Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.
‘Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery’, a ‘South Park’ episode where the band KORN teams up with the kids to solve a groovy pirate ghost (ghost pirate?) mystery.
Why it’s perfect
In South Park’s 21 year run, it’s produced countless funny moments, but none have made me laugh harder than seeing KORN turn into actual corn to fight pirate ghosts. It comes out of nowhere, adds nothing to the story, but is so funny that it’s stuck with me since I first saw it back in 1999. The question is, why? I’ve spent years trying to figure out why seeing KORN turn into corn-related products is so funny, and I think I’ve figured it out:
*It is completely unexpected, with no foreshadowing beforehand.
*It takes place during the climax, so the audience is fooled into believing that something amazing is going to happen.
*What happens is so pathetic and ineffective that even the characters in-show are dumbfounded, including the villains.
In other words, the unexpected is presumed to be amazing, but fails so hard that everyone, including villains, are dumbfounded. This comedic formula could be applied to any situation and it would be funny:
*Luke Skywalker activates his X-wing’s special ability during the Death Star Trench run, and the craft turns into a shark balloon.
*James Bond, during a final fight with a villain to save the world, activates a suit of nano-armor that Q gave him, only for it to create something that looks like this, and has no fighting abilities whatsoever.
*In a bid to stop Godzilla from destroying Tokyo, the military sends out and impressive looking mech bristling with death-dealing weaponry. Problem is, it’s actually only 6 feet tall, and useless against Godzilla, who promptly crushes it.
What’s the takeaway here? When our heroes are facing the big bad of a story, having someone use a useless power/ability to try and save the day can – if pulled off well – be hilarious.