Parody Pointers from Paul Scheer

146233-scheer_paul_lrgWhen he was in town last year for the Childrens Hospital marathon at the Alamo Ritz, comedian Paul Scheer shared a sneak preview of his latest online treasure, a procedural crime drama parody called NTSF:SD:SUV:: (short for National Terrorist Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle.)

Scheer’s series of amazing and hilarious shorts parodying crime procedurals just finished up their third season of production, and there’s no end in sight for Scheer’s continued gleeful romp through the world of parody. (As long as stupid things keep showing up on TV, he’s got plenty of material to work with, after all…)

Much to the delight of aspiring comedy shorts auteurs everywhere, Scheer recently shared with Esquire his 10 rules for making a successful parody video. (Since he’s now one of the go-to guys of late for all things over-the-top and amazing in this genre, it seems like a pretty good idea to trust this guy.)

Gathered from a July 25, 2013 post on


1. Don’t Do Your Own Stunts

“I learned not to do my own stunts after the first season when I worked with Lorenzo Lamas. I was trying to be really cool, like ‘Oh yeah I can do my own stunts.’ And then he just beat the shit out of me. He just started slapping me across the face and I realized why I put on dumb costumes and wigs. Save that for the tough guys. Basically you have to live the opposite life of Vin Diesel and The Rock to do parody.”


2. Wig Quality Is Important

“The number one thing to making a good parody is finding the right wig. All mine are taken from newborn babies and I try to craft the right wigs out of that. There’s some side effects to wigs because sometimes your head gets super hot. Not to get too graphic, but I looked like I was farming zits [after wearing my Arsenio Hall wig]. I had two lines across my head – it looked like a planter had gone in there and seeded a zit crop. I had to go to a dermatologist and he said, ‘How did this happen?’ I was like, ‘I was impersonating Arsenio Hall.’”


3. It’s All In The Character’s Name

“I feel like you have to be able to say the name and put a cigar in your mouth at the same time. Trent Hauser came pretty quickly because it sounds so tough. You don’t want to mess with someone named Trent Hauser. If his name was Elijah Dunkleman it wouldn’t work.”


4. Be Serious

“You have to practice your scowl. You can never smile only these shows. You watch CSI and they’ve never smiled once in their life.”


5. Fart Jokes Are Lazy

“Leave your farts at the door. I feel like parody has devolved lately into just bodily functions and fart noises. Parody movies like Airplane! used to be so funny and smart and looked amazing. But now all the parody movies have trailers of people just shitting and farting. I don’t know if that’s parody. It just seems like people have horrible stomach problems.”


6. Be Careful Who You Parody

“Aziz Ansari and I did this thing called ‘The Illusionators’ for Human Giant and we were basically doing a version of Criss Angel. We were out in Vegas one night and this big bouncer came downstairs and he was like ‘Criss Angel would like to see you.’ We were brought up to Criss Angel’s private area. He sat us down on his couch and he was surrounded by all these beautiful women, because obviously beautiful women love magic. He said ‘I heard you do a parody of me.’ We tried to play it off and say it wasn’t really him – but it’s so clearly him. He’s like ‘I haven’t seen it. But I would like to see it. I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so thank you.’ And then he let us go. We thought he was going to beat us up and then he basically told us that we only do it because we love him so much.”


7. Love Your Source Material

“When you try to do something that you love the version of it will be way better than if you’re coming at it condemning it. Everything I’ve ever done comes from a place of sincere love for it. Whether it’s Criss Angel or Roadhouse or Arsenio Hall. Anything that I’ve ever done – I love these things, I want to be in these things. So how can I put myself in these things? Criss Angel was kind of right, I have to be honest.”


8. Play It Real

“People think whenever they’re in a comedy you have to play it over the top. I prefer movies like Airplane! or Top Secret where they’re played just like a regular thing. If you watch our show with the volume off it looks normal. We just did a pilot for this new parody show that’s going to air after the finale of NTSF called Filthy Sexy Teens and it’s a parody of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. A lot of the actors have been on these shows so I told them just to act as if they still are. We play it as straight as we can because I think that’s the best version of parody.”


9. Get Good Guest Stars

“I often try to surround the show with all these great actors. The people who are serious, who have not done that much comedy, are the ones who collaborate the best. Because they’ve actually done these lines in earnest in these movies. Whenever you get a good, serious actor they love coming in and doing it. They’re whole life is saying lines like ‘Guess who’s all washed up’ in earnest so when they come here they collaborate well.”


10. Hurt Animals, But Not Really

“I know it’s not a good thing, but I have fought dogs on the show and I have fought dolphins and it always seems to be the thing that people really like. I think we were picketed at one point. Well, I don’t know if we were picketed but they may have written a comment on a message board. A group of people didn’t like that I got into a fight with a dolphin. So don’t hurt them in real life. I don’t want to get Paula Deen-ed here. Hurt fake animals!”

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