Friday, May 04, 2007

Satire versus Parody

This morning I was thinking about the preponderance of parody in Korea and the relative lack of satire. I arrived in Korea right before Roh Mu-hyun took office, and popular sketch comedy show Gag Concert featured a guy impersonating him on every episode. I assumed that they had a cast member dedicated to the role of the president, a la SNL, but after the fake President Roh's catch phrase "Masumnida matgoyo" or "That's right, that's right AND . . ." (does not translate well at all, eh? Well, it was never funny in Korean either) ran its course, he disappeared, never to return. Not even during the impeachment attempt against him. Imagine your country's comedians turning a blind satirical eye to the president's impeachment.
Anyway, I got to thinking of whether or not I had ever seen any good satire on Korean TV, and I realized that I had indeed. Utchasa (웃찾사), the Mad TV to Gag Concert's SNL, ran a series of sketches last summer called "Mommy diary" (육아 일기). In it, two very pregnant mothers sit and compare their kindergarten age children. The first mother is gratingly perfect and has a sweet and adorable daughter. The second mother is desperately trying to keep up with the bragging, and has a repulsive son. They both yell at each other and generally act disfunctional. The satire comes from the second family's father, who is teaching his son to be a real pervert by exposing him to Korean male culture.

(Even if you don't speak Korean, it's worth it to skim through these videos to hear the 'good' mom's incredible smarminess)

Here's an example of a joke from the above video. The perfect mother and daughter sing a sweet song together. The repulsive mother and son try to match them and sing

Mother (sings): Do you like mom or dad?
Son (sings): Dad likes Miss Kim.
Mother (stops singing): What?! Do it right!
Son: OK
Mother: Not 'Dad LIKES Miss Kim', DAD likes Miss Kim', you have to go down at the end.

Here's another

Best joke here:

Girl: Mom, I have a question. Sometimes at dinner daddy winks at you, and then you and Daddy go to bed early. Why is that?
Good Mom: Hmm, well, that's because your Dad works so hard all day and he needs his rest, and I go to tuck him in. (Winking to the audience) I guess we'll have to change our signal.
Daughter: Tonight, I'll tuck daddy in.
Mom: How cute!
Boy: Mom, I've been wondering about something. Sometimes Daddy winks at Mommy and then the lights go out early in your bedroom. Is that some kind of signal?
Mom: Umm, umm, eh . . . oh, yeah, that's not any kind of special signal, just sometimes your dad is tired from work so he goes to bed early.
Boy: Oh, so that's it . . . cause when in the morning he's EVEN MORE TIRED!
Mom: You bastard!

One more. Mom is quizzing the son and this is the question

Mom: You know there are so many kinds of love, and some people have the normal kind of love, but when we first met, your father and I had this kind of love.
Boy: I know! Stalker!
Mom: You bastard!

I love this sketch, even though it's just as formulaic and hit-or-miss as anything else on Gag Concert or Utchasa or Gag-ya or any of the other sketch shows here, because there's a real satirical edge to it. Here are women and children trying to live their little familial suburban Korean fantasy, but that dirty ajosshi (manly man) world keeps encroaching in. And the boy, little Geumbegi, will eventually enter that world, with it's cigarettes, alcohol and infidelity. But it's funny too. Now that's satire. I just wonder how many people in the audience are in on it.

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