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“Weird Al” Yankovic recorded a parody of this song in late 1981 called “Pac-Man”, during the height of the game‘s popularity.
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11 Comments

  1. I can’t say I remember it, but you can find a couple videos for it on youtube – e.g., this one.

    The best that can be said about it is it’s pretty typical Weird Al fare.

  2. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Aw, I liked it, Glaven! (Reminded me what a great song “Taxman” is.) Weird Al’s not my cup of tea, but he does what he sets out to do exceedingly well.

    Weird Al’s work faces the same problem that uh, SOME OTHERS have run into: our shared culture–ie, what you can parody–is now almost entirely mass-market, blatantly commercial, purposely ephemeral stuff that almost never admits to taking itself seriously. A parody of something like that, comes off as either killing a kitten with an A-bomb, or yet more meaningless crap on top of all the other meaningless crap.

    The only way I know to get around this is to infuse the parody with a strong, occasionally angry satirical viewpoint–“Yes, the original is just a piece of disposable pop culture, but it symbolizes x,y, and z genuinely bad things.” In other words, make the parody say something important enough to merit the reader’s attention. At this point, however, audiences are so saturated by ephemeral parody that such artistic distinctions simply don’t register. Weird Al knows this; every working parodist does.

    “My Bologna” worked better in 1980 than it does today, because in ’80, there was less media competing for our attention, and it wasn’t all post-ironic. The difference between Weird Al Yankovic and, say, Tom Lehrer is the difference between America in 1960 and 2000. This gets into issues too big for a comment, but you could say it’s the difference between a time when we got our news from Edward R. Murrow, and one where we get it from Jon Stewart.

  3. @Michael – I agree entirely with your point that it is tough to parody pop cultural artifacts that attempt to protect themselves from parody by self-consciously coating themselves with a thin veneer of irony. But it can be done and done well. And what’s more, done in such a way that the parody can be (mis)taken for the very thing it is so successfully parodying.

    Which brings me to my main point, which is:

    I kinda disagree with the analogy you give at the end of your comment. If Tom Lehrer was the contrapuntal satire to the news that our nation got from Serious Journalist Edward R. Murrow, Jon Stewart is more the contrapuntal satire to the “news” that our nation gets from (unintentionally?) self-parodic “news” organization Fox News. And Fox News is so bad that it really can’t be taken seriously by any thinking person; and TDS (and, I should add, The Colbert Report) are so good that, after the belly laugh, they can be taken seriously … more so, at least, than the thing they are parodying. And so a lot of people admit to getting a significant portion of their news from those satirical shows

    I’ll happily concede that Weird Al is exceedingly good at what he does. But to me “Pac Man” was just okay because he’s really not my cup of tea anymore, either. I liked him all right back in the ’80s. But now? Meh.

    Whereas I still think Tom Lehrer is a riot.

    Another thought: The target of Weird Al’s “Pac Man” was … Pac Man. (“Target” is probably too harsh a word, here, too, for what Weird Al does.) A better target for a parodist/satirist (and Weird Al is really just a parodist) would have been George’s song in which a rich man boo-hoo-hoos over making so much money that his excess wealth is taxed at 95%.

    Don’t get me wrong: “Taxman” is a great song. Lyrically, it probably could have used a bit more of the ironic distance that Ray Davies gave the line “the taxman’s taken all my dough” in “Sunny Afternoon”, though. If the rich guy can’t admit that his Rich Guy’s Lament is slightly ridiculous in the overall scheme of things, there’s not a whole lot for the average guy to grasp onto.

    Musically, though, “Taxman” is unsurpassed, I’d say.

  4. @Michael – I agree entirely with your point that it is tough to parody pop cultural artifacts that attempt to protect themselves from parody by self-consciously coating themselves with a thin veneer of irony. But it can be done and done well. And what’s more, done in such a way that the parody can be (mis)taken for the very thing it is so successfully parodying.

    Which brings me to my main point, which is:

    I kinda disagree with the analogy you give at the end of your comment. If Tom Lehrer was the contrapuntal satire to the news that our nation got from Serious Journalist Edward R. Murrow, Jon Stewart is more the contrapuntal satire to the “news” that our nation gets from (unintentionally?) self-parodic “news” organization Fox News. And Fox News is so bad that it really can’t be taken seriously by any thinking person; and TDS (and, I should add, The Colbert Report) are so good that, after the belly laugh, they can be taken seriously … more so, at least, than the thing they are parodying. And so a lot of people admit to getting a significant portion of their news from those satirical shows

    I’ll happily concede that Weird Al is exceedingly good at what he does. But to me “Pac Man” was just okay because he’s really not my cup of tea anymore, either. I liked him all right back in the ’80s. But now? Meh.

    Whereas I still think Tom Lehrer is a riot.

    Another thought: The target of Weird Al’s “Pac Man” was … Pac Man. (“Target” is probably too harsh a word, here, too, for what Weird Al does.) A better target for a parodist/satirist (and Weird Al is really just a parodist) would have been George’s song in which a rich man boo-hoo-hoos over making so much money that his excess wealth is taxed at 95%.

    Don’t get me wrong: “Taxman” is a great song. Lyrically, it probably could have used a bit more of the ironic distance that Ray Davies gave the line “the taxman’s taken all my dough” in “Sunny Afternoon”, though. If the rich guy can’t admit that his Rich Guy’s Lament is slightly ridiculous in the overall scheme of things, there’s not a whole lot for the average guy to grasp onto.

    Musically, though, “Taxman” is unsurpassed, I’d say.

  5. @Michael – I agree entirely with your point that it is tough to parody pop cultural artifacts that attempt to protect themselves from parody by self-consciously coating themselves with a thin veneer of irony. But it can be done and done well. And what’s more, done in such a way that the parody can be (mis)taken for the very thing it is so successfully parodying.

    Which brings me to my main point, which is:

    I kinda disagree with the analogy you give at the end of your comment. If Tom Lehrer was the contrapuntal satire to the news that our nation got from Serious Journalist Edward R. Murrow, Jon Stewart is more the contrapuntal satire to the “news” that our nation gets from (unintentionally?) self-parodic “news” organization Fox News. And Fox News is so bad that it really can’t be taken seriously by any thinking person; and TDS (and, I should add, The Colbert Report) are so good that, after the belly laugh, they can be taken seriously … more so, at least, than the thing they are parodying. And so a lot of people admit to getting a significant portion of their news from those satirical shows

    I’ll happily concede that Weird Al is exceedingly good at what he does. But to me “Pac Man” was just okay because he’s really not my cup of tea anymore, either. I liked him all right back in the ’80s. But now? Meh.

    Whereas I still think Tom Lehrer is a riot.

    Another thought: The target of Weird Al’s “Pac Man” was … Pac Man. (“Target” is probably too harsh a word, here, too, for what Weird Al does.) A better target for a parodist/satirist (and Weird Al is really just a parodist) would have been George’s song in which a rich man boo-hoo-hoos over making so much money that his excess wealth is taxed at 95%.

    Don’t get me wrong: “Taxman” is a great song. Lyrically, it probably could have used a bit more of the ironic distance that Ray Davies gave the line “the taxman’s taken all my dough” in “Sunny Afternoon”, though. If the rich guy can’t admit that his Rich Guy’s Lament is slightly ridiculous in the overall scheme of things, there’s not a whole lot for the average guy to grasp onto.

    Musically, though, “Taxman” is unsurpassed, I’d say.

  6. Okay. I tried to post a really long response to Michael’s thoughtful comment, but I got a “comment too long” error. (I get that a lot.) And since the comments here are moderated, either I accidentally sent that comment successfully like 10 times, or it didn’t get sent at all.

    *Sigh*.

    If the former, sorry for bombarding your blog.

    If the latter … never mind.

  7. A better parody is Six Words Long which is an offical WA song. Pacman was never officially released

  8. Avatar Michael wrote:

    I LOVED that, thank you!

  9. Avatar Gabriel McCann wrote:

    You’re welcome and a happy 68th birthday to George today.

  10. Not a Beatles parody but I like this one too

  11. Other Parodies
    1) Chicken Pot Pie


    2) Give Booze a Chance


    by The Bonzos

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