The internet got a little bit stranger this week with the release of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s newest album, Mandatory Fun. For close to 40 years now, Weird Al has embraced everything counterculture, playfully mocking the earnestness of 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s versions of “cool.” From Michael Jackson to Celine Dion, from Star Wars to the Beverly Hillbillies, there are few pop culture themes and memes that the musical master of parody has left untouched.

Weird Al predates me. I discovered him as a nerdy elementary schooler at a friend’s sleep-over. All we third and fourth graders howled with laughter, literally breathless and reduced to tears, at the idea that someone could change the lyrics to TLC’s slow-jam “Waterfalls” into the Bart Simpson themed “Phoney Calls.” His was the first concert I ever saw live, a milestone that has slowly changed from embarrassed admission to badge-of-honor as the years have passed.

The power of Weird Al, as nerds growing up, rested in his ability to eschew the law of cool and exist outside of its reign. In a pre-youtube age, his music was a voice calling in the wilderness: “You don’t have to fit in! You don’t have to be defined by the top 40!” While it’s now much easier to find a subculture to connect with online, that wasn’t really the case before the year 2000, and I’m thankful that Weird Al gave me and others vindication when we couldn’t measure up to the standards of middle-school-cool society. I might not have been able to afford an Abercrombie and Fitch wardrobe, but I didn’t need to–there existed another way of finding friendship, companionship, and relationship outside of fitting in. When I phrase it like that, it makes psychological sense why I eventually became a pastor in a church. Fewer things are weirder than acceptance without precondition and clergy collars.

Now that the internet is what it is, it looks like Mandatory Fun could be Weird Al’s last official album. The parody/novelty genre seems better measured by youtube views than record sales, and Weird Al has been telling the press he’ll likely switch over to releasing more immediate singles instead. That said, he’s releasing this album with a bang, dropping eight new music videos back-to-back over the past week. Comedians like Jack Black, Patton Oswalt, and Kristen Schaal gladly cameo in his new videos, a testament to the long lasting, generational impact his work has had. I’ve got a good feeling that Weird Al’s music will find a new and happy home on the internet, welcomed by the new generation of comedians and musicians that he inspired. It’s no coincidence that the videos were released by Funny or Die, College Humor, Nerdist, and other new-media comedy bastions.

My favorites from this batch? “Word Crimes” is such a fun little ditty that it (almost!) mellows out of the sexism in the original “Blurred Lines.” “Handy” is, I think, the most faithful to the original “Fancy,” which makes it that much funnier. “Sports Song” is sure to become an anthem of the anti-jocks in high schools all over America. (Also: an honorable mention goes to Weird Al’s portrayal of Sir Issac Newton vs Bill Nye the Science Guy over at Epic Rap Battles of History.)

I’m reminded (as many folks have been lately!) of the recent Identity edition of The Mockingbird, where we took this quote from J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey for our inspiration: “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.” That’s what comes to mind when I hear Weird Al–a polka musician who had the courage to be an absolute nobody, paving the way for others to do the same. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how his courage, weirdness, and creativity take shape in his new post record contract landscape!