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.
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.
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