There’s something that I find so compelling about the forever popular “Weird Al” Yankovic. The 54-year-old comic and musician is so hilariously relevant, it is hard for him not to be contagious. Proof in the fact that, the guy who has been at it since 1976 just released his first number one record (and the first comedy record since 1963 to top the charts), Mandatory Fun. Here are my top five reasons that Weird Al exhibits some prophetic leadership (that might be an overstatement, by the way).
- He is hilarious, but totally PG. So often it seems like comics get their laughs by using profanity and sexual gratuity. Weird Al is hilarious and both kids and adults can appreciate him. I remember, “Amish Paradise” was so funny for me and I’m not even sure I was allowed to listen to Coolio. It’s a relief to know that comedy can be “clean” and still great. Sometimes adult comics can explore themes that family-friendly ones cannot, so Weird Al isn’t everything, but he does a great job reaching a diverse group of people.
- He’s teaches us that we can make fun of ourselves. It’s important to take ourselves seriously, but it’s OK to laugh at the ridiculous things we do. I think the themes that Kurt Cobain explores in Nevermind are serious enough, but you Weird Al’s parody of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is just too funny not to brush aside how serious we have to be. It’s refreshing. His latest parody of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke is spot-on. Robin Thicke’s ridiculous and explicit music video needed to be made fun of. Writing a song about how texting has ruined our grammar to the same tune? Perfectly awesome.
- He respects diversity and has developed the talent to portray it. Weird Al’s parodies and style shows that he cares about music and he isn’t just making fun of it. It’s hard to just make your career mocking everyone else, but he actually explores a variety of musical styles and seems to pull them off well. He’s a master of his trade. In an era where anyone with a video camera can publish a parody on YouTube, Weird Al still thrives because he is so good at it. Moreover, he includes others in his trade. He even was caught back stage at an Izzy Azalea concert asking her to use the music for “Fancy” for his parody “Handy.” (By the way, Izzy’s song is so bad, and Weird Al manages to still respect it!). Almost every artist he parodied loves his work. Coolio didn’t, but they worked it out.
- He brings up important criticisms of U.S. culture, but does it with a soft start. He’s not angry or proud, Weird Al talks about the U.S.’s preoccupied with celebrities, junk food, “First World Problems” without turning off the people that might need to hear his message. He’s surgical in his criticism, while also being light-hearted enough to not be a total turn off to those who disagree with him. Comedy breaks down barriers and Weird Al is an expert at it.
- He manages to adapt to his culture. Weird Al’s known for lasting longer than the artists that he parodies do! It’s amazing, but his longevity and continued popularity is unmatched in some sense. He stays hip to the times, listening to music and learning about the culture at large and a variety of sub-cultures. He teaches us all that we can’t just keep doing the same thing; in order to survive, we need to adapt. Another example of this is his wildly successful video campaign, which has garnered more than 46 million views. He is all things to all people, since I am sure you can find a style parody that you can relate to on his records, and a song you can’t help but laugh at.
Weird Al isn’t necessarily profound, but I enjoyed listening to his music enough to respect what he’s doing. He’s hanging in there and I want to honor his hard work and perseverance. I think we all could use a little more Yankovic in us.