Final: Have Parodies Saved Porn?

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With the AVN and XBiz awards season upon us, I thought it would be interesting to go back to an Internet show Lexington Steele hosted this past May in which the question was asked, Have Parodies Saved Porn?

Among Steele’s guests on that show were James Bartholet, Misty Stone, Will Ryder and Marci Hirsch from Vivid.

Bartholet, who does his own show Inside the Industry, reminisced about his radio days at KSOL in the San Francisco Bay area when he was a skinny “little cracker” kid.

Bartholet’s done a number of award winning performances in parodies along with Thomas Ward who co-hosts Steele’s show.

“Parodies are not something new that we’ve been doing in the adult industry,” Bartholet observed.

“They’ve been doing parodies since the Eighties and Nineties. But they would give them those funny names like Flesh Dance. Then Will Ryder went in there with Hustler and fought tooth and nail to be able to put the title on there.

“As you as you put ‘Not’ or ‘This Ain’t’ or ‘XXX’ in the title you can get away with saying The Brady Bunch or Men in Black.”

Steele wondered if that has been a successful strategy to reinvigorate a viewership that’s gone stale.

“Most definitely,” answered Bartholet.

“When I do signings all across the country…when I was in Chicago I sold out in one day all the copies of The Saw porn parody I did. Because the college kids love these movies, and there’s a whole brand new audience out there that loves it. I think it’s these college age kids. Face it. The guys that used to get the movies when they were on VHS- the trench coat guys- they’ve gotten older now.

“They’ll either go on the Internet and whack off for a minute to the free stuff. They ain’t going down to the store to buy the stuff. So we’ve got to make stuff for a brand new demographic.

“Hence this is where the brilliant Axel Braun comes into play doing all these comic book movies. These are a big hit because it’s going for a younger audience.”

Ward, who starred in the Cosby show parody, saves he loves the parodies for the production value which have taken it to a whole other level.

Bartholet noted that in the Airplane parody titled Flight Attendants, much of the movie was shot on a sound stage that had a plane cut in half along with a terminal.

Ward was asked about the impact of him playing Bill Cosby, forgetting the fact that he’s a dead ringer for the comedian. Ward, a comic, has been playing Cosby as part of his mainstream act.

Ward said he used to do a bit about Cosby watching a porno movie and got word through a friend who was on The Jeffersons that there was a Cosby porn parody being made. When he saw the quality of what Ryder was attempting, Ward said he’d give it a try. Consequently he’s acquired a whole new audience.

“Porn is bigger than all entertainment combined,” said Ward.

“Stand-up comedy is about 2% of all entertainment. I’m thinking if I can get 10% of the porn audience to follow me over to comedy, that’s probably bigger than the whole comedy audience in itself.”

Bartholet acknowledges that there are some porn parodies made on cheap budgets and, thus, people don’t want to get them.

“They want to get the high end stuff. At Wicked they spend a lot of money to get those details down in the wardrobe and everything. The same with Hustler, Vivid and Adam & Eve. They spend the money.”

Steele wondered if the inclusion of porn negates the value of scrupulous detail.

“Sex is very important,” statws Bartholet.

“But we know the only thing that’s going to save the mainstream and the adult industry is to stop illegal porn. And they’ve been doing a pretty good job about it.”

Bartholet notes that a lot of illegal porn users are being tracked down by their ISP addresses.

Steele said from his own experience that’s been an uphill battle.

“That fight’s been pretty heavy with the all-sex and gonzo studios like my own. But with the feature studios how do they combat online piracy because their feature movies are being pilfered as well?”

For his part, Ward said he likes looking at the parodies for the story. While Bartholet notes that since he’s been in the business, the caliber, performances and production value have greatly increased in porn.

Ward recalled that during the table reading for the Cosby script, he noted that Stone could really act.

Steele mentioned the fact that some of the parodies have been threatened with lawsuits.

“That happened with The Three Stooges,” said Bartholet.

“There was a guy who said he owned the trademark and was trying to sue us. We found out through our lawyers he didn’t have grounds. But it was good publicity. We got Howard Stern talking about this movie which was pretty incredible.”

Among her favorite roles, said Stone, was the one she had in the Cosby parody along with playing the female version of Will Smith in the Men in Black porn parody. Stone also had the lead role in Hustler’s version of Avatar and got to play Oprah, doing it in a fat suit. Parodies, Stone acknowledged, are the reasons that fans recognize her.

“No one would have seen my talent if Mr. Will Ryder hadn’t put me in parodies and actually given me some lines. Honestly, that talent wasn’t being fulfilled through hardcore porn.”

For Avatar, Stone said she’d be in make up five hours a day over a four day schedule.

Asked what he thought was the future of parodies, Ryder has to admit that everyone has jumped on the parody bandwagon and sooner or later the bandwagon “gets a flat tire.”

“Everything is a cycle. I never anticipated that when we re-invented the parody. I never knew that it would take off to be what it is today. I had no clue. I really didn’t. Is it the end of a cycle? I don’t think it’s the end yet, but out with the old, in with the new.”

Asked about legalities, Ryder said he’s had a few instances. When he first shot the Cosby parody, he ran to his office at 7AM to grab some equipment and found a FedEx under his office from one of the Cosby producers warning him not to do the feature. Ward said he heard that Bill Cosby saw the parody and really liked it.

Ryder conceded that without Ward he wouldn’t have been able to make the movie. In Stone’s case he fell “instant lust” upon meeting her.

Whether there will be a trend toward more dramatic parodies remains to be seen. Ryder said he tackled Rocky and wrote it as a serious drama.

“I shot it like a drama. The first time I got a nomination for that was in the comedy category. I called up AVN or whoever it was, and said what the fuck? You put this movie in comedy. It was my attempt at drama. I guess I failed.”

At the time of this interview Ryder was in the process of doing an Animal House parody.

“It’s going to be really good because we’re doing a little bit of twist to this one,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot of the main characters from Animal House, but in this one it’s a sorority that goes bad. It’s going to be outrageous.”

Ryder said he got a mainstream actor from Hollywood to play the John Belushi role.

“What I’m doing with this movie is filling it with orgies and threeways and anal sex and all kinds of stuff. I think this is going to be our best movie ever.”

Ward did a comedy bit about things you don’t say to porn performers should you meet them in person which reminded Bartholet of the fact that he went on a mainstream audition recently.

“I went in there and they were just staring at me. I read the copy and they said, ‘Can we see it?’ I’m not kidding you. They go, ‘I saw you in that movie and this movie; we’re fans.’ I go I appreciate it but I’m here for a mainstream commercial. They go, ‘We’ve never seen it.’ I said you can go rent my movie.”

Marci Hirsch from Vivid called in. Hirsch said Vivid found a new market in the super hero parodies.

“We found the fan boy market. We invite them to our sets. They review the movies. It really made us branch out to an area we never thought of before.”

Hirsch noted that on the fan boy sites, comparisons will be made between the Vivid parodies and the mainstream films. Hirsch said in every review she saw Steele’s Nick Fury was being compared to the mainstream character [Samuel L. Jackson].

Asked if Vivid makes the round of the Comic Con conventions, Hirsch said they attended last year as guests of another company and brought Allie Haze as Princess Leah, Dale Dabone as Batman and Ryan Driller as Superman.

“We brought all of them in costume. It was great and the crowd was great. We would love to do it again.”

Hirsch also acknowledged that Axel Braun’s is a marquee name when promoting these features.

“I never read comic books when I was younger, but Axel has been part of this world since he was little. It shapes the way he sees these super heroes and them writes about them and directs them and his attention to detail.”

Hirsch said the Vivid parodies continue to make money or else they wouldn’t continue making them. Vivid, she says, works way ahead of schedule and has a number of super hero parodies in the can.

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