Punning With Scissors: The Downside of Uploading
Regardless of one’s position on the issue of file-sharing, there are a few cases that stand out for both sides of the arguments for and against the controversial practice. While mainstream artists both derided and endorsed the practice, the latter for its sheer ability to spread the word about talented music acts, some of them faced genuine obstacles in having to embrace not just the attitudes and habits of a new generation of music listeners, but an entire new era of technology and communication. One such artist was a man thought by most of his fans to be immune from “techno-fatigue” — “Weird Al” Yankovich.
When Napster was at its absolute peak in 1999 and 2000, “Weird Al” was in the middle of his “Running with Scissors” tour, premiering such hits as “The Saga Begins,” which combined the plot of the recently released first Star Wars prequel with Don McLean’s latest hit “American Pie,” using the two tools of his trade with much skill and to great personal reward. On stage, Yankovick was a ball of energy and spunk, performing “quick-changes” between his hits and performing rare and unreleased parodies to the delight of his audience. Psychologically, however, “Weird Al” was another story.
Long an icon of nerds and nerd culture alike, Yankavic was faced daily with the pressure of his core audience’s high expectations. Not only did they expect the same high energy and clever puns that had come to be Al’s trademark since the early days of “Another One Rides the Bus,” and “I Love Rocky Road,” but they expected his “nerd capital” to constantly self-replenish. While on the road, it was assumed, “Weird Al” was spending equal time rehearsing, performing, and updating himself on popular culture. All of this — music, quick-changes, autograph-sessions — right on the cusp of the dot-com bubble’s bursting. In an as-yet-unreleased autobiography entitled “Untitled Weird Al Autobiography,” Al reportedly confesses that his research time, his “Absorption Period,” is actually the time between touring and new album releases, as the tour bus is not a place for research, but rather a place for inspiration.
Needless to say, the unexpected rise in popularity of file sharing and the various associated programs thereof sent audiences looking to Al for guidance as to how they could best be ironically self-derisive regarding their use of such services, avoiding the stares and jests that inevitably came with expressing one’s knowledge of the current tech-world while in mixed company. In private, Al was counting down the days to the end of the “Running with Scissors” tour, hoping desperately to avoid another autograph session replete with questions about his “web site” and how he preferred to “connect” to the “information highway.” It was becoming too much for the comedian-cum-pop-star, and, though he wouldn’t admit it at the time, he was about to reach a breaking
Thank you for reading. Post-Modem: The Interwebs Explained will be released on November 17, 2015.