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An Ode To Al 199

Posted by Zonk
from the vixens-in-therapy-and-donners-still-nervous dept.
bwfcusa16 writes "The Boston Globe has up a feature story on Weird Al in its Sunday edition. The article refers to his staying power as prince of the parody. It's an ode to his determination, talent, and relevance ... and, of course, the funny." From the article: "Novelty artists--and he is one--have a notoriously short lifespan. They age badly, they run out of gags. But Al, by simply refusing to stop, has turned himself into a sort of cultural Geiger counter, ticking and squawking around the hot zones. The oddity of a humorist titling himself like a pro wrestler (there's no "Funny Jerry" Seinfeld) has long since worn off--he's the champ, and he's earned it.
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An Ode To Al

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  • by RallyDriver (49641) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:50PM (#16542586) Homepage

    As a foreigner living here, I find that American culture often needs a little help to laugh at itself. Parker and Stone may have made doing so mainstream, but Al was ahead of the curve when he started it.

    Aside from that, the simple fact is that using different words matching the same rhythm and rhyme of well known music is simply intrinsically funny, and he does a very good job of it - he also has a decent amount of musical talent, and he has shown superb diversity in keeping up with the times and parodying whatever is currently hip.

    In short, Al is a key contributor to American culture, and deserves to be lauded for it.
  • Al's greatest work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RichPowers (998637) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:00AM (#16542654)
    If you want proof of Al's talent, look no further than "Bob," a brilliant tribute to the lyrical stylings of Bob Dylan. A parody of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Bob" is done entirely in palindromes while still retaining the lyrical absurdities of the original song. Al also interjects several completely unnecessary 1-second harmonica rifts in the song, poking fun at Dylan's use of the instrument. I'm a huge Dylan fan and this was by far one of the most original tributes to the man. http://youtube.com/watch?v=Nej4xJe4Tdg [youtube.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:05AM (#16542696)
    We really need to have fonts distinguish between I and l and | (as used in subject ).

  • by Hahnsoo (976162) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:09AM (#16542720)
    I wonder what Weird Al will be like 20 years from now... will he be remembered as one of the "greats" of comedy, a name living long after everyone forgets the jokes? What will his parodies (and polkas) be like? Will he continue to be the pop culture barometer that we've come to know and love? Regardless, all of his songs have been a constant companion on my playlists and CD jackets and tapedecks, and I think I remember his songs with more clarity than the originals. Maybe he will be known as the last successful accordion artist. *grin*
  • by ChaosWeevil (1004221) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:24AM (#16542792)
    Yeah, though those of us with a ton of his CDs won't forget him in 20 years... Unless we're all dead. But a lot of his songs aren't pop-culture dependant. I mean, sure, "I Want a New Duck" is getting less understood, but "One More Minute", "This is the Life", and "Dare to be Stupid" will stick around for quite a while. Even a good number his parodies don't require knowledge of the original song to laugh at.
  • Curse Sans-Serif (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:31AM (#16542826)

    I was just thinking, "Yeah, if they'd only cut off the last half-hour and the whole reviving his mother so he could say goodbye, it would have been a pretty awesome movie. JUst leave him trapped under the ferris wheel."

    Put then I realized it was "An Ode to AL" and not "An Ode to AI". Whoever originated the Sans-Serif L should be shot ;).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:46AM (#16542900)
    The first thing to do is forget about writing original material. You are surrounded by material. Just look around. The things the rich and famous do ... you can't make that kind of thing up. All Weird Al has to do is just give up trying to be creative; all he has to do is be a bit observant. His stuff will practically write itself.

    A similar example is the Simpsons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Simpsons#Storylin es [wikipedia.org] The Simpsons are American culture lite. The Simpsons have referenced everything important about American culture that has happened in the last half century. Example: How do my kids know about 'A Streetcar Named Desire'? They saw it on the Simpsons. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701048/ [imdb.com] The Simpsons parody everything. Another example: Marge on the Lam is a parody of Thelma and Louise. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelma_and_Louise [wikipedia.org]

    I'm not surprised that Weird Al has lasted so long; I'm surprised that more people don't do the same. Maybe Weird Al and the Simpsons just do it better than anyone else.
  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:50AM (#16542930) Journal
    Not only that, he also seems to have a keen musical talent. Not just his use of rhythm. For example, listen to the use of harmony in "Hardware Store" on his MySpace page [myspace.com] It's an original song and it's fantastic IMHO.
  • Prince of parody? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:32AM (#16543132)
    I don't know if I'd go that far. In my not-so-humble AC opinion, that title shall forever belong to Tom Lehrer.
  • by freeweed (309734) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:59AM (#16544386)
    Interesting quote from the article:

    "His new album, "Straight Outta Lynwood" (Volcano), shot into the Billboard Top 10 upon its release last month--his highest chart placing since he opened his one-man spoof-factory in the early '80s."

    So after all of those Internet hackers have been destroying musicians' careers with their file sharing, and leaking videos, and other piratical nonsense...

    You make something people want, and it SELLS.

    Considering the exposure Weird Al had in the 80s (his videos were in heavy rotation for years, every news organization wanted to talk with him and leech off the Michael Jackson bubble), to be selling even better today speaks volumes.
  • by Khomar (529552) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:44AM (#16544630) Journal
    I'm not surprised that Weird Al has lasted so long; I'm surprised that more people don't do the same. Maybe Weird Al and the Simpsons just do it better than anyone else.

    One of Weird Al's strengths is the fact that he keeps his humor clean, and the Simpsons has remained relatively clean compared to its competitors. There are many other comedians and parody artists who allow vulgarity and low-brow humor to slip into their work which undermines it. No one has a guilty conscience for listening to Weird Al's songs, so his humor is able to reach a larger audience. It also often takes more talent to be funny and clean as you are not relying on the "shock" factor as many "colorful" comedians do. There is something magical about a comedic routine that people of all ages and walks of life can enjoy.

  • by schon (31600) on Monday October 23, 2006 @08:29AM (#16545550)
    How could you miss "The story begins"?

    "My, my, this here Anakin guy,
    Maybe Vader, someday later
    Now he's just a small-fry.

    He left his home and kissed his mommy goodbye,
    singing 'Soon I'm gonna be a Jedi,
    Soon I'm gonna be a Jedi'"
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday October 23, 2006 @09:03AM (#16545924)

    Suddenly, everyone under the age of 25 was terribly confused. CDROMs only spin one way, and the read speed doesn't change the playback.

  • by Khomar (529552) on Monday October 23, 2006 @10:10AM (#16546762) Journal
    What are you talking about? Weird Al's stuff is about as low-brow as it gets

    You are correct. I chose the wrong word. I will blame it on lack of sleep. I was trying to refer to the sleeze comedy that is so popular today where the only joke that seems to exist anymore is sex.

    Frankly, I prefer Richard Cheese's expletive-laden covers. If that means the songs are off-limits to kids, Christians and other sensitive types then that's their problem, not mine.

    It has been in my experience, especially in regard to songs, that if one resorts to the use of bad language, they usually have run out of ideas. As a song writer I can tell you word space is limited in a song. You only have so many syllables to say exactly what you want to say. Swear words waste valuable real estate and generally do not add much to the meaning of the song (there are very few exceptions). Swear words are misused more often than not (not used for the meaning they actually have) and are not as poetic or descriptive as alternate forms. For example, consider "My life smells like sh*t" versus "My life smells like monkeys at the zoo". The second line has much more meaning and is repulsive without being vulgar. It is creative and different (I know the lines are not interchangable in a song, but you can see what I mean about the poetry). Too often those who use vulgarity don't have a whole lot to say or the creativity to say it right. (IMHO)

    Regardless of taste, alienating the "kids, Christians and other sensitive types" alienates a very large percentage of the population. In order to remain popular have the kind of following Weird Al has, you need to be able to reach that audience as well. It is what has given him staying power. If you want your art to have vulgarity, innuendo, or nudity, that is fine, but do not complain when it doesn't reach a mass audience.

  • by edunbar93 (141167) on Monday October 23, 2006 @10:16AM (#16546818)
    But above all, Al's lyrics are clean. If they're funny while refraining from toilet humour and nonstop obscenities, then the audience is lauging because the content is funny, rather than because you're making it nervous. Case in point: prison bitch [sing365.com] by Rodney Carrington. Try searching for other songs by Rodney, and you'll find a bunch of very short or unfinished parodies that aren't anywhere near as funny.

    If you search your favourite file-sharing network for "Weird Al" you'll find almost as many songs wrongly attributed to Weird Al as there are actual songs by Weird Al. One of my favourite examples is "Asshole Son", parodying "Blackhole Sun". While the lyrics spring from the same sort of "deliberately mishearing something" as the article puts it, they aren't funny in and of themselves.

    So while there's a bit of humor in parodying songs that take themselves entirely too seriously and poking fun at bands and cultural icons, that's not all there is to Al. Because his songs are actually *funny* (which is even more apparent in his original works like "Christmas at Ground Zero", or "You don't love me anymore"), they stand up on their own two feet.
  • by Threni (635302) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:11PM (#16548448)
    > It has been in my experience, especially in regard to songs, that if one resorts to the use of bad language, they
    > usually have run out of ideas... As a song writer I can tell you word space is limited in a song.

    Then you should widen your experience to include Frank Zappa. If only he'd had the opportunity to learn from your little pearls of wisdom before he died.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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