If parody porn director Lee Roy Myers wanted to shoot a scene inside a Korean restaurant, the one we’re currently eating in wouldn’t be a bad choice. Nestled inside the tall walls of the Chapman Plaza in east LA, it would be a befitting set not just because of the patrons illegally smoking cigarettes and the quirky, un-translated Korean menu, but because the establishment’s name is “Toe-Bang.” Ignoring the little dishes filled with tasty fermented victuals, Myers, 34, gleefully shovels pork into his mouth with a set of chopsticks. Before I can even ask him a question he proclaims, “I love my job. I’m not the smartest in the world, not the most interesting. But people love the way I mix porn and parody.”
Born and raised in Montreal, Myers (not his real name) grew up voraciously consuming popular culture: From The A-Team and Diff’rent Strokes, to Great Space Coaster, The Fall Guy, and The Jeffersons. Later, he discovered the work of legendary cult film director Lloyd Kaufman, and fell in love with virtually everything produced by Troma Studios. “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. was my all-time favorite,” he says, explaining that the anarchic, 1990 film was a bigger influence on him than any actual porn flick he’d ever seen.
Just by spending time with the affable Myers, you’d never guess that being a pornographer isn’t always a bang-up time. Thanks to a worldwide economic meltdown and rampant online piracy, the business is hemorrhaging money. But to paraphrase a line from Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: Lee Roy Myers ain’t in the porn business. He’s in the porn parody business, and cousin, business is a boomin’.
Fleshbot, the sex-oriented blog published by Gawker Media, recently dubbed Myers “the prince of parody porn,” but the title perhaps understates his cultural significance. Yes, Myers’ porn oeuvre is subversively undermining mainstream narratives, but his movies are also undermining the vacuous, assembly-line fare that the San Fernando Valley desperately continues to churn out by the truckload.
According to Myers, the key to making porn parody work is being able to perfectly calibrate silliness with sex. Err too far on one side and risk failing to titillate; err too far on the other side and end up with colorless smut. “I need to please both the porn and non-porn consumer,” he says. Certainly his work is a creative challenge, but Myers is quick to put that challenge into context: “I’m not an artist. I make exploitation movies, but like a true independent filmmaker, I don’t have a studio breathing down my neck.”
Myers’ rise in the industry has been meteoric. His 2009 parody of The Office was the first of over a dozen he’d helm for New Sensations, including spoofs of Sex & the City, The Breakfast Club, Reno 911!, Who’s the Boss?, The Human Centipede, Entourage, WKRP in Cincinnati, 30 Rock, Friends, The Big Lebowski,The Simpsons, and Seinfeld,
“That Seinfeld parody was very strange,” he tells me. Seinfeld XXX revolves around the Kramer character’s wacky idea to shoot his own pornographic film (which ends up featuring Sasha Grey). “It was almost like sketch comedy with sex in it,” he says, motioning to the waitress for more napkins. “Is the scene with Elaine and Jerry the sexiest scene? No. Is it interesting? Yes. It’s a one-of-a-kind.”
It’s that one-of-a-kind-ness that distinguishes Myers from the rest of the porn riff-raff. When you watch a Lee Roy Myers parody, you sometimes feel like you’re in an elaborate performance art piece. Enter his most recent release, Here Cums the President, a parody of U.S. history focused on the sexual indiscretions of the nation’s presidents. Watching Richard Nixon (Anthony Rosano) telling a Chinese massage girl (Kristina Rose) mid-coitus, “You really should come back with me to America. I can do anything I want there and tape it,” or Bill Clinton (James Deen) screaming, “Here comes my Whitewater!,” as he soils the infamous blue dress of Monica Lewinsky stand-in Lisa Ann (who also recently starred in Hustler’s Who’s Nailin’ Pallin? parody) feel like the oddest civics lessons since Schoolhouse Rock’s I’m Just a Bill.
“Some of it is possibly too smart for porn,” admits Myers. “I’m pushing it as far as it can go, but it’s the thinking man’s porn I create that I’m most proud of.” Myers’ efforts to push the genre to its limits point to an quiet irony at the center of the porn parody movement—its makers are trying to get away with including as many bizarre, esoteric references as they can at a time when mainstream films are trying to get away with including as much graphic sex as they can.
Even when Myers does gonzo porn—a style developed in the 1990s that shuns plot lines as if they were chastity belts, cramming as many sex scenes as possible into each video—he can’t quite resist the impulse to parody. Take the scene from his “Porn in the USA” cheerleader series (you may already be familiar) when a pom-pom waving teen (Kristina Rose) cheers before a green-and-white uniformed football player named “Sanchize” (Rocco Reed)—a reference to current New York Jets quarterback Marc Sanchez, who just last year was romantically linked to a 17-year-old. Okay, in terms of parody it might not be exactly what Aristotle had in mind, but you get the idea.
When our meal is finished, Myers and I exit the restaurant. I shamelessly flout journalistic conventions and tell him that if he ever wants to shoot a porn version of Fletch, I’m the guy to pen it. He feigns interest and quickly changes the subject. It seems that one of the few hazards of his job is constantly being pitched ideas for new porn parodies.
“My mom actually pitched me Dr. Phil,” he says.
As Myers explains it, “There is a shrinking market for traditional porn because for some reason, there’s no one enforcing piracy laws. But the parodies get you into homes of people who don’t buy traditional porn.” Much like a Weird Al Yankovic album, porn parodies appeal to fans of original source material for their novelty value. If you’re a diehard fan of The Golden Girls, as the logic goes, then you might be interested in owning Golden Girls XXX: A MILF Parody. But in another sense, porn parodies function differently than Weird Al albums. “They’re sometimes used by guys to get their girlfriends over the hump of watching porn,” says Myers. “A guy can act like they’re not watching in a sexual way, but as a goof, because they’re funny.”
But they’ve got to be funny. And it’s Myers’ gift as a director to exploit his genres’ ironies for comedic effect: the fact that franchises set in New York are now filmed in Los Angeles (Sex & The City, 30 Rock); preexisting sexual elements in original source material (The Big Lebowski, The Breakfast Club); or cleverly winking at that material, for example, “Hopefully I don’t screw it up so that all of you are eating each other’s shit” (Human Centipede).
After lunch, Myers needs to immerse himself in episodes of Family Guy for his next script. “What can I say? I’m a TV geek,” he tells me as he gets into his car. “I’m at the point of my life where I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. The naked girls are just a bonus.”