Dare To Be Stupid

Show me a nerd who doesn't love Weird Al Yankovic like a fat kid loves cake, and I'll show you someone who's not really a nerd at all. Writer Sam Anderson muses on the pop-cultural significance of Weird Al over at Slate, under a great title: "Troubadork."

And by the way, if you haven't seen "White & Nerdy," you really do need to check it out. Hilarious.

I got my first CD player when I was in 9th grade, and the first two CDs I bought were Queen's Flash Gordon soundtrack and Weird Al's Off the Deep End. That neither of these purchases struck me as even remotely odd should be a good indicator that the title of this blog is quite apt.

Another indicator is the fact that I still occasionally listen to Freddie Mercury and the boys explaining that Flash (Ah-aah!) will save ev'ry one of us. Can't say I still pull the Weird Al CD out of the book at all, though. "Smells Like Nirvana" remains funny and will probably remain so for as long as people are listening to Nirvana. On the other hand, the album's parodies of Milli Vanilli, NKOTB and Gerardo (aka the "Rico Suave" guy) are, like their subjects, interesting but essentially irrelevant pop-cultural fossils, only moreso. Playing "The Right Stuff" or "Baby Don't Forget My Number" at a party might get you a laugh. Playing "The White Stuff" or "Don't Forget My Plumber" at a party will probably just get you strange looks.

That's the tricky part about what Weird Al does, I suppose, along the same lines of something I mentioned in my post about MAD magazine not long ago. Parody is a very of-the-moment art, a delicate balance. You mostly just have to throw everything you can think of up against the wall and see what sticks. If your subject ages like fine wine, then your parody will, too. The rest will age like prison hooch. A parody of Gone With the Wind is still funny and interesting, because Rhett and Scarlett have endured and the movie remains popular nearly seventy years on. A parody of Twister isn't funny or interesting because the movie, only ten years old, is already little more than a curiosity, a cultural relic of the mid-'90s. Similarly, "Smells Like Nirvana" is still relevant because "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is, too, whereas I can't even say "Gerardo" and expect anyone will know who I'm talking about without appending "(aka the 'Rico Suave' guy)," and even then there's some doubt.

In other words, it's a tough job, skewering the pomposity and bombast of modern popular music, but Weird Al's been doing it pretty well for twenty-five years now, from "My Bologna" to "White & Nerdy."

Plus, who else can you name who can fucking ROCK OUT on the accordion?