4 Smart Things Writers Can Learn from Weird Al Yankovic!

Friday, August 15, 2014
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Since the 1970’s, Weird Al Yankovic has entertained and amused audiences around the world with his over-the top wardrobe, animated gyrations, and widely viewed videos that parodied famous folks in pop culture. (Not to mention his eerie likeness to singer Tiny Tim.)

Some of us dismissed Al as a passing fad, a celebrity wannabe, or someone to be laughed AT instead of laughed with. He was “out of the box” and in our faces.
And well…weird.

Fast forward--it’s thirty years later, and he’s “laughing all the way to the bank,” with a new album and a new generation of followers. And he did it his way; without compromise or apology.

Here’s what his unexpected success and staying power in the entertainment industry can teach us as creative artists.

1. Being different can be bodacious and beneficial!

Far too often, many of us try to emulate the style, approach, or “voice” of popular bloggers and writers hoping to achieve their levels of success and income levels.
Big mistake. What we realize in the process is that the best we can hope for is to be the best of who we are. It’s much easier, has a shorter learning curve, and is more gratifying in the end. As a wise man once said: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

2. Humor is a commodity.

Whether it’s incorporated in a song, a poem, a blog post, or a personal essay, humor helps people to relate to the oddities of life, and provides comic release from horrific events we are exposed to from the daily news. When applicable apply. Remember to keep it tasteful.

3. Consistency is crucial to branding.

Though Weird Al has worn many hats in his decades of being a performer, (singer, writer, actor, accordion player), he never deviates from his silly interpretations of popular music icons and those we idolize. He found a “gimmick” that worked for him and stayed with it.
Which gives us something to consider. In a sea of many, what makes your writer’s “voice” stand out as unique or worth remembering? How would others describe your “brand?” Are you consistent in your marketing message?

4. Avoid “word crimes” at all cost.

Al’s new video “Word Crimes” alerts us to some common errors we should all avoid, if we want to avoid being penalized in the “court of public opinion.” Offenses like choosing the wrong homophone, confusing contractions with possessive nouns, and using words all helter-skelter.

Though silly he may be, Weird Al provides some serious lessons on how to be a successful artist and how to keep dancing through career challenges and critics.

Check out “Word Crimes” and take note.

* * *
Jennifer Brown Banks is an award-winning blogger, ghost writer, and relationship columnist. Visit her “Top 25” site for writers at http://Penandprosper.blogspot.com/

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Margo Dill said...

You had me at the title: Love Weird Al, and his latest WORD CRIMES is one of this best. OF course, his 80s parodies are the ones I really remember, especially his Michael Jackson songs. But the lessons you mentioned in here are perfect, and you are so right. Keep being true to yourself and working hard!

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Thanks, Margo. I used to dig his Michael J parodies as well; my favorite was "Eat It!" Clever and comical...

Karen Lange said...

Excellent points, Jennifer! Al's antics always make me chuckle, but I never thought about the correlation. Thanks for encouraging and inspiring us!

Thanks so much, lovely Muffin Hosts, for hosting Jennifer today!

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

My pleasure. Thanks for your thoughts here, Karen.

Linda O'Connell said...

A unique niche is like a brand. And Al Y has mastered the funny.

Jen's thought-provoking posts always inspire.

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Thanks, Lin. Your input means much!

Sioux Roslawski said...


People can call him weird, but he's laughing all the way to the bank...and he makes us laugh as well. I agree with you and Margo Dill--Weird Al teaches us a bunch of lessons with "Word Crimes" and it's one of his best. (If I was a high school teacher, I'd probably use all or part of it in my classes; third graders, I'm afraid, would not understand.)

Jennifer Brown Banks said...


It definitely could be used as an engaging visual aide. Thanks for stopping by.

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