One of my favorite magazine writers, Sam Anderson, has profiled one of my favorite figures in pop culture: Weird Al Yankovic. It’s just about the perfect thing to read to get a mental break right now. What was most fascinating was a peek into the slightly obsessive and meticulous creative process behind Yankovic’s song parodies.
Yankovic has done a version of this process for just about every song he has ever written, parody and original, from “Eat It” to today. In the years before computers, he would do everything by hand, sifting and sorting in a binder with color-coded tabs. He used to spend weeks roaming through the West Hollywood Library, compiling facts and keywords about cloning for “I Think I’m a Clone Now” or hospitals for “Like a Surgeon.” Songs that may seem dashed off are in fact the product of months of self-imposed hard labor — lonely, silent, obsessive world-building.
But fundamentally, Anderson understands why Yankovic is so appealing:
Weird Al’s comedy operated right at the hot spot of my childhood agonies: weirdness versus normalcy, insider versus outsider. What a Weird Al parody did was enact a tiny revolution. It took the whole glamorous architecture of American mainstream cool — Michael Jackson’s otherworldly moves, Madonna’s sexual taboos — and extracted all of the coolness. Into that void, Weird Al inserted the least cool person in the world: himself. And by proxy, all the rest of us weirdos, along with our uncool lives.
Read the whole delightful thing in the New York Times.