“Weird Al” Yankovic is a national treasure. For over 30 years, Yankovic has been keeping the world’s greatest artists humble. Parody is often thought of a low form of culture, but for our money, the power of language is never stronger than when “I’m bad” is swapped with “I’m fat” and “Gangsta” is subbed out for “Amish.” You’re only ever one or two words from being deeply silly, and Al has been here for decades reminding us just that. He’ll be at the Hershey Theatre tonight, so we’re celebrating with some great unheralded “Weird Al” moments in time.
“Ricky” music video (1983)
Half of the charm of Yankovic’s entire oeuvre is in his music videos. His song parodies usually work well enough musically, but the extra dimension of video has truly sustained him. To boot, he made videos for each and every song for his most recent album, “Mandatory Fun.” However, it all started with “Ricky.” Ostensibly a parody of Toni Basil’s “Micky” and centered around the plot of “I Love Lucy,” the video showcased Yankovic’s manic acting and cheeky-but-silly wordplay. It’s not a remarkable video by any means, but it proves that Al has aged like a fine wine in every way.
“Unplugged” commercial (1998)
As ubiquitous as a silly mustache and hairdo can be, that’s what Al’s ’80s look was. Rarely, if ever did he stray from that look, until 1998. After a successful LASIK surgery, Yankovic “debuted” his look in the form of a fake commercial for a non-existent “MTV Unplugged” performance. Looking exactly like a Hanson brother, Yankovic expels cliches about getting back to the roots of his music with a new look, all while he and his band plays a bluesy acoustic version of “Eat It” surrounded by candles. This could’ve been a great segment on his short-lived TV show, but it worked much better as a direct parody to the network it was airing on.
“Genius in France” (2003)
Could there be a harder artist to adequately parody than Frank Zappa? The man covered nearly every genre, key and tempo that he could muster and left nothing behind over his 40 year musical career. Zappa, along with Tom Lehrer, was a huge influence on Yankovic. Ten years after Zappa passed away, Yankovic mustered up a massive nine-minute ode to the man in the form of “Genius in France” from 2003’s “Poodle Hat” album. The whole thing is a massive undertaking, switching freely between instruments, sound effects and wholesale genres, all while making the small point of being popular in France. Obviously, Yankovic is known for his polka takes on immensely popular songs, but parodying a style is much harder and impressive when done right. The difficulty makes Zappa something of a parody “Final Boss,” and Yankovic made vanquishing him look easy. And Dweezil Zappa plays guitar on it!
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” trailer (2013)
Released by Funny or Die just as “Mandatory Fun” was just beginning to be released, “Weird: the Al Yankovic Story” is a love letter to both over-wrought biopics and just how much Hollywood loves “Weird Al.” Starring Aaron Paul as the titular Al, along with cameos from Gary Cole, Patton Oswalt, Olivia Wilde and Al himself. While it is highly doubtful that Yankovic’s early musical career involved drunken debauchery and trysts with Madonna, it’s nice to see a parody that, much like Yankovic’s own, is made with a lot of love for the source material.
Tickets for tonight’s “Weird Al” Yankovic show are still available and range from $39-$59. Find out more information here.