Monday, January 25, 2010

A modern thing that I LOVE: The Mockumentary

The mockumentary sub-genre would probably get the biggest credit for the development of my kooky sense of humor.
While most people consider 1984 and This is Spinal Tap the birth of the mockumentary, there are television shows that experimented with the style in the 50s (according to wikipedia-I've never seen any of them). Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run (1969), a fake documentary about a serial criminal on the run.

playing cello in the marching band.
Christopher Guest is the hero of mockumentary lore, combining his brilliant skills with Eugene Levy and a fabulous cast of improv veterans. After Spinal Tap, which was mostly written and partially improvised, the first completely improvised film Guest did was Waiting for Guffman, the story of a small Missouri town and their quest to put on a musical. As a former actor in community theater, this movie is practically 100% true. In fact, if it had not featured established stars, I would have taken it for fact.
The next improv-mockumentary was Best in Show, about the frantic world of Dog Shows. Again, I have been involved with Dog Shows for a couple of years, and this movie is also 100% accurate about show people. Here are some of the best moments:

Guest has also made A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration, about Folk Music and Filmmaking respectively.
A mockumentary that, although not improvised, deserves more attention is Drop Dead Gorgeous. I first saw this movie soon after it was released, when I was about 10. This film definitely formed a large part of my sense of humor, and contributed to my mastery of the Minnesota accent.

Of course, the mockumentary has now made its way in to Television, with The Office and Parks and Recreation.
I hope you appreciate this sub-genre of comedy as much as I do!


  1. Great post, Maggie! there are really a lot of cool ones out there... The 'Tap' is one of my all-time faves, since I was in high school when it came out...and yes, I 'followed' many of the 'rivethead' bands they were 'mocking' mom watched it, and just didn't get it... it's a LOT funnier when you know what the 'culture' they are spoofing is.

    Monty Python's Eric Idle did one back in the late 70's called 'The Rutles', which is a 'mockumentary' of sorts about a 'Beatles-type' band - not very different than the 'Tap' theme. It was pretty funny, albeit 'British' humor, which is an 'acquired taste'... but this one may well have been the inspiration for 'Tap'...

    Have yet to see 'Best in Show', but my mom DID like that one... guess it's not as much of a stretch to understand 'dog culture' - how some folks just go a wee bit overboard in their quest for...well, Best in Show.

  2. Mockumentary's can be great, but there's nothing worse than a bad mockumentary.

    Well, there are worse things, like poverty, disease, etc - but you know what I mean.

  3. I'm not sure I;ve ever seen a bad mockumentary. Can you give me some examples?