Parody of Parodies: “Weird Al” Was Billboard’s #1?!

by | Jul 27, 2014 | Uncategorized

Weird Al (6 of 13) | Flickr User Michael O'Brien | Flickr Creative Commons
Weird Al | Flickr User Matthew Glover | Flickr Creative Commons

Weird Al | Flickr User Matthew Glover | Flickr Creative Commons

Parody is everywhere, whether Miranda Sings’s “Starships”, The Flight of the Conchords’s hilarious “Inner City Pressure”, a “Gangnam Style” Star Wars GIF, Lonely Island’s industry parody “I’m on a Boat” or The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF)’s brilliant 2012 “Les Miserables”.  Whether professionally-produced or pathetically amateur, if you do parody well, look no further for your ticket to Youtube stardom.

And sometimes, even further.

In case you haven’t seen, after a three decades of albums, tours, and witty parody, “Weird Al” Yankovic scored #1 on Billboard’s album charts this week with his latest album, “Mandatory Fun.” How’d I find out? Great question. The New York Times. What? “Weird Al” in the NYT? This is big.


If you’re anywhere near my age, hitting your middle school stride in the late ‘90’s, then “Weird Al” was in the pop-culture water – like it or not – a “guilty pleasure” before we really knew what that meant. It was the “beats” we really liked with no Parental Advisory, with insensitive but brilliantly-crafted lyrics – if you could tolerate being ridiculed for admitting your listenership, “Weird Al” was perfect: Quintessential middle school. ‘Twas a race to proverbial nerd-dom to memorize both sets of lyrics – the radio version and the “Weird Al” version. Here’s the one I remember:


Maybe from earlier days, we could look back to:


VICE news just did an interview with “Weird Al” on the crest of his success, where they talked about his newest hits, his forthcoming cameo as Hitler on Drunk History and latest as Sir Isaac Newton rap battling Bill Nye, and “how he conquered the Internet.” Oh!

But here’s what I’m interested in – What’s up with parody?

“Parody is, almost by nature, disposable,” Yankovic says… And yet, people like it so much. Especially if you hear it at a certain point in your life, and then hear it like a decade later, there’s nostalgia attached to it.

…My main goal is to get people to laugh and to lighten up a little bit and have fun.”

Mission accomplished, “Weird Al.” Points awarded. Thank you, indeed, for lightening the heavy middle-school times. Done and done. This #1 – I guess you deserve it. But now, do you have to parody yourself?


Maybe this is the nostalgia talking or my unswerving devotion to the underdog, but this isn’t doing it for me.

Is that really it? Is ‘parody’ just another disposable entertainment, a paper napkin used once and thrown away, a 10-million-view cruise ship sailed once and then completely forgotten? Is parody nothing more than a comic relief, a profitable and self-effacing critique of a profit-driven industry that takes itself too seriously? Is that really it?

I’m fumbling around, hunting for something more, some depth, some sociological and anthropological genius, insight without equal into the human condition weaving existential hungers with utilitarian laughter-  but in the meantime, have you seen this??? It’s hilarious.




Cover Image: Weird Al (6 of 13), by Flickr User Michael O’Brien, Flickr Creative Commons, available here.


Garrett Gundlach, SJ   /   All posts by Garrett