The porn parody, a once hotwire genre that’s been in snooze mode since the ’90s, is suddenly becoming adult video’s hottest new genre. Takeoffs are taking off as never before. A growing number of producers and studios are joining the rush to mine some gold from sex-laden spoofs of TV sitcoms both ancient and modern.
“I do think it’s getting to a point where it’s a little insane,” jokes Joanna Angel. “By this time next year every single movie and TV show, ever, will have a porn parody.” She herself has jumped on board with L.A. Pink, a parody for Burning Angel of the reality TV show L.A. Ink.
No less than Scott Taylor, the sales-savvy owner of New Sensations/Digital Sin, states, “In a world of declining DVD sales, the parody is the salvation.”
If that is true, then X-Play’s Jeff Mullen and Scott David are the saviors. They got there first, in 2007, with Not the Bradys XXX. Says Mullen, matter of factly, “We started the newest wave of parodies”—and there can’t be many who wouldn’t agree with him.
With the Brady Bunch spoof, he says, “we hit a grand slam home run. I don’t think we could have picked a better show to do a parody of. That was the mother lode, literally and figuratively. Ever since then it’s been don’t look back, just look forward, a whirlwind pace for us.”
Mullen (aka director Will Ryder) and David had their first success as producers with the low-budget Britney Rears spoofs they made for Hustler Video. But, says Jeff Thill, Hustler’s director of operations, it was Not the Bradys XXX “that actually sold an incredible amount of units and got some notoriety. That kind of set the bar as in, wow, check that one out.”
Before X-Play, most parodies were loose, generalized approximations of the original show. Only a few went out of their way to imitate the sets and characters. X-Play’s breakthrough was to make the parody look and sound so much like the actual sitcom that it lured fans of the original, widening the audience pool considerably.
Mullen and David also went the extra mile to gain the attention of mainstream media outlets on TV and the Internet. “We actually start marketing our movie before the first frame is shot,” Mullen says. They made particularly adroit use of web marketing, something that didn’t exist during the last wave of parody popularity.
“Whether by luck or by design,” Mullen says, “we got an entirely new segment of people that were willing to buy porn that didn’t ever walk into a porn shop or order online before. They wanted to see The Brady Bunch porn, they wanted to see Three’s Company porn. They bought these things and probably have never bought another porn in their life.”
Other products of the X-Play parody mill include Not the Bradys XXX: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, Not Three’s Company XXX, Not the Cosbys XXX and, coming up, Not Married With Children XXX, all distributed by Hustler Video. Their second venture in the genre, Not Bewitched XXX, AVN’s Best Sex Comedy of 2008, went out through Adam & Eve.
Key to X-Play’s impact was respect for the original. “We didn’t ever want to take our subject matter and make a mockery of it,” Mullen says. They make the characters true to the original, then put them into sexual situations that could never have been shown on TV—thus satisfying the guilty desire of many a fan to see Marcia Brady getting fucked.”
Hustler Video and New Sensations, to name but two high-profile examples, have profitably followed X-Play’s lead with “just-like-the-real-thing” TV takeoffs.
Once Hustler realized the size of the potential audience they didn’t hesitate to hit the parody trail on their own with This Ain’t The Munsters XXX. That struck paydirt last year, but it was nothing compared with the studio’s 2009 blockbusters, This Ain’t Happy Days XXX and This Ain’t Star Trek XXX. The latter, Thill feels, will be their bestseller yet. “It seems to be crossing over into the hard-to-penetrate part of the Trekker fan base.”
Trekkers and other fans were bound to be impressed with the fidelity of director Axel Braun. A movie buff since childhood, he says it was shows like Happy Days and Star Trek “that made me want to make movies when I grew up. It’s important for me to replicate their style, down to the framing, the angles—that’s what gives the feel of the actual original. If you just throw a couple of wigs on people and shoot a couple of jokes, it doesn’t come out the same.”
In May, Braun signed a deal with Vivid for four parody-style movies a year and plunged into pre-production on the first, a takeoff on Batman, the ’60s TV show. “It’s a very ambitious project. It’s something that’s going to sell all over the world, because no matter where you go, everybody knows Batman.”
Meanwhile, New Sensations’ Taylor was talking over ideas for a feature with a friend, Canada-based screenwriter-director, Lee Roy Myers. His idea was to do a comedy about a porn studio office. And that morphed into doing a parody of the TV show The Office.
“It might get more notoriety,” Taylor thought. “People would want to see that rather than what goes on in an adult business on a regular basis.”
As directed by Myers, The Office: A XXX Parody became the first in an ongoing line of New Sensations spoofs. “We knocked it out of the park, and we got the same response to Scrubs: A XXX Parody. We announce that we’re doing a Seinfeld parody and it’s international news. It hit these news sites all over the place. It’s been fantastic, the response we’re getting.”
After Seinfeld: A XXX Parody, slated to street in July, comes takeoffs on 30 Rock (with Lisa Ann in the Tina Fey role) and Friends. And The Office XXX was so successful that a Vol. 2 is in the works.
Myers, interviewed on the set of Friends: A XXX Parody, said, “We’re not trying to be part of a fad, we’re trying to do something really strong here. We’ve got great writers, great casts, we’re trying to capture what [the works being parodied] aimed for originally.”
For Taylor, parody production makes excellent business sense. “The gonzo seems to be declining because there’s so much of the pirated stuff. Not that you can’t pirate these particular parodies, but it does seem they belong more as a full movie than they do as individual scenes. If you’re a fan [of the original] you want to own one.”
He added, “We’re going to do this just like anything—until it no longer works. When it doesn’t work we’ll try to find something that does.”
There was another time when it worked just fine for producers and consumers alike.
“Before I got into porn,” Joanna Angel says, “I remember me and my friends finding a movie called Edward Penishands  in a porn store, and we got such a kick out of it. I wasn’t even a porn fan — I was a fan of Edward Scissorhands. I was like, ‘Oh, this is so funny.’”
“Parodies were huge in the ‘80s,” says writer-director Cash Markman, who wrote his first script in 1986. “It seems like half the scripts I was being hired to write, and half the movies I directed when I started directing, were all parodies. TV shows, movies, on and on. I could give you over 100 of those things I’ve done. I wrote The Maddams Family, the very first Wicked movie, with Ona Zee and Ron Jeremy, and you can still get it on DVD.”
His first script was Sheets of San Francisco, which turned out to be more of a takeoff on Dragnet. Then came Nightmare on Porn Street and a highly regarded Sex Trek series for Moonlight Entertainment, begun in 1989 (which did go out of its way to mimic the original). And My Bare Lady, a musical spoof with songs by Moonlight co-owner Mark Stone.
Later, as a director, Markman turned out spoofs like Ginger’s Island, Throbbin’ Hood, Missionary Position Impossible and many more.
“There’s a lot of good writers out there now, but back then it was me and Raven Touchstone. We were cranking those things out.”
The craze, however, wore itself out by the mid-’90s. “I had to stop doing parodies for a while because they weren’t in vogue any more,” Markman recalls. “Nobody seemed to want them. I’d gotten such a rep for doing them it was hard to get anyone to take me serious. I had to start doing erotic thrillers and things of that nature to show people that Cash Markman wasn’t as goofy as his name sounds.
“And now they’re coming back. I’m thrilled!”
He says that no one recently has asked him to write or direct one but that he is working on a script for a Desperate Housewives spoof for New Sensations.
Back in the day, the studio with the rep of Parody Central was Moonlight Entertainment, under the aegis of Stone and his brother Gary. They produced the Sex Trek series, My Bare Lady and several I Love Lucy spoofs (Lucy Has a Ball, Lucy Makes It Big) with Blondee and Tony Montana.
Stone is still doing them as an independent director, though in a more generic vein. His Kung Fu Nurses series for Wicked Pictures parodies “a whole genre, not any one specific movie. I also did Monster Tit Sex Zombies, a parody of grade-B science fiction.”
And he regularly parodies TV shows and commercials in his video vignettes for the AVN Awards Show. Anyone who saw it in 2009 will forever think of “Cock-Wow” whenever a Sham-Wow commercial pops up on the tube.
Veteran director Roy Karch was another go-to guy for parodies. “I did many, many, many,” he recalls. “I didn’t call them parodies, I called them takeoffs. They were movie title, book title references—to capitalize on the popularity of the title. Have Buns Will Travel. It didn’t look like the Paladin show, it wasn’t a Western—it was porn.”
Karch has done a raft of parody titles, including CSI: Cum Swappers Inc., America’s Next Top Porn Model, True Hardwood Stories, Florence Hump, Crocodile Blondee, and most recently Desperate Wives for SexZ Pictures. The one he’s most proud of is Insertz, a homage to the Richard Dreyfuss classic, a film he reveres.
Karch is in fact a living link between old-school and new-wave parody. His Cagney and Stacey (1989) had a score written by one Jeff Mullen, then a Milwaukee-based musician who sold tracks to porn producers. Flash-forward to 2009 and Karch is acting as script supervisor for X-Play director Will Ryder, Mullen’s directorial persona.
Yes, scripts. “They’re 22-24 pages,” Karch says. “The words in Jeff’s shows are not ‘say-it-the-way-you-want-to-say-it’ kind of porn. That’s a credit to him.”
At Hustler, says Thill, they’re not afraid of dialogue either. Fidelity to the original “allows you not to be afraid to put in more rather than less dialogue. We’ve learned that these people that are watching it and enjoying it really don’t mind watching 9, 10, maybe even 12 minutes of continuous dialogue in between scenes.”
Adam & Eve production chief Meredith Christopher points out that the North Carolina-based studio has been doing parodies, or XXX adaptations, of big Hollywood movies, Lady Scarface and Carolina Jones and the Broken Covenant, not played for laughs and essentially adaptations of those films with the lead male character turned into one of their contract girls.
Their upcoming Kayden and Rocco Make a Porno, with Kayden Kross and Rocco Reed, “inspired by” the Kevin Smith movie, is essentially vignettes about porn biz shenanigans. X-Play’s Not Bewitched XXX, which they distributed, had “spectacular” sales, she says. “It’s still one of our top-selling movies.” X-Play is planning to shoot another parody for them to distribute this summer.
Not all parodies are based on sitcoms—reality shows are also big, and there are several on the horizon.
Third Degree Films, under the guidance of Joey Wilson, has shot TM Sleaze, a takeoff on the TMZ show. The first one will feature takeoffs on Mel Gibson, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and other notoriety-prone celebs. Ron Jeremy plays TMZ founder Harvey Levin. “We’re parodying the show and stars that have been in the news in the past months. I believe it will become a series eventually. It lends itself to it.”
Cezar Capone has in the works Cock of Love, a Rock of Love takeoff in which “a regular girl wants to fall in love with a male porn star. We start with 10 girls…. The remaining five all have to perform on camera with the guy.”
Red Light District is following up its Mary Carey-starring Celebrity Pornhab, with a Vol. 2—a unique instance of a parody featuring a star from the show being spoofed.
Mullen says he doesn’t mind other producers jumping on the bandwagon that X-Play started rolling, as long as the work is done well (he tips his hat to New Sensations in this regard). “It’s when they’re done lousy that it bugs me. I cringe when I hear about shoots that are done in one day or two days. With parodies there’s no way you could do it in two days. Time is the director’s greatest weapon to create something fantastic.”
Which raises the question: What, outside of savvy marketing, is the secret to a spoof’s success?
Being true to the original, says Hustler’s Thill, is essential. “The farther you go with a parody of something that’s part of collective pop culture, in terms of really paying homage to it and giving the feel of that show and attention to detail, the better.”
Braun, in the parodies he shot for Hustler and those he will shoot for Vivid, storyboards every shot. “I always start with a lot of research, and then I storyboard every movie myself, I storyboard every single shot of the movie. I try to visualize exactly how it’s going to look. When I get on a set all I got to do is put the camera in the frame, it’s a lot easier.”
Mullen cites the meticulous care that his partner David, X-Play’s other half, puts into set and costume design. “He goes to great lengths to make everything perfect. We’re never satisfied. It has to be TV-like. Otherwise we will not bother doing it.”
And few elements matter more than casting.
“Acting is crucial,” Mullen insists. “We have a very small acting pool to pull from in porn. Every once in a while you get someone who can handle dialogue.” He cites stars like Teagan Presley, Kayden Kross, Jenna Haze, Aurora Snow. And there are several men who work frequently in parodies, like James Deen, Anthony Rosano, Nick Manning, Evan Stone.
Stone, who says that playing Capt. Kirk in This Ain’t Star Trek XXX was “a dream come true,” notes that in most parodies, “they don’t really care if the person can act that well if [he or she] looks like the character. They’re trying to get as close as possible [to the real thing].”
He learned that when he auditioned for the Kramer role in New Sensations’ Seinfeld: A XXX Parody. “I had all his mannerisms down, I thought, to a T, but they ended up not using me and got some guy that really looked like Kramer [Eric John of Erotique Entertainment]. So I wound up playing the Soup Nazi, or the ‘Porn Nazi.’ The funny thing was everybody looked so much like [the original characters] that I actually believed I was on the set of Seinfeld.”
Director Braun goes as far as photo-shopping the faces of the talent on those of the characters from the original series before he starts casting, to get an idea of what they’ll look like.”
Says Myers, “Mainstream, porn, it doesn’t matter who’s doing comedy, you need people who get it, you need intelligent actors. We’re looking for the double threat, great comedy timing and great sexual timing.”
Taylor has been impressed by the enthusiasm of the porn talent in New Sensations’ parodies. “They step up and go that extra mile and really know their lines and come prepared and really try to pull off the character. I think they’re kind of excited about doing this, to be a character from their favorite show. It’s nice to have somebody else passionate about what you’re trying to do.”
Sometimes a crucial role demands that producers reach beyond the XXX talent pool. When Mullen was casting Not the Cosbys XXX, he knew the actor playing the lead was crucial. “If we didn’t have a Cliff Huxtable, we were dead.”
So, he says, “We went out and found a mainstream comedian to play the role.” It was Thomas Ward, a standup comic from Detroit, whose appearance in web promos Mullen credits with stirring up a lot of very marketable controversy. “We’re getting the biggest interest in a porn movie in history [on the Internet].”
Audience awareness of the subject matter is a big part of what makes parodies so marketable.
“It makes it easy when [consumers] know exactly what the movie’s going to be about,” says Adam & Eve’s Christopher. “If it’s a popular show the mainstream has already done all the marketing for you. You can ride on their coattails basically.”
She feels that the parodies with the best chance for commercial success are “the classic movies or your older TV shows. The modern-day parodies do not sell as well. It’s the older things that are off the air that everybody in the world knows or has heard of. I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t know The Cosbys. Even kids today know those shows because they’re still playing.”
X-Play’s Mullen couldn’t agree more. “If you do a show that was a hit last year, you only have that first generation of fans to draw from. With a show like The Brady Bunch, we have multiple generations of fans that have watched that show and that really increases our audience.”
“Now that we have a catalog going,” says Hustler’s Thill, “we’re starting to see that there’s an audience out there that feels comfortable purchasing an adult film when they probably normally wouldn’t — and have friends over or a couples night.
They’re even asking us now to include non-sex versions of the film, which we did in the case of Star Trek. If you purchase the Blu-ray you can choose to watch just the story and dialogue scenes without the actual sex.”
But the basic reason for the genre’s consumer friendliness is that a well-made parody is fun to watch.
And, asks Cash Markman, “Why not have fun watching porn? A lot of people say that if you’re laughing you can’t get turned on. That may be true, but I remember in the heyday of the parodies, our stuff was really big on college campuses. Young guys can’t watch porn together, they feel too intimidated. But if it’s a comedy, they can do it. They can sit around and laugh, have a good time, and they’re liking looking at the girls having sex.
“There’s different porn for everybody’s taste, and the parody is very valid. I think it’ll stick around.”