Spoof shows turn tables on celebrity obsession
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Watch out Britney, Octomom and Paris! Shows spoofing your fame are piling up faster than celebrity magazines in a hair salon, and they include a stage musical and animated TV programs.
"Popzilla," the latest show to declare open season on Hollywood celebrities and their reality TV kissing cousins, will premiere on cable television's MTV on Monday.
The acerbic newcomers are putting a new twist on the public appetite for celebrity news. Nearly 55 million Americans visited an entertainment news site in May, digital tracking firm comScore said.
"Popzilla" was conceived to match the fast-paced, often raunchy celebrity TV news show "TMZ", whose sister web site TMZ.com gets about 10 million visitors a month.
It features segments of one minute or less, but instead of breaking news like "TMZ," the show uses hastily animated sketches to poke fun at the week's top celebrity stories.
"We live in an information age, and stuff that never would have been reported in the '60s is all over the media now. So when Obama calls Kanye West a jackass, it's all over the media," said comedian Dave Thomas, who created the series.
"And so there, you get a really interesting interface between a bizarre celebrity rapper, who makes shoes, and the president of the United States, and I think that's worthy of a joke," Thomas said.
Thomas, 60, starred in 1970s Canadian TV comedy show "SCTV," and his "Bob and Doug McKenzie" sketches, with co-star Rick Moranis, are famous in Canada for their play on stereotypes about the country.
"Popzilla" uses photos of celebrities' heads superimposed onto animated figures. Animax Entertainment, the team behind the show, hopes the short comedy bits will be viewed not only on MTV, but also on the Internet and cell phones.
In one sketch, Britney Spears' ex-husband Kevin Federline, who has been in the news lately for looking heavy, shows up to play a game of basketball sporting a massive belly. It ends with Federline crushing one of the players under his abdomen and then munching on a turkey leg.
Another makes fun of the U.S. pop boy band the Jonas Brothers, who wear purity rings committing them to abstinence before marriage.
One show that has been playing well in Los Angeles is the stage play "Octomom! The Musical", which is inspired by unemployed single woman Nadya Suleman who became a celebrity after giving birth in January to eight children. Suleman also has six older children.
"Octomom! The Musical", which has plans to move to a bigger venue, also spoofs Angelina Jolie and reality TV star Kate Gosselin of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" fame.
"People want to laugh at these characters, especially if they have this pent-up emotion, like toward Octomom...We offer them an outlet to laugh about it, instead of scream about it," said the show's creator, Chris Voltaire.
Actor Ashton Kutcher's "Blah Girls," an animated Web series about teens who share their sarcastic obsessions with celebrities in the news, is being developed for TV.
Cooper Lawrence, author of "The Cult of Celebrity," said the public is more inclined than ever to laugh at celebrities because of the boom in instant reality TV stars.
"For the first time in our culture, people's job is to be famous, to become a celebrity," she said. "So I think as a result, the rest of us get to poke fun at that."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)