There are cultural phenomena, and then there are those who ride them to become historical points of reference. It’s sort of like what Shakespeare did with the twisted poetry and feuding jealous men that were part of his times; he brought them together and achieved immortality.
Weird Al Yankovic lives in the same vein. He has enabled humankind as species to be able to look at themselves and go, “Ah, I suppose we are silly”; whether it is the fat, or the homeless, or even those riding the bus.
Yesterday, 23rd October, was the great man’s birthday – his 53rd. His career has already spanned 30 years, including TV shows and even a mockumentary – The Compleat Al – besides scores of parodies and original tracks that will always make you smile. “I’ll leave the serious stuff to Kevin Federline and Paris Hilton”, promises the archangel of funny.
Michael Jackson was a renowned Weird Al fan. He also happened to be the biggest selling artist at the time when Weird Al first started out with his debut album for Scotti Brothers Recording in 1983.
Eat It, of course, rates as the best parody ever, on many lists. And once you listen to it, the comedic sweep is so comprehensive that it becomes almost hard to disagreem, in the midst of rampant giggling. Thankfully, he even had the good grace to retain Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo for the parody.
Smells Like Nirvana
“We’re a new band from Seattle/Sure beats raising cattle” is how Weird Al manages to parody one of the most generation defining moments in music.
There was nothing jolly about Nirvana’s Nevermind, especially with its explicit themes and Kurt Cobain’s haggard outlook. But the genius doesn’t rest in obliterating the message, but instead in Weird Al’s ability to mark out the incongruities in the claims that songs make. Fat, converse-wearing cheerleaders definitely helped drive the point home.
This one was a funny take on Avril Lavigne’s smash hit single, Complicated. A beautiful parody, it details the misfortunes that can befall one who isn’t careful enough, whether if you’re left dealing with a pile of pizzas, or a girl whose pants you want to get into.
We laughed, hard. This was sung at parties for days and months after, with special actions reserved to simulate the pushing and clenching atop the pot, when you just need ‘your bowels evacuated’.
Another One Rides The Bus
Apparently, this was the song that gave Weird Al his first big break as part of Dr.Demento’s travelling comedic show. Either way, it must’ve been one side-splitting way to announce your arrival on the big stage.
The orchestral song, according to reports, was composed and rehearsed in ten minutes outside Demento’s office, while Weird Al waited for a chance to audition. Waiting does help.
I held off as long as I could, since I’d already got one Michael Jackson parody on this list, but this song is absolutely irresistible, with some of the funniest imageries ever incorporated on a pop song.
It’s true: “My shadow weighs 42 pounds/Now tell me who’s fat” is stuff of literary legends. We’ve all heard this song and giggled, but the music video is an absolute riot too, as a gaunt Weird Al is coaxed into fattening by obese ‘homeboys’, who troll parking lots by night, with fast food stuffed in their jacket pockets. L-o-l, indeed.