TIME Pop Culture

See How ‘Oh My’ Became George Takei’s Catchphrase

Say it with us now...

+ READ ARTICLE

Take a quick peek at the Twitter feed from George Takei — the actor famous for his Star Trek and advocacy roles, and the star of the new documentary To Be Takei — and it’s immediately clear that he has a catchphrase.

He uses it in a sentence:

He uses it as a hashtag:

He even has his own link shortener, which churns out catchphrase-inspired short URLs for him to tweet:

But how did “Oh my!” come to be his catchphrase? Here, Takei tells TIME.

TIME Pop Culture

A Weekend With ‘Nerds’ at the Pokémon World Championships

Players at the 2014 Pokémon World Championships in Washington, D.C.
Players at the 2014 Pokémon World Championships in Washington, D.C. Aaron P. Bernstein—Pokémon Company International

Why people travel from all over the world to don their Pikachu ears

Jaxson Piwek wants to be a world champion. He has been training for this day for months, even waking up at 4 in the morning and going to bed at 7 at night for the past week so that the time change between his home in Vancouver and the championships in Washington, D.C. wouldn’t affect his performance.

Jaxson, 10, plays the Pokémon trading card game. And this is his first time qualifying for the world championships.

“It’s very overwhelming for my first time,” he says as he looks around at the more than 3,000 fans packing the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, not far from the White House.

Overwhelming is a good word for it. There are two competition arenas at either end of the massive room—one for the video game competitions, the other for TCG, or trading card game. There is a stage in the front of the room with three screens on which they project the most exciting matches, with live commentary from an ESPN-style booth a few yards away. Gasps and roars come from the mesmerized crowd at crucial moments in the games. If you just heard the audio, you would think you were in a stadium watching soccer.

Pikachu is everywhere. The little yellow creature is emblazoned on t-shirts, backpacks, hats, sweatshirts and iPhone cases, and a giant inflatable Pikachu hangs suspended over the crowd: a smiling cartoonish deity for the pilgrims who have come from 33 different countries to watch the players like Jaxson battle to become world champion. (There are three age brackets—juniors, ages 12 and under; seniors, ages 13 to 16; and masters, ages 17 and up. Jaxson comes in 36th in the junior division.)

Caleb Judkins, 17, is one such pilgrim. He’s an avid Pokémon video game player but isn’t on the competitive circuit. He and his friends traveled here from Gainesville, Va., to see a competition firsthand. “It was on my bucket list to come,” he says. “I wanted to see the battles in progress.”

One person many people are here to see is Ray Rizzo. Ray, 21, is a three-time world champion in the video game—no one has won Worlds more times than he has. He won in 2010, 2011 and 2012 but didn’t make finals last year, so he’s coming back this year with a vengeance.

I talk to Ray after his first match of the weekend; he’s just won his battle so he’s feeling pretty confident. “I don’t really get too nervous anymore because I’ve been playing for a long time,” he says. (This year Ray once again did not make the finals, so he was unable to get a record-breaking fourth win.)

But for those who aren’t veterans like Ray, this weekend is packed with nerves. It’s a year-long road to get here—to qualify for Worlds, players have to compete in regional and national competitions, earning a certain number of “championship points” in each depending on how well they do. The number of these points a player accrues over the season determines if he or she is eligible to compete.

So why Pokémon? What is it about the characters and the games that inspire these people to spend months honing their skills and obsessing over strategy, or to don their Pikachu ears and travel across the world just to be here?

Jaxson Piwek’s answer seems to sum it up —“All the friends I make.”

“Everyone’s so happy and passionate and really enjoying the game,” his mother Shauna says. “It’s a great community.”

J.C. Smith, director of consumer marketing for The Pokémon Company International, says this idea of community is built into the game itself. “The principle they build the game around is communication,” he says. “They really want people to talk and to come together, either online or face-to-face to build these communities. This is the ultimate expression of that. … This is a world championship, but it doesn’t feel cutthroat to me. It feels like a community of people who like to play games, coming together to play games.”

The international element of the tournament does spur some divisions and regional pride—many spectators come armed with their country’s flag, and cheers of “USA! USA! USA!” erupt when American Nikolai Zielinski wins the senior video game tournament.

But people say the game still unites more than it divides. “You can be [an American kid] playing a Japanese kid, but you can totally get it and you can have an interaction through Pokémon,” a company spokesman says of the tournament.

Nikolai, 15, also talks about community, beaming and energetic after his win. “The video game Pokémon community is the best community I’ve ever been a part of,” he says. “Compared to other video games even, it’s amazing. Everyone is so friendly and really nice. I’ve made friends just by placing well in tournaments—people have wanted to become my buddy. And everyone just helps each other out a lot, online and in person. It’s a really, really nice community to be in, and great people to be around.”

Andrea Bacca, 18 and wearing a black and gold costume that includes striped knee socks and ears, puts it both bluntly and affectionately: “I like that we can all fit in and be nerds together.”

Sunday evening after the finals sees 12 trophies awarded—one for each runner-up and champion in the three age divisions of the two games. The most coveted awards of the evening, the masters division trophies, went to Canadian Andrew Estrada for TCG and South Korean Se Jun Park for video game.

As the champions stand onstage, holding their Pikachu trophies and being showered with confetti, the cheers from the audience change. No longer are the viewers chanting country names or clapping for individual players. Now, yelling over the triumphant music blaring from the stage, the audience swells behind a single cheer: “Pokémon! Pokémon! Pokémon!”

 

TIME celebrities

Tavi Gevinson: A Power Teen’s New Direction

"This Is Our Youth" Cast Photo Call
Actress Tavi Gevinson attends the "This Is Our Youth" Cast Photo Call at Cort Theatre on August 14, 2014 in New York City. Cindy Ord—Getty Images

Tavi Gevinson became a hero to a generation of girls — then she graduated from high school

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Recently, Tavi Gevinson – editor-in-chief of Rookie magazine, budding Broadway star and possibly the most influential 18-year-old in America – went to her first and last high school rager. Earlier that day, she’d graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High in suburban Chicago, tromping around the football field in the blazing heat. In terms of doing the classic high school party thing, she thought, it was now or never. “It was at this guy’s house,” she says, “and I was like, ‘Oh, you know what makes social anxiety better is if you just keep drinking.'” Which she did until things got messy (“There was vomit”), though not too messy (“I didn’t try to seduce anyone”), after which Gevinson made her way home, where her mom helped her into bed: “In the morning she gave me a flower and explained why drinking is extremely dangerous and why not to mix stuff and to eat first and to not do it until I’m 21. Then my dad came in, and they both laughed at me.”

If Gevinson has failed to indulge in such iconic teenage pastimes to date, that’s thanks to her many pressing duties as our culture’s Teenager Par Excellence. Gevinson’s role as universal expert on all things teenage has, somewhat ironically, left her little time for iconic teenage experiences like this one. At 11, she started Style Rookie, a blog that garnered the attention of fashionistas the world over with its pictures of a tiny, unsmiling Gevinson, standing in a suburban backyard and wearing the most fantastical of garments. Soon she was flying to Paris for Fashion Week, meeting Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour. Sporting a dyed silver-blue bob, thick glasses and Iris Apfel-inspired outré-granny chic (“People talked about how when you’re a woman of a certain age you stop caring about certain things, and I was like, ‘If I can try that now I will be ahead of the curve'”), she became a sort of high-fashion mascot, half prodigy, half pet.

MORE: In Pics: 9 Shocking Teen Star Meltdowns

And then, just like that, Gevinson decided to leave these childish things behind. “I was like, ‘This is so goofy: We’re watching people wear clothes.'” Inspired by now-defunct alt-teen magazine Sassy, and with the guidance of Sassy‘s founding editor, Jane Pratt – who was listed on the masthead as “fairy godmother” – and This American Life‘s Ira Glass, Gevinson launched Rookie. It since has become the Web’s most famous one-stop compendium of what it is to be a teenage girl, ruminating on everything from Carl Sagan to how to wear a leotard “without giving a damn,” and casting all of its topics through a smart, feminist lens (instead of dating advice, it has a column called “Ask a Grown Man,” to which Jon Hamm and Thom Yorke have contributed).

Rookie‘s popularity is such that it has created a sort of clubhouse effect, spawning an annual yearbook and a nationwide tour – in which girls crammed into ice cream parlors and record stores from Brooklyn to L.A. in the hopes of meeting Gevinson – and turning its petite founder into both a media juggernaut and a generational spokeswoman with friends like Lena Dunham (who once stopped by for takeout when Gevinson was grounded) and Lorde, who tells me, “Had I not been fortunate enough to grow up with the never-ending wisdom and confusion of Tavi, I wouldn’t be the same. She is fearsome. Her writing, her aesthetic leanings, her need to have more, to know more, sparked that in me and infected everyone young today. I’m lucky to have her as my friend.”

MORE: 50 Things Millennials Know That Gen-Xers Don’t

Gevinson, the daughter of a Jewish high school English teacher and a Norwegian weaver, grew up the youngest of three sisters, watching Friends and That ’70s Show, hiding out in the bathroom at school when she felt overwhelmed (“A girl would come and be like, ‘Mrs. Carter sent me to see if you’re OK,’ and I’d be like, ‘I’m pooping'”) and, until recently, getting an allowance of $8 a week. Then there was the toggling between her middle-class Midwestern upbringing and her international fame; the endless recording of her youth for the masses, which, she says, “made it hard for me to live in a moment because I was always narrating it,” and the juxtaposition of standard adolescent milestones with very nonstandard ones. “I went on The Colbert Report. I came home. The next day I went to school, then I lost my virginity,” she declares matter-of-factly before cracking a wry smile. “Now someone’s going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go watch that video and see if I can sense that she’s about to be deflowered.'”

As Gevinson is saying all this, she’s sitting cross-legged on the sofa of a high-rise Chicago apartment that represents a decidedly more adult moment for her. After a memorable turn in the 2013 movie Enough Said, she’s starring opposite Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin in a Steppenwolf Theatre remounting of Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, which moves to Broadway in September. The play skewers the rudderless angst of suspended adolescence. Gevinson’s performance has drawn raves. Last night, the cast had gathered in Culkin’s apartment to play Mario Kart and guitar until 4:30 a.m., at which point Gevinson retired to her place to take a bubble bath and eat chocolate before falling asleep to The Last Days of Disco. When she’d answered the door just past noon, her hair was still wet from the shower, and she was cheerfully dunking a bag of green tea into a cup of hot water. “This morning,” she’d said, “I was really pleased at my desire to meet the day.”

MORE: In Pics: Millennials’ Most Earth-Shaking Sexual Moments

The apartment is the only place she’s lived besides her childhood home, where her room was “the size of a van” and the hundreds of items sent to her over the years by Rookie readers are packed in the basement – an anthropological trove that she “prays doesn’t just deteriorate.” Only the most meaningful artifacts of her girlhood have accompanied her, among them a box made for her by a Rookie reader labeled FOR WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE SHIT and a book of haunting illustrations by German artist Sulamith Wülfing given to her by Stevie Nicks. “Tavi, study this,” reads the inscription. “It will change your life. She is one of us. The eldest angel. I love you, Stevie.”

Living alone is still so novel that Gevinson is excited by the mundane chores of housekeeping. “I really like grocery shopping, probably because I’m not a real adult, so it’s like a novelty to me,” she says. “Kieran and Michael were teasing me yesterday because I was like, ‘I can’t wait to go home and eat my groceries.’ And they were like, ‘That’s not a type of food. No one’s like, “I’m really in the mood for groceries.”‘”

Though Gevinson grew up acting in school plays and community theater, it’s a pursuit she’s only recently decided to revisit. And yet, she says, it taps into something that’s been an impulse for her all along: a way to try on different identities. “When you’re onstage, you can’t think, like, ‘Oh, how is the audience responding to me as a person?’ I mean, it just helped to kind of feel like more of a clean slate.”

Which, preparing for her life ahead, is what she feels she needs. This Is Our Youth runs on Broadway through January 4th, and next fall she’ll be attending NYU. While her role as top editor and curator of Rookie will remain unchanged, the magazine will not age with her – it will maintain its focus on teen girls.

And, at least for the minute, Gevinson’s own focus has returned to fashion: She has begun creating a wardrobe for New York, costuming the version of herself she thinks she’ll be then (“I bought a lot of sequined tops”). In the meantime, she’s still feeling out what it means to be who she is now. “I know I’m not the person I was in high school,” she muses. “But I’m not a new person yet either. It’s just that kind of in between.”

MORE: 50 Things Millennials Have Never Heard Of

TIME Pop Culture

The Animation Pioneer Who Helped Disney Create Mickey Mouse

Ub Iwerks, who helped Walt Disney animate the famous cartoon rodent, published the first Color-Sound cartoon 84 years ago today

+ READ ARTICLE

Ub Iwerks published the first Color-Sound cartoon 84 years ago today, starring Flip the Frog. But chances are, you’re much more likely to know him for his other cartoon creation: Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks developed Mickey in the 1920s together, with Iwerks designing and often animating the actual cartoons.

Iwerks was a dab hand at innovation too, becoming one of Disney’s first imagineers while developing the multi-plane camera, salt vapor filming (early green screen), and animatronics.

Famous animator Chuck Jones once said of Iwekrs “Iwerks spelled backwards is screwy,” but maybe you need a screw loose to invent like Iwerks did.

 

 

TIME Books

Sherlock Holmes Still in Public Domain After Another Loss for Doyle Estate

Judge to Doyle estate: You're on thin ice

Attention, Sherlock Holmes fanfiction writers, you can still try and squeeze some money out of 221b Baker Street’s famous resident — the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective series remains in the public domain, despite repeated attempts from the late author’s estate to hold on to copyright claim.

7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner said the estate’s activities were basically “a form of extortion” in an Aug. 4 decision that sided with an editor seeking legal-fee reimbursement from the estate, Gawker Media blog i09 reports.

Last year, editor Leslie Klinger took the estate to court after it tried to block publication of a new anthology series unless it was paid a licensing fee. After a judge ruled that all stories published before 1923 were in the public domain, the estate made an appeal that was rejected by Posner, who noted that the estate was asking for 135 years of copyright protection and could be in violation of anti-trust laws.

“The Doyle estate’s business strategy is plain: charge a modest license fee for which there is no legal basis, in the hope that the ‘rational’ writer or publisher asked for the fee will pay it rather than incur a greater cost, in legal expenses, in challenging the legality of the demand,” Klinger wrote in his decision supporting Kinger’s request for reimbursement, which he called “a public service.”

TIME celebrities

The Lessons of the One Direction #FreePalestine Tweet

Zayn Malik
Zayn Malik of One Direction performs at on May 24, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Dave J Hogan—Getty Images

One Direction's Zayn Malik has learned — as have others before him — the dangers of mixing celebrity and conflict

Usually when One Direction and the phrase “death threats” are in the same sentence, it’s a case of overenthusiastic fans defending their favorite pop stars — but the group’s Zayn Malik has learned that the backlash can go in the other direction too.

On Sunday, the singer tweeted the phrase “#FreePalestine” — a tweet that’s been both retweeted and favorited over 200,000 times, while it’s also led some of his own fans to lash out at him, death threats and all. He’s not the first to experience blow-back over the topic:

  • Earlier this month, a similar message from Rihanna led her to delete the tweet within minutes of posting it. The singer claimed to have tweeted in error, having clicked a tweet link on a website.
  • Basketball player Dwight Howard followed a similar script the same week, adding that he’s never commented on international politics.
  • Cricket player Moeen Ali has been banned by the International Cricket Council from wearing “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” wristbands.
  • Scarlett Johansson‘s dual roles as Oxfam ambassador and SodaStream spokesperson caused controversy that led her to tell the New Yorker felt like she was “put into a position that was way larger than anything I could possibly—I mean, this is an issue that is much bigger than something I could just be dropped into the middle of.”
  • Back in 2012, Kim Kardashian tweeted that she was “praying for everyone in Israel” and subsequently that her prayers were also for Palestine, and then later deleted both tweets, explaining on her blog that she was sorry to have offended anyone on either side.

So one possible takeaway from Malik’s experience, and those before it, is that celebrities should just keep their mouths shut when it comes to Israel and Palestine — especially when even Secretary of State John Kerry has trouble being diplomatic about the issue.

No matter what one thinks about Israel, it’s hard to deny that (a) the subject is controversial, and (b) Twitter (or a symbolic accessory, or a product endorsement deal) isn’t exactly a great place to express a nuanced thought about a complicated topic. Case in point: celebrities aren’t the only ones who’ve found that to be true. Even the Associated Press has experienced the pitfalls of tweeting about Gaza, having decided to revise a tweet that seemed to express negative judgment about U.S. lawmakers who support Israel. In a time when people like Malik and Rihanna have a direct line to their legions of fans, they’re all one click away from saying something they don’t really mean, or saying something they think they mean but haven’t really thought through. Safer, then, not to say anything. If the point of being a celebrity is to please fans, it’s pretty clear that Tweeting about Israel is not the way to do it.

On the other hand, Malik’s #FreePalestine tweet was followed by silence. He hasn’t responded to any fans, he hasn’t apologized and he hasn’t deleted what he said. So maybe “#FreePalestine” was really what he meant, with all its possible connotations and consequences. There’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Which means that the other possible takeaway is that maybe pleasing fans isn’t actually what celebrities care about most, and that asking them to be quiet about their opinions is an unrealistic expectation. In that scenario, they’re not different from any other Twitter users in that they can say whatever they want — and in that, when other users disagree, they’ll hear about it.

TIME celebrities

5 Things to Expect at This Year’s Comic-Con

The convention begins this Thursday, causing rumors to spread about what fans have to look forward to.

+ READ ARTICLE

Thursday marks the start of the 44th annual San Diego International Comic-Con, and fans are lining up to be a part of the highly-anticipated action.

The panel for the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy will be held on Saturday, and it is rumored that director Peter Jackson will release a trailer for the film.

The Marvel panel will be covering details on the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. The sequel to the wildly successful Avengers film is expected to get some reveal during the panel.

A large number of the Game of Thrones cast, along with George R. R. Martin, have the show’s panel on Friday, where it is rumored they will discuss the show’s overlap with the novels.

TIME Pop Culture

Near-Perfect Copy of Action Comics #1 Will be Sold on eBay

Action Comics #1 comic book of 1938 is pictured on February 23, 2010 in New York which had sold for USD 1 million, making it the first ever million dollar comic book.
Action Comics #1 comic book of 1938 is pictured on February 23, 2010 in New York which had sold for USD 1 million, making it the first ever million dollar comic book. Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

The copy being sold received a 9.0 out of 10 rating by the most trusted comic book rating company

In a little less than a month, anyone looking to get his or her hands on a copy of the comic book that introduced the world to Superman will have an opportunity to vie for the legendary relic.

Action Comics #1 will be auctioned on eBay from August 14 to 24 and may run you a fair amount more than the 10 cents that the original cost when it was released in 1938. In fact, the last issue of the Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster-penned comic to be sold went for no less than $2.16 million.

According to Cnet, the issue of the 1938 comic being sold next month was given a 9-out-of-10 rating from the Certified Guaranty Company, a well-known comic ratings company, which is the highest grade a copy of Action Comics #1 has ever received. The issue that sold for over $2 million in 2011 also received a 9.0 rating.

The issue’s owner, Darren Adams, got the copy from a dealer, but the original was kept in pristine condition in part because it was stored for a while in a cedar chest in West Virginia.

“I felt this book deserves to have as much publicity as possible because of what it is,” Adams said in a video on eBay. “It is the cream of the crop and it doesn’t get any better than this.”

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Christopher Reeve played Superman in the iconic 1978 film. He became a quadriplegic in the 1990s after being thrown from a horse and died in 2004.

TIME Pop Culture

The U.S. Government Agrees With Jason Segel About Sandwiches

Food definitions are no laughing matter

+ READ ARTICLE

Jason Segel knows better than to joke about sandwiches. On the Tuesday night episode of the Late Show, the Sex Tape actor told David Letterman that a casual remark about the superiority of sandwiches to burritos caused such a firestorm on Twitter that it caused him to quit the social media service.

“Sandwiches are more diverse than burritos,” was the actor’s pronouncement. “I do know about burritos,” he added. “If they get too diverse, they’re a wrap.” Sandwiches, meanwhile, can encompass the wide variety seen within his top five list: from the BLT to the Reuben to the tuna melt to the grilled cheese to the PB&J.

But, though Segel has clearly given serious thought to the topic, he’s not the only one.

Last week, NPR covered one of the deep complexities of the sandwich vs. burrito debate: the fact that burritos may actually be sandwiches, by some definitions. According to the USDA Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, a sandwich (of the closed variety) consists of “two slices of bread or the top and bottom sections of a slice bun that enclose meat or poultry”; the meat has to make up 35% of the total sandwich. A burrito, meanwhile, is a “Mexican style sandwich-like product consisting of a flour tortilla, various fillings, and at least 15 percent meat or 10 percent cooked poultry meat”; whether or not the ends of the rolled tortilla are “tucked” doesn’t make a difference. A wrap is a ready-to-eat product that “is wrapped in a dough based component” and contains a minimum 2% meat or poultry.

The reason the USDA cares is that these definitions help determine how products are inspected, labeled and taxed. For example, if a company tried to pass something off as a “ham croquette” that had less than 35% ham in it — an actual example from the book — they couldn’t get away with it. Different foods are inspected at different points in being assembled, and some fall into different tax categories.

Which is where sandwiches and burritos come in. As NPR notes, the state of New York taxes burritos under the heading of sandwiches, asserting that burritos aren’t merely a sandwich-like product. So, in New York at least, Segel would be legally correct: sandwiches are more “diverse” than burritos because burritos are a subset of sandwiches; furthermore, even outside that state, a burrito that gets too diverse — i.e. one in which the variety of ingredients is either no longer “Mexican style” or is of such quantity that the amount of meat sinks below 15% — does in fact become a wrap.

But, though the government seems to generally concur with the comedian, that doesn’t mean they’re on the same sandwich wavelength across the board. After all, the USDA definition of a sandwich — that it must include meat or poultry — means that grilled cheese and PB&J aren’t sandwiches at all. Even a BLT is unlikely to meat the threshold, since it would have to be 35% bacon to fit the bill.

The USDA’s position on peanut butter and jelly, as set out by the labeling policy, is clearly ludicrous — nearly as ludicrous as the way that David Letterman says “taco.” So, though Jason Segel isn’t the only one thinking about sandwiches, maybe he’s the one who’s thought about them the hardest. And for that, he deserves a sandwich.

TIME Music

The Al Yankovic Paradox: He Doesn’t Seem That Weird Anymore

Weird Al
"Weird Al" Yankovic appears on NBC News' "Today" show on Sept. 26, 2013 Peter Kramer—NBC NewsWire / Getty Images

"Normal Al" just doesn't have the same ring to it

Al Yankovic — best known as Weird Al, the man who realized the “Amish” has the same number of syllables as “gangsta” — recently tweeted that he would be releasing eight new music videos in the eight days beginning July 14. The videos will feature songs from his forthcoming album Mandatory Fun (out July 15), the titles from which have not yet been announced. This move drew comparisons at Vulture to Beyoncé’s all-at-once strategy, and seems designed to capture some of the headline-grabbing buzz that she earned from deciding not to obey the usual music-release timeline.

But, as his new album approaches its release, Weird Al is in a weird place.

The reason? He just doesn’t seem so weird anymore.

Yankovic’s cultural penetration peaked in the late ’90s with platinum-selling albums like Bad Hair Day and Running With Scissors, which contained songs like “Amish Paradise” and “Pretty Fly For A Rabbi.” Around the release of his most recent album, 2011’s Alpocalypse, he told the AP that he had been “getting kind of cocky” at that point. Even though Alpocalypse broke the top 10 on the album chart, he acknowledged that sales were down and it was getting harder to get performers to approve the use of their music in his parodies. An artist experiencing declining album sales, compared to his ’90s high, is certainly not unique to Yankovich — and the parodist has been keeping fairly busy in the years between Alpocalypse and Mandatory Fun. He went on tour, he denied retirement rumors, he appeared on TV shows like Adventure Time and 30 Rock, he co-wrote three books (two for kids and one about himself) and he appeared frequently in Funny or Die videos.

That last credit is the interesting one. His most popular work was perfectly timed for the last days of pre-YouTube comedy. In the late ’90s, his music videos were some of the easiest-to-access sources of short comedy. Now, the kind of humor that used to make him seem “weird” is pretty much the most mainstream comedy out there. Countless Frozen fans have filled YouTube with “Let It Go” parodies and, since 2005, Saturday Night Live‘s Digital Shorts have been the professional equivalent. Yankovic is clearly aware of this change: in addition to Funny or Die, he’s participated in an “Epic Rap Battles of History” video — which has accumulated 11 million views in one month, versus 22 million for the official “Amish Paradise” video, which has been on YouTube for five years. In this season of Comedy Central’s YouTube-to-TV Drunk History, he plays Adolf Hitler.

All of which is to say that though Yankovic certainly wasn’t the first musical parodist or the most influential one ever — an honor that should likely go to Allan Sherman or Tom Lehrer — it looks like he may just be the last of his kind. In a world where any “weirdo” can rack up hits on a YouTube clip, the designation begins to lose its oomph. And, while it’s normally a good thing for an artist to have anticipated the zeitgeist, the exception is an artist who relies on being outside the mainstream — and “Normal Al” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

If Yankovic’s video-release strategy can make him stand out from the rest of the parody-song bunch, interest in funny clips could be great news for Mandatory Fun and for his weirdness level. It just might work: eight music videos in a week isn’t normal yet. For that matter, neither is his hairdo.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,234 other followers