‘The Gunfighter’ Lampoons Voiceovers, Westerns, and Sexual Peccadilloes

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Short of the Day

A hilarious genre send-up featuring the voice of Nick Offerman.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a gunfighter walks into a saloon.

Okay, so we’ve all heard that one, it’s a facet of pretty much every Western ever made. Usually it’s just the posture and sneering expression of the gunfighter that announces his character, but on occasion there’s the reliable drawl of a voiceover to reveal his inner thoughts and raison d’etre. A voiceover, obvioulsy, is never intended for the character it’s about or comes from, they know what they think. A voiceover is for us, the audience, it’s for including us in on things we can’t see but need to know in order to understand the scene and those moving through it.

But what if voiceovers worked in an opposite sort of way? What if, instead of being heard only by the audience, a voiceover could also be heard by the characters in the scene?

It’s an absurd concept to be sure, but that’s exactly what makes it the perfect fodder for The Gunfighter, a nine-minute parody of self-serious and macho westerns from writer Kevin Tenglin and director Eric Kissack. The set-up is simple: a gunfighter walks into a saloon. The kick comes in that the voiceover narration that accompanies him – given by “Ron Swanson” himself, American treasure Nick Offerman – can be heard by every character in the scene, not just the gunfighter but the drinkers, gamblers, bartenders, whores and Johns. What starts out as an annoyance for the characters turns quickly bawdy and embarrassing, resulting in a most-hilarious short film that turns the genre on its ear.

Shawn Parsons, who had a role in Ti West’s The Sacrament, plays the titular archetype with the appropriate balance of swagger and befuddlement, and Eileen O’Connell – who you’ll recognize from prominent appearances in a dozen or more recent television commercials – stands out as “Sally,” the saloon’s working girl.

Good spoofs need to know their genre inside and out in order to break its rules in ways that are adherent to audience expectations. The Gunfighter isn’t a good spoof, it’s a great one, the difference being not only do it creators know these expectations, they know how to manipulate them into a story that innovates while it entertains. Highest recommendation.

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