Pride & Parodist.

There was an era before Weird Al Yankovic came to prominence where I'm sure there were funnymen creating song parodies for a limited audience. Obviously, I mean the man DID have his inspiration in Dr. Demento among others. But, it's not like Dr. Demento was a mainstream act selling gold records after he put his pants on one leg at a time. However, I'm afraid, there's a new era that's pretty much set in stone where Weird Al Yankovic has faded into obscurity with the other Dr. Dementos of the world.

What happened? Did he stop being funny? I doubt it, there's always a place for that kind of comedy; it's how Mad Magazine has stayed in business for so long. Crude but not lewd, provocative but not raunchy, silly but not childish. Has the whole Song Parody as a genre gone out of style? I wouldn't think so, the funniest song parodies always rise with the rest of the cream and find an outlet if they're worthy. Besides, Adam Sandler and Jimmy Fallon rest the foundation of their careers on their abilities to make up jokey songs based on popular songs of the time. And even though acts like Flight of the Conchords don't rip off directly from pop songs, they adapt the styles and incorporate them into their own originals.

So, what is it?

Well, the obvious answer lies in the fact that Weird Al rose in popularity at the same time that MTV rose in popularity. The more cable companies adopted MTV, the more albums Weird Al sold. Because, what he does, taking a song released last year and writing a spoofy cover the next, works just fine in an album concept. But, it explodes to life in the music video form! Seeing Weird Al dressed up as two different types of Michael Jackson, as Madonna, as Kurt Cobain, as an Amish Coolio, among many many others, that just takes the comedy of what he's singing about to an all new level. So, it should come as no surprise that as MTV scaled back on the music videos, the awareness of the existence of a Weird Al was lost on the passing generations.

Of course, there are always those of us who've been around since the grand ol' days of 'UHF' and his Saturday Morning TV show and the AL-TV specials on MTV and the concerts with the elaborate stage costumes. We the hardcore admirers who know every song he covers on his Polka Medleys, who can tell you every time he's reference Spam, who know exactly how long This Song is (hint: six words).

I would never say the quality has lagged, though I would say that the fodder is depreciating. It's hard to find very many iconic songs. When he sings 'Eat It', you know that's the Michael Jackson classic; 'Like A Surgeon' is obviously Madonna's Like A Virgin; and when you hear 'Lasagna', you'll tab that as the Ritchie Valens classic La Bamba. But lately? Covering the Backstreet Boys and Avril Lavigne and Usher and Chamillionaire? Honestly, I STILL don't know who Chamillionaire is! And no offense to Cake, but he might as well have parodied a song I wrote!

It's just the age we live in now. Any jack off can go on YouTube and riff on the new Britney Spears single or play a One Man Band version of the new White Stripes hit. Most of it is probably not nearly as funny or creative as anything Weird Al could come up with, but then again it's not like they have to deal with record labels and a waning CD market.

Plus, you know, humor has changed in many ways. We've got South Park now; we can say Shit on cable television. Barriers are broken; you can't come around with the same old accordian. Johnny Carson material is deader than fuckin' dead. We're in a Leno age and we're quickly skampering right on into the era of Conan. Silly and slapstick is out; you've got to be ironic and cutting and sarcastic.

It's a terrible, terrible time, but there it is. I only hope in the Post Weird Al Yankovic era we can figure out a way to find his style of humor funny again. To laugh at Mad Magazine like we're 12 years old again. To hear 'Spam' on your iPod and grin from ear to ear as the people on the subway wonder what's so damned funny