In the third of our series Thinking Comedy, film comedian Marlon Wayans ruminates on the anxiety of influence in parody.
My comedies have always been rooted in the tradition of parody and this is not something I’ve always been comfortable with. The etymological link between parody and parasite is enough to give me, having read a great deal of Jacques Derrida, pause.
Aside from the obvious need for a parody to endlessly recycle and reuse a host text or a series of host texts, there’s also the fact that parody has to in some way negotiate other parodies, often better parodies. Is it necessary to – as Harold Bloom argues in his monumental work of literary criticism – ‘kill your antecedents’? Or is this just overworked Freud?
My films, for instance, and I’m thinking specifically of the Scary Movie franchise, but also of White Chicks, Dance Flick and A Haunted House owe a lot to Airplane and Police Squad. They are essentially zanies, a series of jokes that seek almost to beat into submission as to entertain. Anyone unfamiliar with the work that is being parodied cannot hope to understand the comedies. The topicality also makes these works highly prone to decay. Will people still watch Scary Movie ten years from now? I highly doubt it.
And yet it was with some relief that David Zucker agreed to come on board to write and direct Scary Movie 5. As part of the team along with his brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams that brought us those classics of early eighties parody, I feel his involvement retrospectively gives my work an imprimatur of approval and quality. So thank you David, and, yes, the money is in the mail!