This weekend "Weird Al" Yankovic performed his classic song Yoda as a duet with Jodi DiPiazza, a 13-year-old autistic girl, at Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars." It was a feel-good moment and the latest highlight in Weird Al's impressively long career. He is as big of a star today as he's ever been, and yet his early hits were being played on the Dr. Demento radio show in the 70s! How has he stayed so relevant for so long? Here are five-and-a-half lessons we can learn about career longevity from Weird Al:
1. Leverage technology. At 55, Al utilizes social media brilliantly, when most of his generational peers have floundered. If you don't follow him on Twitter, you should. He's always good for whimsical quips and odd celebrity sightings. Recently, he posed for a picture with Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buschemi, and Gilbert Godfried; I would have loved to been a fly on that wall.
2. Stay modern. Weird Al is continually parodying the latest radio hits and attracting younger and younger audiences. I'm not ashamed to say that I have been to three Weird Al concerts in three different decades; I've seen firsthand that by staying modern, he has grown his fan base to all ages -- from eight to 68.
3. Know your staples. Weird Al understands that his music evolves, but he still plays the old classics to make his concerts a wonderful blend of new and old. Great musicians (and experts in any career, really) are able to concentrate on what they do best, while always layering in new elements.
4. Establish partnerships. One of the secrets to his success: Gaining the support of the musicians he is mocking. By parody law, he technically doesn't need permission to spoof their songs, but he seeks it out anyway. His consideration has endeared him so much to the music community that the artists not only almost always grant permission, they occasionally even help him record his songs. Building partnerships in music and business -- even with those who could be your rival -- can often make you both stronger.
5. Be yourself. Weird Al has never been anything but "Weird Al." He's a lifelong goofball, playing the accordion and rising to worldwide fame because of it. There is nobody like him and he's never been anything but true to himself. Even Oprah, the most successful woman in show business, agrees: "I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I've become. If I had, I'd have done it a lot earlier."
And five-and-a-half: Don't be afraid to be a geek. The Big Bang Theory is one of the top shows on television, comic book movies have been the top grossing films over the past few years, and hipsters are wearing thick-rimmed glasses. Let's face it, geek is the new cool. So, let's all be like Al and geek it up!
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