Weird Al is basically Shakespeare

Not the bit about plays, the bit about sonnets.

Writing song parodies is like writing sonnets

Sonnets are an interesting because of how restrictive they are. According to American poet Aaron Kramer

First, you are handcuffed by having to write fourteen lines. Then, you are shackled by having to write with a set meter. They put you into a sack called rhyme. But think what a magic act it is if you can set your meaning free!

So sonnets are about the magic trick of telling your story within a restrictive set someone else has created for you. The best sonnet writers are able to tell their story beautifully, adhering to the rigid structure of the sonnet while still expressing their creativity and cleverness. Forced rhymes and awkward phrases make your sonnet suck. In the best sonnets, readers will think you chose each word for the meaning it imparts and not to satisfy some artificial meter.

The same holds when writing song parodies. The best of Weird Al’s catalog have lyrics that sound more natural than the originals. Compare Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” with Al’s “Jerry Springer”: Al doesn’t resort to “chickity china”, whatever that means. And if you want restrictive rhyme templates, look no further than “Couch Potato” (a parody of “Lose Yourself”), where Al seamlessly mirrors an insanely complex lyrical structure around. Compare the first four lines of Al’s first verse to the rhyme columns in the above video:

Remote is ready, eyes wide, palms are sweaty
There’s Flintstones on the TV already, Wilma and Betty
No virgin to channel surfin’, and I’m HD ready
So I flip, garbage is all I’m getting

Note quite as efficient as Eminem, but that’s about as close as you could hope to get. (I think “palms” sicks out a little, but Al gets away with it because the line is lifted from the original, so it doesn’t sound odd when we hear it.)

Al is prolific like Shakespeare

Again, just focusing on the sonnets here. Don’t @ me.

Shakespeare didn’t invent the form of sonnet that sometimes bears his name, but he wrote a ton, and he was probably the most famous person doing it at the time.

Similarly, Weird Al didn’t invent the parody, and there have been many others who’ve done it well both well before Al got started and during his run. But he certainly is the most popular, and today when people think of song parodies, they think of Weird Al.

So yeah, Al is basically Shakespeare.