In 2004, when comedy team Kasper Hauser flew to shows, they’d often pass around copies of the inflight Sky Mall magazine, trying to crack each other up with fake captions. This exercise resulted in the production of an original book– Sky Maul–a parody of all the wacky, dumb, totally unnecessary stuff that passengers consider buying when trapped on an airplane. Now, eight years later, the troupe has returned with a sequel:Sky Maul 2: Where America Buys His Stuff. It’s a brilliant send up of those products that Kasper Hauser’s James Reichmuth calls, “embarrassing solutions to the secret problems of being a first-world person.”
Writing a full-length parody book isn’t easy. “If you want it to be more than just a funny cover, you’ve got to put a huge amount of time into the writing,” says Reichmuth. “We’re not the Onion,” he added. “We don’t have a big staff. And because the book is graphical, we have to take every idea and either Photoshop it, or shoot it originally or get props. You really have to make the products look real.”
And they have. There are Camping Coma Pills, “which speak to an actual shared common experience,” says Reichmuth. “I’m sure my partner Rob came back from camping with his family and the pills were a reflection of that.” There’s also the Dinosaur Testicle, which is really just a big concrete ball. “We’ve had a lot of success adding a caption to something that is obviously not what we’re calling it,” says Reichmuth. He says the dinosaur testicle is also funny for its randomness. “You’re on a plane . . . so obviously you need a dinosaur ball. It’s the ultimate non sequitur of the SkyMall dream.”
Other products include a Personality Alert Bracelet, which, instead of sharing a lot of incidental information about diabetes or allergies to penicillin, informs people whether the wearer is a narcissist or an asshole. There’s the Condo Pony, which–duh–is a pony for your condo. “It’s a lyrical joke,” says Reichmuth. “It’s important to us that we’re keeping some comic beauty in the language. And if you wrote ‘keep a horse in your house,’ the joke would be dead.”
About the actual SkyMall, Reichmuth says his team looks to the catalog for “spiritual comedic inspiration.” He believes the writers must know their work is absurd. “There’s a snicker there,” he says. This is especially true, because some of what appears in the real SkyMall is only a hair’s breadth away from what Kasper Hauser is parodying. “The big garden Sasquatch that they sell? That would look perfect in our book,” Reichmuth says.