The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic

Sam Anderson in the New York Times Magazine:

I have spent much of my life chortling, alone in tiny rooms, to Weird Al’s music. (“I churned butter once or twice living in an Amish paradise” — LOL.) And yet somehow it had never occurred to me to go out and see him live. I think this is for roughly the same reason that it has never occurred to me to make my morning commute in a hot-air balloon or to brush my teeth in Niagara Falls. Parody is not the kind of music you go out to see in person — it’s the joke version of that music. A parody concert felt like a category error, like confusing a mirror for a window. To me, Weird Al had always been a fundamentally private pleasure; I was perfectly content to have him living in my headphones and on YouTube and — very occasionally, when I wanted to aggravate my family — out loud on my home speakers.

The show was in New York, at Forest Hills Stadium — a storied outdoor arena that once hosted the U.S. Open, as well as concerts by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. It was late July, the hottest weekend of a punishingly hot summer, and the humidity was so thick it felt as if gravity had doubled. The backs of my knees were sweating onto the fronts of my knees. A performance in this context struck me as a heavy lift, even for a normal rock star. For a parody rock star, it seemed basically impossible. Deep in my brain, a blasphemous little wrinkle kept wondering, secretly, if the concert might even be sad. Weird Al was on the brink of turning 60, and his defining early hits (“Eat It,” “Like a Surgeon”) were several decades old, which means they were made for a version of the culture that is now essentially Paleolithic.

More here.