The element of surprise

This article is about how the element of surprise can be used to make a parody more fun, and it's mostly dedicated to people who are in the beginning of their parody making. First of all I wanna point out that I'm not claiming to be an expert, and I don't always use this principle in my own parodies. I'm just sharing what I've learned by watching other parodies, and from my real life studies (psychology). Hopefully someone will find it useful!

When you expect something to be funny; it usually isn't. Which is why many jokes aren't really that funny, because when you read it/hear it - you expect it to be funny. Same thing if someone says "you gotta see this, it's sooo funny!", you might laugh a little and find it entertaining, but the real, stomach ache laughter usually comes when we least expect it. For instance, a parody without a plot, one that consists of nonsense and random stuff - when you see this, you have no idea what to expect, and your brain will not be prepared. So as a result, you are more likely to find it very funny. This is the reason why we usually don't laugh at the same things over and over, at least not in the same way (even if we can still smile and get happy), cause we already know what's gonna happen.

If you give too much away in the title of the parody, or in the description, your viewers will already be a bit prepared for what's gonna happen, which might make it less funny to them. However, the actual parody might still be so funny that it won't matter, that's important to remember.

Repeating words that are expected is another thing; if the viewer is expecting a word, and that word shows up, it will have the same affect as if the person saw the parody many times before. In other words; it will be less funny. Again, using an unexpected word will surprise the viewer, and thus be more funny.

Same thing can be said about the actual scenes. When you have seen the same scene over and over, it will take more and more to convince your brain that it's funny. Your brain has already seen the scene, and memorized it. What you need to do, is to bring a new image or angle for your brain; something it didn't expect. Silence and facial expressions can be used in this way; people in the video reacting to something strange, usually makes the viewers react the same way. The feeling of confusion will transfer to the viewer, who will find it all very amusing. That's why people laugh more in groups, at the cinema for example. Because people tend to transfer their feelings to each other. That's why we can start laughing when the person next to us is laughing, even if we have no idea what we're laughing at. And that's why they use laugh tracks in TV shows; people respond to the laughter and wanna laugh too.

It's important to point out that people respond differently to humour. So even if the element of surprise is important in many cases, there are people who this doesn't apply to.

So, some final tips on how to use the element of surprise:

  1. Try to use the facial expressions; if the character looks surprised/sad/angry, why not add something for him to react to that would trigger such a reaction? When Grawitz looks troubled in Hitler's office for example, why not give him something disturbing to look at (other than Hitler), that nobody would expect, and make the scene silent. Silence is an underestimated ingredient in parodies.
  2. Pictures can be used to add something unexpected. Choose a random, strange picture, it doesn't necessarily have to be funny in itself, then have Hitler react to it in an unexpected way. Or, you can choose a picture that will be a big surprise to people, and have a normal reaction to it - the point is to bring a surprise of some kind into the parody.
  1. People usually enjoy recognizing themselves in what they see; so if you can create a reaction or "climate" that the viewer can identify with, you are more likely to entertain them. A scene where something unexpected happens, and Hitler says something that expresses how many people would feel in such a situation, would be good. For example, if someone showed up at your office, dressed as a clown, and just stood there, watching you (in a none-scary way) - how would you react? And how would you react if you're already a bit annoyed and stressed? What would you be thinking? Try to put yourself in his shoes (not literally though, in that case, choose the clown shoes - they tend to be quite large).

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