The Curious Comfort of Obscurity
I was lucky in that I became a freelance and then the A.V Club’s first head writer at a time when nobody seemed to be reading the section. Christ, in the beginning the webmaster for The Onion thought the audience for The Onion’s entertainment section was so tiny that The A.V Club did not even merit being online.
We were the red-headed stepchildren of Onion Inc. In those early days it was not unusual to tell people I wrote for The Onion’s entertainment section and have them confess they did not know The Onion even had an entertainment section or to ask if the entertainment section was fake news as well.
For a surprisingly long time, no one seemed to give a fuck about the A.V Club. I took strange comfort in that. I used to imagine that everything that I wrote went into a massive cosmic void from which nothing could ever emerge. It was nice feeling like nobody read or cared about what I was doing because when I started writing professionally in 1997, a fucking eternity ago, I was a super-shitty writer. Terrible! A rank amateur. I was sloppy. I was superficial. I used the phrase “And while” way too often.
But I worked diligently at my craft and got better. It took me years to rise to a position of mediocrity and a good decade or so to be better than average. By the time people started paying attention to The A.V Club I had found my voice as a writer. I knew who I was. I had paid my dues.
When we started at The Dissolve it was weirdly comforting knowing that I was once again writing for an exceedingly modest audience. Alas, it turned out the audience for the site was entirely too modest to support The Disssolve’s ongoing existence.
I’ve similarly found strange solace in Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place being a modestly read cult website with a small but loyal readership that knows me as a writer and human being and seem to dig me all the same.
I find it a little disconcerting when an article, usually a clickbait satire like the pieces I wrote about Cary Elwes and David Hyde Pierce, goes viral and attracts readers who have no idea who I am and what my website is all about and consequently are confused and angry as to why some crazy man is writing about murdering the dashing Princess Bride star or the Frasier actor’s unfortunate predilection for killing student nurses.
It’s nice writing for a nice, small audience that knows you and likes you and mostly gets your weird running jokes and obscure references. That’s why I particularly adore The Weird Accordion to Al readers and commenters. What you lack in numbers you more than make up for in knowledge, dedication and sheer affability.
It wasn’t until I started working on “Take Me Down”, the one hundred and sixty sixth entry in the column, that I found myself thinking, “Oh shit, people might actually read this now.” In the space of a week or so my obsessive tribute to the music and magic of American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic became the most lucrative and high-profile part of the Happy Place.
We blew the fuck up, son! It’s exciting. And a little scary. I had no idea there was so much interest and excitement in the Weird Accordion to Al book. It’s validating and thrilling and I take comfort in knowing that the Weird Accordion to Al book will be a much, much different beast than the column that inspired him, in the same way the My Year of Flops book offered a whole lot more than the column.
If you like The Weird Accordion to Al as a freewheeling, two and a half year long journey then you will fucking love the book, because it will amplify the column’s strengths and eliminate its weaknesses.
After years of growing and thriving in relative obscurity, The Weird Accordion to Al is ready for the big time. I hope the same is true of its author. Over the course of my twenty-two years in the business I’ve discovered that success and failure each bring challenges of their own, but in this case at least I would much rather deal with the complications of success than failure, because, to be brutally honest, I’ve had a few too many losses as of late and I need this success in a way that borders on unseemly.
You know the deal: I make my living through crowd-funding so if you would be kind enough to consider pledging over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace it would be groovy.
And/or you can contribute to the Kickstarter for the Weird Accordion to Al book over at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weirdaccordiontoal/make-the-weird-accordion-to-al-book-a-ridiculous-r?ref=user_menu