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Let ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic Teach You How to Make a Good Parody

Sit back and relax while the master teaches you how to do what he does best: parody.

Don’t you want to be like this guy? Image: Phil3070

No one knows comedy songs like “Weird” Al Yankovic. From Amish Paradise to Fat and Eat It, Yankovik has riffed off just about everybody—sometimes to their chagrin. And, at Fast Company, he’s offering to teach you how to do what he does best: parody.

According to “Weird” Al, here are The Rules:

1. Listeners shouldn’t need to know the original

It’s got to be funny, whether or not the listener is familiar at all with the source material.

2. Poke in the ribs, don’t punch in the face

The spirit in which a music parody should be created is a personal choice—many parodists and satirists go for the jugular, but I’ve always gone for humor that was a little less biting and derogatory.

3. Pick a big hit, but also pick a big concept

So the best advice I can give is, pick a concept where you feel you can maintain humor through the entire length of the song.

4. It’s much easier to parody a song than a whole genre

With a straight parody, you don’t have to write the music or produce a demo—it’s already done for you.

5. Start with the title and make the lyrics fit like a puzzle

After hearing Chamillionaire’s hit on the radio for the thousandth time, I figured I should try to do something with it. I made a long list of song titles that were puns on “Ridin’ Dirty,” and “White & Nerdy” just kind of jumped out at me–it was basically my life story.

Here’s that song for your enjoyment and, perhaps, inspiration:

So go forth and parody, my friends.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Carol Burnett—We Just Can’t Resist Her!
The Best Songs That Help Us Learn

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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