Spamalot Wins ‘Best Musical’ Tony Award and Proves That Troubled Times Make Us Crave Parody

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Parody is totally imbedded in our culture, from advertising to bogus Web 'studies' to the recent Tony award winner, Spamalot. Why? One author says it's because these are tough times and we need relief.

Parody is hot. It’s so hot, in fact, that Broadway’s biggest honor, the Tony award for Best Musical, just went to Spamalot, a farcical parody musical based on the hit film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Two more Tony awards went to “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” also a parody, for best book of a musical and best featured actor, Dan Fogler.

2004 was no different, with parody musicals “Wicked” and “Avenue Q” sweeping the awards. Still, in the three previous years of Broadway, only two parody titles appeared at all, “Urinetown” and “The Producers,” a Broadway blockbuster, which may have originally started the trend.

Here’s where else you can find parody at the moment: “Happy Woman Magazine,” a parody of commercial women’s magazines; “The Onion,” a free publication that skewers politics for more than three million readers; bogus studies that take on topics like “your momma” jokes; parody chain letter; and endless political satire groups. The popular 2004 presidential election parody Web site, JibJab.com, showed candidates John Kerry and George W. Bush delivering a satirical version of “This Land Is Your Land.” The Web site received more than 65 million visitors before the election.

Best selling self-help author Suzanne Falter-Barns, whose book “Living Your Joy” was recently named one of the top nine self-help books by “SELF Magazine,” has gone the satirical route. She just launched a Web site featuring herself as parody New Age guru Serenity Hawkfire. Visitors to the site at serenityhawkfire.com can download ‘action figures’ of Falter-Barns’ character and listen to songs from a show she has written and performs, itself a parody of a New Age workshop.

Why? “Because irony rules,” replies Falter-Barns. “We’re living in an age when terrorism, a seemingly endless war, and massive work pressures have pushed us to the edge. It’s a grim time and we need relief; a little irony really is the best way to reach people.”

Falter-Barns also notes that in the week since she launched her Web site, her readership has increased more than 30 percent. Apparently, the public is willing to make the leap from earnest to ironic without even blinking an eye.

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Suzanne Falter-Barns
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