The Funniest Cults Lurking in Comedies
For the most part, cults are the worst, and that’s exactly why it’s fun when our favorite comedies mock the bejeezus out of them. Here’s a list of some of the funniest cults and cult parodies we’ve had the pleasure of laughing at. Hail Zorp...
The Cult of Cthulhu in ‘South Park’
South Park has never shied away from making fun of cults. There’s been the Blaintologists who follow the teachings of David Blaine. There’s also Butters, who once took control of the town by turning NFT marketing into a full-blown cult movement. Not to mention the many jabs at Scientology throughout the series (much to the real church's annoyance). And then we had the hilarious Cult of Cthulhu that saw a bunch of Lovecraft nerds reciting the Necronomicon, believing that Cthulhu would come and save them from cheerful people and the Disney Channel.
The Rajneesh Movement Spoof in ‘Documentary Now!’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’
Remember Wild Wild Country? Of course, you do. It was that 2018 Netflix documentary about Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his Oregon cult that had more WTFs per minute than a Tucker Carlson monologue. SNL did a parody of the series that featured some pretty good acting and had Beck Bennett look like an old cartoonish version of Elon Musk.
Then, in early 2019, the mockumentary series Documentary Now! got in on the action, creating an elaborate two-part episode called “Batshit Valley” that turned Owen Wilson into Father Ra-Shawbard, cult leader of the Shawbardites who would suck on helium and confess their shame before getting whacked by one another with pool noodles.
The Movementarians in ‘The Simpsons’
While Homer Simpson is the funniest thing in this episode, as he proves quite difficult to brainwash, the cult members look like a bunch of flight attendants walking around at summer camp. It’s also fantastic watching them become exasperated by Homer’s inability to be manipulated (at first), and the image of the sect leader during the news broadcast is a fun touch.
The Sanford Cult in ‘Hot Fuzz’
What’s so silly about the community cult in Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz is that they’re nothing more than a bunch of snobbish, perfectionist critics. The robed village cult clan kills the actor simply because he’s “an appalling actor” who himself “killed Bill Shakespeare” in a production of Romeo and Juliet, while Eve Draper (the actress) was taken out because she had an annoying laugh. George Merchant was blown up because his house was “awful” and not on par with the village’s “rustic aesthetics,” and journalist Tim Messenger made too many typos to live. These folks would lose their minds in the big city but would probably feel right at home on social media.
NutriBoom in ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’
Expanding on the sitcom trope of trying to quit the gym, Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) tries to get out of a health subscription he signed with NutriBoom — a pyramid scheme obsessed with people’s money and also their amino acids. The health company is clearly a cult because no sane adult will just go around saying “boom boom!” to another human being otherwise.
The Church of Practicology in ‘30 Rock’
Just like Homer Simpson, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) isn’t the ideal recruit for a group of control pests who manipulate people to get what they want. In 30 Rock, Tracy admits to Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) that he tried joining the Church of Practicology, only to be turned down on account of his beliefs that werewolves are secretly great golfers and that the moon is fake.
Meanwhile, in Season Two, there’s this great bit between Alec Baldwin and Will Arnett’s characters where they discuss the Scientology-spoofed cult:
Arnett: Are you familiar with the Church of Practicology?
Baldwin: You mean the cult that was invented by Stan Lee?
Arnett: No, I mean the religion founded by the alien king living inside Stan Lee.
The Sunshine Carpet Cleaners in ‘Seinfeld’
Also called “The Checks,” the Sunshine Carpet Cleaners doubles as a cleaning business and also a recruitment program to lure people into a religious cult. They recruit Mr. Wilhelm, who changes his name to Tania and says things like, “Most of the world is carpet, and one day, we’ll do the cleaning.” The funniest bit, of course, is that they refuse to brainwash and recruit George Constanza.
MindHead in ‘Bowfinger’
In this underappreciated Eddie Murphy satire, the actor plays two characters. One of them is the paranoid, unstable actor named Kit Ramsey, who needs a cult leader to tell him not to flash his wang at cheerleaders. The MindHead cult is immediately funny with their little white cone hats because that is all your monthly contribution of thousands of dollars will apparently get you. Well, that and some white guy telling you to “keep it together.”
The Doomsday Cult in ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt’
The sitcom gave us the comedy cult led by a hilarious Jon Hamm as Reverend Richard Wayne Gary, CFO of Savior Rick’s Spooky Church of the Scary Apocalypse. The Reverend — who was both a failed DJ and a failed apprentice candidate for that Trump show — did a lot of terrible things to the four “mole women” he kidnapped, but he’s also a wildly absurd character who believes God is really named “Gosh,” and who is super into karate.
The Kids Cult in ‘A.P. Bio’
Important note: Never pretend to form a fake cult with a bunch of kids. They are little monsters who will salivate at the opportunity to exert their power over others, even adults. When Jack (Glenn Howerton) teaches his class how to act like a cult to freak out Principal Durbin (Patton Oswalt) and make him get rid of the terrible new school uniforms, the kids take the experience and run with it off a cliff.
The Church of Neurotology, ‘SNL’
In a swipe at Scientology, SNL took a video used in the Going Clear documentary series, which deconstructed L. Ron Hubbard's sect and did interviews with ex-Scientology church members, and spoofed it with “updated information” of who’s left the church since and who’s gone missing. Given that it’s SNL, it obviously derails into the more absurd from there.
The New Wellness Centre in ‘Peep Show’
At first, Jeremy only enters the new-age clinic to escape the cold and mess with the cult’s supposed personality test. Of course, given that it’s Jeremy, he ends up joining the cult; also, his name is Jared now. In Peep Show, it’s not really the cult that’s funny, but Jeremy’s entire meltdown reaction to someone asking him a question about his dad. His transformation is hilarious as he goes from a greasy couch potato to a guy who looks like he works in accounting and drinks a cup of hot milk before bed. Basically, he’s like Mark now, sans the morbid contempt.
The Reasonabilists in ‘Parks and Recreation’
The Pawnee citizens belonging to the Church of the Reasonabilists believe in the prophecy of Zorp the Surveyor, their lizard god, who will one day pass through Jupiter’s sphincter and transmute all who follow him.
The doomsday cult predicted the date and time of the end of the world many times throughout the show, accepting that Zorp will end humanity by melting people’s faces off with its volcanic breath. Lucky for them, Leslie Knope was always willing to book them the next date and spot for their fictional face-melting demise.