Weird Al Yankovic had already enjoyed a decades-long run as a parodist before the MySpace generation emerged.
But like many of his pre-Internet comic contemporaries, Yankovic has found a sizable new audience while reconnecting with his legacy fanbase, through online portals and social networking sites.
“The Internet definitely took me to the next level,” Yankovic says, estimating that the video for his last single, “White & Nerdy” — a parody of Houston hip-hopper Chamillionaire’s hit “Ridin’ ” — racked up 50 million views on MySpace, Google Video and YouTube alone. The exposure helped propel Yankovic’s 2006 album, “Straight Outta Lynwood,” onto the Billboard Top 10 — a career first.
“Musicvideos had always been very important in my career,” Yankovic says, “but I had considered giving up making (them) entirely, because it seemed like the potential limited airplay didn’t justify the very real and sizable production expense.”
Nevertheless, for “Lynwood,” “I commissioned eight animated musicvideos,” he continues. “I knew that most of those videos probably wouldn’t have a chance of getting added to some (TV) channel’s playlist, but I also knew that they would be ideal online, where they could take on a viral life of their own.”
The strategy worked. As of Nov. 1, three of Yankovic’s songs — including his catalog Coolio parody “Amish Paradise” — were sitting atop tracks from relative newcomers like Dane Cook and Kelly (Liam Kyle Sullivan’s character) on iTunes’ top-10 comedy singles.
What’s more, Yankovic reports that with publicity help from the likes of MySpace and his own WeirdAl.com website, his recently concluded world tour stands as his most lucrative ever.
Other comedy oldies are hot to take the virtual stage and grab a slice of the online audience.
“You can actually make me the voice on your iPhone,” laughs septuagenarian standup Jackie Mason, with characteristic incredulousness, in an advertisement for his new series of iTunes ringtones. While Mason’s ads run on MySpace Comedy, the self-proclaimed “ultimate Jew” has joined YouTube, where he maintains his own video blog channel.
Like Yankovic, Mason is generating some serious numbers: His 6½-minute YouTube rant on health and fitness, delivered in his pajamas while walking on a treadmill, has garnered more than 292,000 views since launch.