Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hamilton: Parody, Pastiche, Satire, Spoof!

So I've been teaching a comedy class for teenagers, and I'm writing my own curriculum as I go. This week, we covered parody, satire, spoofs, and a less well-known but very similar genre, pastiche.

To help the class understand the distinctions--(the general public does not, by the way, and often uses parody, satire and spoof interchangeably)--I showed them videos which all had the same starting point: the hit musical Hamilton.

It was a pretty good lesson, so just for grins--and while all the links still work--I thought I'd post it here!

We'll start with the original work, for those who don't know it--the opening number of Hamilton. There are no really good recordings available, but here's the best we have:

Notice the song is dramatic, intense, and full of words. Others will imitate and poke fun at these qualities.

First, we'll view a parody--an imitation that pokes gentle fun at the original. One minute is enough to get the idea, if you're pressed for time:

In this case, it's a parody of both Hamilton AND Harry Potter! We can tell it's supposed to be funny, because of the bad wigs and costumes, for starters.

Next, let's view something very similar, and yet quite different. Though this performance is also a humorous imitation of the Hamilton opening number, it is meant to be taken seriously. The production values are much higher than the parody we just watched, and it is an excellent performance in its own right. When an imitation is more of a tribute, or is created in imitative admiration of the original work, it's called a pastiche.

Now, let's look at a Hamilton satire. A satire is supposed to be funny, but it also makes a point, usually a political, societal or cultural critique. (Two minutes or so is enough to get the idea....)

While the idea of Hamilton performed with an all-white cast is quite funny, their point about "reverse racism" is social commentary.

Finally, a spoof is so similar to parody that it's even considered a sub-type of parody, but the main distinguishing features are that spoofs are often meant to make fun of not just one work, but a whole body of work, and they are often not as true to the original material as a parody.

The following video imitates Hamilton but it's really a spoof about high school musicals in general. It also spoofs the documentary genre. The Hamilton imitations are performed poorly, on purpose, and are not very true to the original material.

Hopefully you now clearly understand the distinctions between a parody, a pastiche, a satire, and a spoof!

I'll throw one more out, for free. A farce--while also a comedic genre and sometimes used synonymously with satire and parody--doesn't really belong in this group because it is not imitative by definition. A farce is a highly improbable, exaggerated comedic situation, with a plot that spirals further and further out of control. But it's an original work, not an imitation of another work. Even if it does imitate a comedic situation, it's not a key source of the humor. Arsenic and Old Lace, Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, and Weekend at Bernie's are all movies about a corpse--or more than one corpse--with characters trapped in the situation, trying to figure out what to do about it/them. All three are farces in their own right; you can enjoy any one of them without reference to the other.

And last, NOT for free--Hamilton tickets! Chicklet and I are YUGE fans and really hope to see it before it leaves Chicago. We are saving our pennies, but we'll accept contributions of any amount. :)

Hopefully it's here for a long time!

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