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Narrow Parody

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Imitation is the cheapest form of comedy.note 

"Instead of spoofing movies that came out two weeks ago, they decided to spoof movies that hadn't even come out yet. This becomes painfully obvious when the "jokes" amount to simply recreating moments from the trailers and TV spots. Ultimately, this movie should have been called 2008 Movie, because it seems the main requirement for being spoofed here was being released in 2008."

Good parodies have different levels of accessibility, stretching from popular, new stuff to older classics. With a smaller pool of things being parodied, writers will feed on more generalized tropes.

The Narrow Parody occurs when the writers are afraid the target audience might be too young (or just too stupid) to catch the expected references, and have no concept of Parental Bonus (though there would still be demographic parental bonuses such as references to recent adult media in children's media or even crossovers between them), so they just narrow the field down to things made in the last few years. This can work against the writers, as works hailed as "classics" make for good parody, while fluff often doesn't. In many cases, the parody itself is also painfully obvious and laboured, going for the cheap laugh rather than trying to make any kind of point about what is being parodied.

If done poorly, the parody aspect seems more like a cover for ripping off the most recent movies, as sometimes there's nothing particularly iconic about the things being parodied. Much of this depends on your definition of "narrow".

These works are almost always doomed to become Unintentional Period Pieces. See also Small Reference Pools. Sometimes overlaps with Shallow Parody, which is so badly researched that it gets vital details wrong and/or substitutes generic jokes in place of actual parody.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Student Council's Discretion is very guilty of this, with nearly all of their parodies being of shows from the last 2-3 years (the closer the better), including series from the same season. The times they reference something older are few and mostly refer to super-popular series like Dragon Ball and one Appeal to Obscurity to make a "nobody will get this" joke.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • This can happen even in shows as acclaimed as Arrested Development. Some of the Iraq War references in particular more or less require one to be intimately familiar with 2002-2003's news about it.
  • Frontline started out parodying the Australian media in general before narrowing its focus to A Current Affair.
  • In Saturday Night Live, a sketch may be centered around the sketch referencing another piece of then-recent pop culture. An actor may recreate the look and mannerisms of a character from another movie or TV series, as if it were the entirely of the joke.


    Print Media 
  • MAD tended to rely on this trope, especially in the 1990s. (They've since gotten better.) One 1995 issue, for example, has multiple references to Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America." (A Cracked issue from the very same month did likewise.) Good luck explaining to the average teenager in the 2010s exactly what this was.
    • Parodied in 1954, before Mad even was a magazine, in a Faux-To Guide parodying their imitators by introducing into a lampoon of Julius Caesar such unexplained elements as the Dragnet theme ("Routine #8...the Domm-Da Dom-Domm routine! No explanation necessary!") and:
      "...Eth's Marilyn Monroe! What's she doing here?"
      What's she doing everywhere else? Routine #10: Marilyn Monroe... Wherever possible!
  • A cartoon from the late 1990s shows the Greek gods and goddesses of Olympus being portrayed by then-popular celebrities. Some of the cameos made a good deal of sense, like Sylvester Stallone as Ares and Madonna as Athena. But when it came to "casting" Poseidon (the god of the sea), the cartoonist awarded the role to... Tiger Woods, who has nothing at all to do with maritime or nautical themes. How did the cartoonist justify this move? By having Poseidon hit a golf ball with his trident. Still a huge stretch.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Done by the nWo to the The Four Horsemen the week after Curt Hennig was inducted. While some parts were funny, many wrestlers and commentators have said since that the skit was harsh in its portrayal of Double-A as The Alcoholic. Arn has had legitimate struggles for years with this problem, and Flair has never been shy about defending Arn when the skit is mentioned. Apparently Arn got into a fight with someone over the skit, but Flair has been tight-lipped about whom, saying only, "Arn is a tough guy, and I'll leave it at that."
    Ric Flair: What hurt everyone's feeling was, his son is watching that at home, and they're depicting Arn as drinking beer all day long? His kid is watching that, and nobody wants to see that.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street often falls into this as part of its attempt to add Parental Bonuses. It's often borderline impossible to do a true parody of the subject matter while also staying kid-friendly, so they simply copy the title, the appearance of the characters, and the general setting. True Mud, for example, was about a man's attempt to get a waitress to serve him Mud (as opposed to spud, cud, and a dud).

  • Not even William Shakespeare is immune to this trope. The Bard's comedies feature a number of inexplicable passages that, many scholars conjecture, are joking shout-outs to other popular Elizabethan plays that are now lost to history.
  • Likewise, Aristophanes' comedies are filled with extremely topical references, which you need to know a lot about Ancient Athenian politics and theatre to get. Luckily, some of his satire is still relevant today, and there are also plenty of jokes about farts and penises, which never go out of style.

    Western Animation 
  • Due to South Park's rapid turnaround, they're able to parody and satirize aspects of pop culture that are only a few days old. Some of these references rapidly drop out of the public consciousness after the episode has aired.
  • The Animaniacs song "Video Revue", set in a video store (which in itself makes this sequence dated) is basically a Long List of characters and plot points from random movies from the 1980s and early '90s, some of which are barely remembered today (if that). To be honest, however, a lot of referential jokes and songs in Animaniacs went this way, especially if you did not live in the USA in the 1980s-early 1990s. "Video Revue," however, can be excused as an homage to the "things come to life in a bookstore" genre of cartoons, most of which were similarly products of their time.
  • On that note, many Looney Tunes cartoons of the '30s and '40s are essentially this. Take, for example, "The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos", where most of the jokes are based upon the fact that a celebrity of the 1930s has been parodied as an animal.
  • While most of the Chipmunks Go to the Movies episodes spoofed movies that are still frequently recalled today, a few of the movies they parodied were merely popular when they came out in The '80s / the top of The '90s: Big, Dick Tracy and Splash.
  • Much like the magazine it's based on, MAD primarily parodies movies and programs from the early 2010s, often ones that are less than a year old.
  • Played for laughs with Robot Chicken's parody of Into the Blue. The entire premise of the parody is that since it takes several months to produce a Robot Chicken episode, all they had to work with at the time was the trailer, leading to characters mostly just repeating the title over and over. Seth Green also states that he's sure that by the time the skit comes out, the movie will have become a box office blockbuster and won several Academy Awards, when it was a complete flop and was largely forgotten.
  • While older episodes of Treehouse of Horror averted this, being parodies of older horror films and stories (particularly The Twilight Zone (1959)), later installments tended to play it straight, often to the point of breaking the intended "horror" theme. XXVII, for instance, featured parodies of Mad Max: Fury Road, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and The Hunger Games: about the only thing those three have in common is that they all had an installment the year before the episode released.