A mockumentary (a portmanteau of the words mock and documentary) is a type of film or television show in which fictional events are presented in documentary style to create a parody. These productions are often used to analyze or comment on current events and issues by using a fictional setting, or to parody the documentary form itself. They may be either comedic or dramatic in form, although comedic mockumentaries are more common. A dramatic mockumentary (sometimes referred to as docufiction) should not be confused with docudrama, a fictional genre in which dramatic techniques are combined with documentary elements to depict real events.
Mockumentaries are often presented as historical documentaries, with B roll and talking heads discussing past events, or as cinéma vérité pieces following people as they go through various events. Though the precise origins of the genre are not known, examples emerged during the 1950s, when archival film footage became relatively easy to locate. A very early example was a short piece on the "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" that appeared as an April fools' joke on the British television program Panorama in 1957.
The term "mockumentary" is thought to have been popularized in the mid-1980s when This Is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner used it in interviews to describe that film. It is not known with certainty when the term "mock-documentary" was first used, but the Oxford English Dictionary notes appearances of "mockumentary" from 1965.
Mockumentaries are often partly or wholly improvised, as an unscripted style of acting helps to maintain the pretense of reality. Comedic mockumentaries rarely have laugh tracks, also to sustain the atmosphere, although there are exceptions - for example, Operation Good Guys had a laugh track from its second series onwards.
Early examples 
Early examples of mock-documentaries include David Holzman's Diary (1967), Pat Paulsen For President (1968), Take the Money and Run (1969), and All You Need is Cash (1978). Earlier work, including Luis Buñuel's 1933 Land Without Bread, Orson Welles's 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, various April Fool's Day news reports, and vérité style film and television during the 1960s and 1970s, served as precursor to the genre.
A Hard Day's Night (1964), written by Alun Owen, and purporting to describe a couple of days in the lives of The Beatles, was possibly the first feature film that could be characterized as a "mockumentary".
Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run is presented in documentary-style with Allen playing a fictional criminal, Virgil Starkwell, whose crime exploits are "explored" throughout the film. Jackson Beck, who used to narrate documentaries in the 1940s, provides the voice-over narration. Fictional interviews are interspliced throughout, especially those of Starkwell's parents who wear Groucho Marx noses and moustaches. This style of this film was widely appropriated by others and by Allen himself in Zelig (1983) and Sweet and Lowdown (1999).
Early use of the mockumentary format in television comedy may be seen in several sketches from Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974), such as "Hell's Grannies", "Piranha Brothers", and "The Funniest Joke in the World".
Mockumentary since the 1980s 
In film 
Since the 1980s, the mockumentary format has enjoyed much attention, especially in the directorial work of Spinal Tap star Christopher Guest. Films such as Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, and A Mighty Wind, penned by Guest and co-star Eugene Levy, were critical successes.
Zelig was a 1983 American mockumentary film written and directed by Woody Allen, and starring Allen and Mia Farrow. Allen plays Zelig, a curiously nondescript enigma who is discovered for his remarkable ability to transform himself to resemble anyone he is near.
In 1995 Forgotten Silver, claimed New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie was a pioneer of most aspects of filmmaking. When it was revealed to be a mockumentary, director Peter Jackson received criticism for tricking a number of viewers.
Borat is an example of a successful film from the 2000s which uses this style.
Thomas, Thomas is a German short mockumentary about the city archivist Wolfgang Weber, who proves, that a director of an Ayurvedic clinic is the reincarnation of an Irish mining pioneer.
In television 
The 1983 Comic Strip Presents... film Bad News Tour was a spoof rockumentary about a British heavy metal band. It preceded Spinal Tap by a year, but is not known to have been an influence on the U.S. film. The film led to LPs being released and the band really touring and was followed by a sequel, More Bad News in 1987. Stella Street was a mockumentary which ran on the BBC from 1997 to 2001. It was written by Phil Cornwell, John Sessions and Peter Richardson and featured Cornwell and Sessions playing all the characters between them. The series was shot on handheld camcorders. In television, the most notable mockumentaries in the 2000s have been: ABC Australia's The Games (1998–2000), Trailer Park Boys (2001-2008), the British shows Marion and Geoff (2000), Twenty Twelve (2011-2012) (which follows the fictional Olympic Deliverance Commission in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games), The Office (2001) and its many international offshoots, Come Fly with Me (2010), which follows the activity at a fictional airport and its variety of staff and passengers. British comedy duo Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French often presented short mockumentaries as extended sketches in their TV show French & Saunders.
Other successful television mockumentaries include the American sitcoms Parks and Recreation (2009–present), The Office (U.S. TV series) (2005-2013), and Modern Family (2009–present); the Australian Chris Lilley shows Angry Boys, Summer Heights High,"Reno 911" and We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year.
See also 
- Documentary comedy
- Found footage (genre)
- List of mockumentaries
- Pat Paulsen
- Cassady, Charles L. 2005: Videohounds Reality Check: Documentaries, Mockumentaries and Related Films.
- Hight, Craig 2010: Television mockumentary. Reflexivity, satire and a call to play. Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press.
- Rhodes, Gary D. (ed.) 2006: Docufictions. Essays on the intersection of documentary and fictional filmmaking. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
- Roscoe, Jane/Hight, Craig 2001: Faking it. Mock-documentary and the subversion of factuality. Manchester/New York.
- Lists of Mockumentary at UC Berkeley Mockumentary Collection
- Mockumentary - Reflexivity, satire and a call to play
- What is a mockumentary? Wisegeek.com
- Romanski, Philippe; Sy-Wonyu, Aïssatou (2002). Trompe (-)l'oeil: Imitation & Falsification. Publications de l'Université de Rouen 324. University of Le Havre Press. p. 343. ISBN 2877753344.
- Campbell, Miranda (2007). "The mocking mockumentary and the ethics of irony". Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education 11 (1): 53–62. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
- Roscoe, Jane; Craig Hight (2001). Faking it: Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-5641-1.
- "mockumentary, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2010 draft entry. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- Hight, Craig; Roscoe, Jane (2006). "Forgotten Silver: A New Zealand Television Hoax and Its Audience". In Alexandra Juhasz and Jesse Lerner. F Is for Phony: Fake Documentary And Truth's Undoing. Visible Evidence 17. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 171–173. ISBN 0816642516.
- "Bad News - the Spoof Heavy Metal Band". BBC h2g2. BBC. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
- "Stella Street". BBC Comedy. BBC. Retrieved 7 December 2011.