Weird Al Yankovic—the famous parodist who turned Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” into “Eat It” and The Knack’s “My Sharona” into “My Bologna”—strikes again. With successful parodies in all of the last three decades, Yankovic sparked a media stir this week by releasing different humorous music videos every day to promote his new album Mandatory Fun. The results reveal that Yankovic hasn’t lost a beat, but is still the funniest, wittiest parody-maker around.
Wednesday’s video switched around Lorde’s smash hit “Royals” into a song about “Foil”—of the aluminum kind. Yankovic hews admirably close to Lorde’s driving electro-groove. He also matches her clipped, nimble singing with surprising agility as he extolls the benefits of aluminum foil to mitigate “fungal rot, bacterial formation / microbes, enzymes, mold, and oxidation.”
As usual, Yankovic takes his theme into a different direction than the original. While Lorde examines the obsession with materialistic excess—whether on the part of rappers or of royalty—Yankovic pokes fun at conspiracy peddlers. Wearing a goofy, tin foil hat in the video, he launches into a rant about “how the government won’t admit they faked the whole moon landing / thought control rays, psychotronic scanning / don’t mind that, I’m protected cause I made this hat.”
Tuesday’s video for Yankovic’s song “Word Crimes” may cause mass injuries as English lovers fall off their chairs laughing. Set to the tune of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Yankovic skewers the online culture of casual abbreviations and grammar mangling. Hilariously imitating yelps and whoops from the original song, Yankovic uses charts and animation to teach how to properly use “‘less’ or it’s ‘fewer’ / like people who were / never raised in a sewer.”
Yankovic doesn’t want to get into any “drama if you really wanna leave out that Oxford comma.” But many a parent and school teacher will relate to his frustrations that, “I thought that you’d gotten it through your skull / what’s figurative and what’s literal / Oh but just now you said / you literally couldn’t get out of bed. / That really makes me want to literally smack a crowbar upside your stupid head.”
Laughs help the medicine go down, but be warned Yankovic is not shy about throwing in some off-color innuendo and double entrendres into his videos. His purpose is not to incite so much as to provoke cognitive disparity for humor or reflection. For example, in Monday’s video for “Tacky,” (a parody of Pharell Williams’ “Happy”) comedienne Aisha Taylor grabs herself and comedienne Kristen Schaal wears a suggestive shirt while repeating the telling phrase, “Bring me shame, can’t nothing.” The New Yorker, in considering this moment, summarized, “It’s something when Weird Al … is calling us shameless.”
At 54 years old, Yankovic’s enduring appeal is nothing short of remarkable, but no accident. His song choices are always current. So is his communication approach, as demonstrated by his savvy use of Youtube and social media leading up to the album’s release. Each video was produced and released by different groups, ensuring maximum reach. Also notable is his respect and good grace. Although parodies are protected under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, Yankovic requests permission from the original artist, usually winning their unqualified support. The most important ingredient, of course, is his winsome wit. Yankovic is a good reminder that keeping a sense of humor can go a long way in getting a message across.