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Parody vs. Fabulism

by Charles Carreon
August 10, 2013

The noble highwayman succored by his bawds.

Everybody knows what a parody is.  My favorite is The Beggar’s Opera, by John Gay, in which he laid funny lyrics over tunes of the day, back in the Neoclassical Era of English Literature, the precise dates of which I forever remain fuzzy on.  I didn’t feel like I missed much from not knowing the originals of the tunes that Gay had written over the melodies of, but probably there are a lot of extra laughs to be harvested by getting those original lyrics and doing a comparison.  Probably someone’s done that by now and it’s online, but I’m not going to search for it just right now.

Because I’m on a mission to get a meaningful definition of parody out of this session at the keyboard.  And I’m not going to just look it up and report what I find.  I’m going to think.  Weird, huh?

See, when you think, sometimes you contradict yourself, and you often seem to.  I seem to have contradicted myself, because my opening line says everyone knows what parody is, and the opening line of the second paragraph says I’m looking for a definition of parody.  It only seems contradictory, though.  In the first paragraph, I gave you an example with which you would automatically agree, especially if you know The Beggars Opera.  It is a perfect example of the form, lacking nothing.

The parody presented by The Beggars Opera is deep and multi-leveled.  All of British society, notoriously class-stratified, is defined as being of a piece, for as Gay’s introductory character says, “It is difficult to determine whether (in the fashionable vices) the fine gentlemen imitate the gentlemen of the road, or the gentlemen of the road the fine gentlemen.”  Gay creates a parody of high manners in low places, replacing the delicate lyrics of popular English songs with the wisdom of whores and highwaymen.  The results are delicious.  I enjoyed reading it, hearing it in a recording, and most enjoyably, in an incredible performance at McCabes in Santa Monica, back in the early nineties.  Took the whole family to get an eyeful of a truly saucy production.  My dad, who took me to a few Broadway shows over the years, would have been proud.  The kids felt like they’d seen more than a spectacle.  They had glimpsed strange doings on that misty island towards which they were sailing – adulthood.

There are of course other very famous parodists, like Weird Al Yankovic, who made himself on the back of Michael Jackson and more power to him — the guy was funny.  My favorite parody of the Michael Jackson Billy Jean video is one Steve Martin did for “The New Show,” a comedy vehicle that went nowhere, but had a great first show.  I was going to law school at that time, poor as a churchmouse and always in need of cheap entertainment for the kids.


In those days, Michael Jackson was a god in LA, and that Steve Martin parody of Billy Jean practically caused me to die laughing.  I noted it down as one of the most enjoyable TV moments of my life.  Well, obviously, as I view it again today on the flatscreen, context is everything when you’re trying to get parodic punch.  In order to enjoy the parody to its full extent, you need to know the original.  Of course it shows how independently fine a librettist John Gay was, that The Beggar’s Opera is wonderfully enjoyable with no knowledge of the original songs whose tunes he borrowed.  This is not the fate of most parodists, whose works, like clinging vines, require a strong tree to affix themselves to.

Too late now for a reprieve — the light is in the sky and there is still no parody at Charles-Carreon.com

Nowadays, there’s a lot of people claiming to be parodists who wouldn’t know how to execute a parody if they were told they would die at sunrise if they failed to do so.  The operator of Charles-Carreon.com is such a man.  I can imagine Popehat, in his cups, at the end of a long, boring night in his glassed-in command post, looking over the smoggy skyline towards San Bernardino, getting his jollies sending Recouvreur a text telling him he’ll hang at dawn if he can’t actually launch a real parody site against Carreon before the first rays of sun tint the sky.  Poor Christopher would probably not be shocked to be told that he has fallen far short of executing a real parody.

Christopher Recouvreur is not a parodist.  He is a fabulist.  He makes things up about me.  He imagines me doing things, and imagines my wife doing things, and puts words in the mouth of “Charles Carreon.”  These words he puts in my mouth are like nothing I have ever said or would say.  There’s no ironic play on my true character.  He’s pretending that Charles Carreon is a silly guy, that his brain works in funny ways, and that everyone should make fun of him.  There’s no parody there.

I mean, I’ve done a few parodies, so I would recognize it if someone actually parodied me.  Like I took the “Hotel California” tune and wrote anti-Bush lyrics for it in “Hotel Babylonia.” I ripped off Elton John and did that “Condoleezza” song about George W. Bush’s love for his Secretary of State.  I stole Elvis’ “Blue Suede Shoes” as the music for my late-term craziness opus – “The Old Ve-to,” and clipped the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” for my tour-de-force reconciliation of the opposites – “Vlad and Me.”  I’ve put funny political lyrics in rock tunes lampooning conservative politicians and policies – a harmless enjoyment that is probably sufficient to get you some unwelcome attention.  Like from faux parodists like Recouvreur, a Rapeutationist pretending to be an artist. Give you any odds that he did not draw that cartoon of me on the dinosaur. (Can I buy it?)

If you were an artist, and you wanted to parody me, you would have to actually look at what I have done, and start making fun of that, which of course would be possible, because everything can be made fun of, and I make the job easier by engaging in outlier behavior, like leaving the big city law grind, spending years living in yurts in the woods of Southern Oregon, and having a well-known identification with rock and rollers as heroes.  C’mon, guys!  There’s stuff to work with here.  I’m Mexican, and you can always parody Mexicans easily, can’t you?  Oh, I don’t fit the stereotype!  Damn!  I’ve written smart-alecky songs like “Explode on the Border,” with inflammatory lyrics like, “I’ll show you what this burrito’s for!”  Don’t be lazy.  You can use that.

It’s almost like my enemies don’t really care.  They put all this time into researching me, and they don’t find anything to parody me about.  They just don’t see the material, because they don’t have a creative bone in their body.  All they’re looking for is stuff that is easily recognizable as “dirt,” bad things that Charles Carreon did or was associated with.  So they miss all the thousands of ways that they could actually parody me.  No surprise.  They’re not parodists, they’re just poo-flingin’ zombies on a mission to paint the town brown.  Since they can’t find much dirt about me, they invent dirt with lies and damn lies, expand the tiny amount of dirt that does exist, and make up the difference with plain ole “Fuck that bastard!”

This entire post flies in the face of an old saying of mine: “Never fault your enemies for ineptitude that accrues to your benefit.”  Think about it.  With this information, Popehat might be moved to fire Recouvreur and have someone else parody me who would be much better at it.  Then again, a real parody of me would be funny, and probably much better than simply being mocked by a jackass.  C’est la vie.  Popehat’ll never do it.  He’s just too cheap.