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The “Cereal” Spoof of the Podcast “Serial” Is Disturbingly Spot On

Cereal is what happens when a parody hews uncomfortably close to the source material.

The “Cereal” Spoof of the Podcast “Serial” Is Disturbingly Spot On
[Photo: Flickr user Carissa Rogers]

It was only a matter of time before someone created a parody of the wildly popular Serial podcast fusing elements of the radio program–about a high school student who was murdered in 1999–and the popular breakfast food. Cereal isn’t the first parody to mock the vocal intonations and narrative style of the podcast’s host, Sarah Koenig, but it’s the one that adheres most closely to the facts of the actual show. You might say uncomfortably close.

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The 10-minute audio clip created by motivational youth speaker Kyle Scheele, follows the actual plot of Serial almost point by point: the crime takes place at Baltimore’s Woodlawn High School in 1999; the suspect and his accomplice bear the same names as their real-life counterparts–Adnan Syed and his friend Jay; and the details of the crime match up exactly. The crime takes place in a Best Buy parking lot. Later, a maintenance worker discovers the body when he stops to pee in the woods. The main difference, of course, is that instead of the victim being a murdered 17-year-old girl, the crime in question is whether Syed “killed off” (i.e. ate) a bowl of Fruity Pebbles.

Photo: Flickr user Ben Seidelman

It’s funny at first. Scheele does a fine job of imitating Koenig’s phrasing and narrative quirks. But if you’re familiar with the case in question, listening to the casual way in which the parody swaps of a bowl of cereal for the murdered Hae Min Lee, starts to feel increasingly perverse. Satirizing Koenig’s reporting approach and hosting style provides solid laughs. But in using so many actual facts from the crime, and interweaving these facts with off-handed references to Lucky Charms and Fred Flintstone, the parody, to my ears, puts too much mock in the mockumentary format. Poking fun at the confusion between Cereal and Serial is a worthy creative endeavor. But a greater distance between the two creations would have made the homage funnier. Weigh in in the comments below.

About the author

Jennifer Miller is the author of The Year of the Gadfly (Harcourt, 2012) and Inheriting The Holy Land (Ballantine, 2005). She's a regular contributor to Co.Create.

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