "scientific name" Pinkius Piecus and wears a safari bucket hat.
  • In a variant, Celebrity Deathmatch had Steve Irwin spend his time in the ring doing a running naturalists' commentary on the Medusa he was supposed to be fighting.
  • Several Road Runner cartoons would freeze an early appearance of the roadrunner and the coyote with a faux scientific name and short description.
  • In a Simpsons short Bart does Jacques Cousteau in "the Undersea World of Bart Simpseau" during an Imagine Spot while taking a bath.
  • Dexter's Laboratory did an entire half-episode in this style, with an unseen and unexplained narrator referring to Dexter as "Blackfoot" (because of his boots) and Deedee as "Slim" (for obvious reasons), and treating the wholly domestic setting as though it were deep wilderness.
    • There's also the episode "A Tribe Called Girl", where Dexter decided to study "girls" in their natural habitat by watching Dee-Dee and her friends having a slumber party.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Untamed Wild" was a spoof of nature shows, with Ren as the host. At the end, a creature named the Frilled Ren (all the animals were based on either Ren or Stimpy) uses its necksack to attract other nature show hosts.
  • The Taz-Mania episode "Mishap in the Mist'' had a naturalist ("Jane Allgood") follow Taz (or "Bright Eyes" as she calls him) and his family around, with the others trying to ignore the strange lady spying on them.
  • Sea Lab 2021 did the Jacques Cousteau version, though he was just called "that French guy."
  • Nigel Thornberry actually does Nature Documentaries as his job, so he does this from time to time, however on one occasion, back in England during a meeting he gets bored and decides to do one based on his daughter Debbie's actions of the episode.
  • Family Guy has done this on two separate Cutaway Gags.
  • Cartman does this in the "Prehistoric Ice Man" episode of South Park.
  • The French-sounding narrator on SpongeBob SquarePants does this, especially in the first episode.
  • An entire episode of My Gym Partners A Monkey was about this. After a string of bad luck leaves Adam hideously deformed, the host of a wildlife documentary mistakes him for an undiscovered species and begins "studying" him.
  • An episode of Mike, Lu & Og has a "nature chaser" arrive on the island examining the natives' actions.
Real Life
  • Jay Leno did this behind the scenes while visiting Top Gear. He spoofed the clutter and filth in the Top Gear offices, especially an abandoned filthy plate and fork.


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alternative title(s): Nature Documentary Spoof
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