The writer and critic John Gross observes in his Oxford Book of Parodies, that parody seems to flourish on territory somewhere between pastiche ("a composition in another artist's manner, without satirical intent") and burlesque (which "fools around with the material of high literature and adapts it to low ends"). Meanwhile, the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot distinguishes between the parody and the burlesque, "A good parody is a fine amusement, capable of amusing and instructing the most sensible and polished minds; the burlesque is a miserable buffoonery which can only please the populace." Historically, when a formula grows tired, as in the case of the moralistic melodramas in the 1910s, it retains value only as a parody, as demonstrated by the Buster Keaton shorts that mocked that genre
Sometimes the reputation of a parody outlasts the reputation of what is being parodied. For example, Don Quixote, which mocks the traditional knight errant tales, is much better known than the novel that inspired it, Amadis de Gaula (although Amadis is mentioned in the book). Another case is the novel Shamela by Henry Fielding (1742), which was a parody of the gloomy epistolary novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) by Samuel Richardson. Many of Lewis Carroll's parodies of Victorian didactic verse for children, such as "You Are Old, Father William", are much better known than the (largely forgotten) originals. Stella Gibbons's comic novel Cold Comfort Farm has eclipsed the pastoral novels of Mary Webb which largely inspired it.
In more recent times, the television sitcom 'Allo 'Allo! is perhaps better known than the drama Secret Army which it parodies.
Some artists carve out careers by making parodies. One of the best-known examples is that of "Weird Al" Yankovic. His career of parodying other musical acts and their songs has outlasted many of the artists or bands he has parodied. Yankovic is not required under law to get permission to parody; as a personal rule, however, he does seek permission to parody a person's song before recording it. Several artists, such as rapper Chamillionaire and Seattle-based grunge band Nirvana stated that Yankovic's parodies of their respective songs were excellent, and many artists have considered being parodied by him to be a badge of honor.
Some genre theorists, following Bakhtin, see parody as a natural development in the life cycle of any genre; this idea has proven especially fruitful for genre film theorists. Such theorists note that Western movies, for example, after the classic stage defined the conventions of the genre, underwent a parody stage, in which those same conventions were ridiculed and critiqued. Because audiences had seen these classic Westerns, they had expectations for any new Westerns, and when these expectations were inverted, the audience laughed.
Perhaps the earliest parody film was the 1922 Mud and Sand, a Stan Laurel film that made fun of Rudolph Valentino's film Blood and Sand.
About 20 years later Mel Brooks started his [film] career with a Hitler parody as well. After The Producers (1968), Brooks became one of the most famous film parodists and did spoofs on any kind of film genre. Blazing Saddles (1974) is a parody of western films, Young Frankenstein (1974) is a Frankenstein spoof, Spaceballs (1987) is a Star Wars spoof, and Robin Hood Men in Tights (1993) Mel's take on the classic Robin Hood tale.
The British comedy group Monty Python is also famous for its parodies, for example, the King Arthur spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), and the Jesus satire Life of Brian (1979). In the 1980s there came another team of parodists including David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker. Their most popular films are the Airplane!, Hot Shots! and Naked Gun series.