By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Spanking, sex and submission are raking in profits for erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey", reinvigorating marriages and sparking anguished debates among feminists, but there has been one unintended result of the novel - laughter.
The best-selling book by British writer E.L. James that has taken pop culture by storm also has become ripe for spoofs and parodies, even as Hollywood is agog over who will play the leads in an upcoming movie.
Comedians, bloggers and political satirists are having fun with the X-rated novel, dubbed "mommy porn," telling of wealthy hero Christian Grey and his sadomasochistic seduction of naive young lover Anastasia Steele that is currently the third best-selling book of 2012 on Amazon.com.
One satirical novel, "Fifty Shames of Earl Grey", has already been snapped up by publishers and is headed for U.S. bookstores this summer. And as "Fifty Shades of Grey" topped the New York Times best-seller list for a sixth week, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres last week broadcast a spoof audio reading.
DeGeneres used absurd paraphrases for the book's more explicit terms and a kitchen spatula and bull whip as props in a clip that has been viewed more than 800,000 times on YouTube.
"Fifty Shames of Earl Grey" author Andrew Shaffer said he wrote his parody novel in just 10 days. It stars a handsome, super wealthy count called Earl Grey (after the British tea) who buys up businesses in his bid to bring naive college student Anna into his world of naughty dialogue.
Shaffer says the book also touches on topics like corporate greed and women's rights that have triggered nationwide debates since the original E.L. James novel went mainstream after starting life as "Twilight Saga" fan fiction.
"There was a lot being written about the book and I thought the best way to write about some of the issues was through parody. It was the most fun I have ever had writing something because I was able to toss out all the rules and go straight for the humor," Shaffer, 33, told Reuters.
"The hero is so fabulously rich that he buys up every company the heroine works for, including Amazon.com and Walmart, and he also has a private dinosaur island ... so they actually have sex on a dinosaur's back which is not something I have ever seen in a romantic novel before," Shaffer added.
ENTER NEWT GINGRICH?
Comedy Central, home of political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, got in on the act last week with an entry on its IndecisionForever.com website called "Fifty Shades of Grey: The Lost Newt Gingrich Passages."
"If there's one candidate who's an expert on erotic fiction, it's Newt Gingrich," the website quipped of the former U.S. congressman and Republican presidential contender. "He's had three wives (there's your eroticism) and he thought he could be president (there's your fiction)", it said in a preface to some saucy, invented excerpts.
Howard Neuthaler, the writer and director of Venga Productions spoof song and video "Christian Penetrates the Suburbs" on YouTube, said he wasn't surprised that the book had become the basis for parody.
"I can't remember the last time there was something quite like this. There were books aimed at kids and teens like 'Harry Potter' and 'The Twilight Saga,' but this is something that went viral among an interesting set of people.
"I thought it would be a funny thing to do a spoof about what would happen if the people who actually read the book - the suburban mom set - were to encounter the types of things that happen in the book," Neuthaler said.
One of the most popular reviews of "Fifty Shades of Grey" on Amazon.com comes tongue in cheek from David Shobin, who describes himself as a male senior citizen and semi-retired gynecologist.
"At my age my arthritis flared up just reading about Ana's sexual gymnastics. And for some reason, I kept thinking about her contracting genital warts," Shobin wrote on Amazon.com
Although the book counts young moms and female book clubs among its biggest fans, some women aren't getting all hot and bothered by its sexual content.
New Jersey mom and blogger Kim at letmestartbysayingblog.com wondered what would happen to "Fifty Shades of Grey" protagonists Anastasia and Christian 50 years from now?
"He used to inflict pain to get off. Now he's in pain getting off the couch" and "S&M now stands for Support Hose and Mobility Aids," are among her whimsical suggestions.
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)