Even at the age of 54, with a comedy career that has spanned more than two-thirds of his life, “Weird Al” Yankovic knows how to thrive. Tomorrow, the music parody icon will release his 13th studio album, “Mandatory Fun,” and to remind all of his fans and especially the new kids of the YouTube generation that he’s still the Prince of Polka Parody, Weird Al is releasing not one, but eight new music videos starting with today’s “Tacky.” The other seven will debut at 11 AM ET each day until next Tuesday, when the artist will undoubtedly put down his accordion and get to work on his next batch of wonderful ideas.
Unlike a lot of aging stars, Weird Al still doesn’t take himself all that seriously, and at the very least, he doesn’t think that he’s the only player in the game. In a new interview with NPR, Al admitted that the existence of YouTube has made his job significantly more difficult, seeing as every popular song has been parodied 10 billion times, some funny and many, many others just painfully lame. Hell, there are even fan-made videos of the Weird Al songs that never got videos. So the challenge for the master is to not only examine what is already out there and what has worked, in order to avoid stepping on toes, but to still come up with something new that will appeal to his fans. For example, on “Mandatory Fun,” he created a “Blurred Lines” parody entitled, “Word Crimes,” which takes on an all-time favorite talking point for the Internet – shitty grammar.
“Big deal, Burnsy, there are plenty of hilarious parody music videos on YouTube. Why should I care about Old Al Yankovic anymore?” Well, made-up critic, for starters he’s the Elvis of parody, and unless you’re Prince imposing a lifetime “No Parody” command on your music to protect it from Al, you need to zip it and show some respect. But far more importantly, these eight videos are basically a wonderful sign of some new things to come.
You are going to be releasing eight music videos in eight days for this album. Why did you decide to do it this way?
I wanted to really do what is ostensibly my last album with a big splash. I wanted the first week to be big; I wanted every single day of release week to be an event. I wanted a video to go viral for an entire day and have people talking about that video, and then the next day they’re talking about a new video. I just thought that would be a really fun way to do it, to make a big deal out of release week. (Via NPR)
Basically, we might be seeing a lot more relevant videos from Weird Al in the near future, but in the meantime I want to celebrate the launch of “Mandatory Fun” and eight brand new Weird Al Yankovic music videos by looking back on the hilarious videos that helped shape my warped sense of humor from a very early age. Of all the lists and meaningless rankings I may ever put together in my lifetime, I expect this one to be the most heavily debated. Weird Al has made a lot of videos during his amazing career and very few missed the mark. Off the top of my head, maybe “Gump” and “It’s All About the Pentiums” are very average compared to the best, and they’re still not bad. But there can only be 10 (or maybe 11) in a Top 10, so just suck it up and celebrate the best. (And then complain in the comments.)
Honorable Mention: “White & Nerdy”
I’m not a big fan of this hit off the 2006 album, “Straight Outta Lynwood,” and I know that’s an unpopular opinion, what with this video’s 85 million views and counting on YouTube. It’s partially because I preferred the mockery of our neighbors to the north in “Canadian Idiot,” but also because Donnie Osmond isn’t funny and I find his dancing distracting. Olivia Munn would have made a much better choice for the subject matter.
10) “One More Minute”
Perhaps one of his simplest videos, Weird Al’s “One More Minute” is proof that he didn’t always need fat suits and Dick Van Patten cameos to inspire laughs. Hell, the funniest part of this 1985 doo-wop parody is probably Al’s hair, but what has lingered in this dimly-lit light bulb of a brain of mine for so long is the graphic imagery of 1,000 paper cuts on my face. That sounds like it hurts and I would not like to experience that, please and thank you.
9) “Like a Surgeon”
Also from the legendary 1985 album “Dare to be Stupid,” which should still be given to all children on their 5th birthdays so they can begin to understand parody and humor at a very young age, thus saving them from becoming “that guy” on Facebook who turns everything into a serious argument. That said, why is one of Al’s most popular mockeries so low on this list? A very stupid reason. Madonna basically gave Al the idea for this song, and the over-celebration of her ideas is how we got to the point of her showing up to events with gold and diamond grills. We should feel very lucky that she only influenced one song, and it still yielded a pretty great video.
8) “Perform this Way”
There are a lot of stories about the original artists offering approval for Weird Al’s parodies, from the aforementioned infamous Prince ban to Michael Jackson being a huge fan, and Lady Gaga’s rumored refusal for the 2011 song “Perform this Way” is just another recent example of rumors, scandals and people in “The Business” having zero senses of humor. Gaga’s manager reportedly never let Al’s rough copy of this takedown of the pop queen’s fashion sense get to her, so the song and video were almost scrapped. But then Gaga actually saw it, and like any smart music artist, she wore this song as a badge of honor. Hopefully, her manager was fired, both in a professional sense and into the sun.
7) “I Lost on Jeopardy”
In his interview with NPR, Weird Al mentions how all these years later, people still ask him if he writes and performs his own songs. What a stupid, stupid thing to ask him. Some of his best material – if not all of his best material, if I’m being perfectly controversial – is his original work, and before I had ever even watched a minute of Jeopardy!, this single, that I still remember listening to after I picked the cassette up at a garage sale for a quarter when I was young enough that a quarter was like $10 to me, made me want to be a contestant on the show. The only obstacle was the fact that me is dumb.
6) “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies”
I’m not going to sing too many praises of the film UHF today – that’s coming soon enough, fans of foreshadowing – but this might have been the first parody song/video that Al made that dealt with an original song that I hated (I was a kid and Dire Straits didn’t necessarily speak to me) and a TV show that I also hated (I was a child of the 80s/90s, so if it didn’t have ALF or Ninja Turtles, I wasn’t interested). Eventually, I’d grow to love them both and realize how truly clever this song and video were.
5) “Living with a Hernia”
People don’t talk about this James Brown parody as much as Weird Al’s other classics, but his James Brown costume deserves a ton of praise for the over-the-top stupidity. The one thing this video is missing that would immediately catapult it to a Top 3 contender would be random shots of a confused and sweaty Dolph Lundgren staring at him in disbelief.
4) “Smells Like Nirvana”
Along the lines of “Perform this Way,” there has always been some confusion surrounding Nirvana’s acceptance of this parody. According to Weird Al, who spoke to Cobain personally to ask for permission, the Nirvana frontman was cool with it and actually wanted the song to be about food, like Al’s other megahits. Fortunately, he went a different direction and made fun of the fact that it took me a thousand listens to even partially understand the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I still can’t even mumble along with much more than the chorus of most of Nirvana’s songs.
3) “Eat It”/”Fat”
Most mainstream Weird Al fans probably think that “Eat It” should be No. 1 because it earned him a Grammy and was his highest-debuting single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (No. 12) for 22 years of his career. Both “Eat It” and “Fat” were great songs and videos, but they represented a dangerous trend that would almost sink Al’s career after UHF. Did you know that we wouldn’t have had “Smells Like Nirvana” if Michael Jackson hadn’t basically said, “Enough is enough” to the food parodies when Al pitched the “Black or White” mockery “Snack All Night”? If we remember Jacko for anything, it should be helping to steer Al back in the right direction.
2) “I Love Rocky Road”
I’m also a hipster when it comes to Weird Al’s food-centric songs and prefer his earliest classics like the Joan Jett parody “I Love Rocky Road,” both because “I Love Rock N Roll” is a classic and rocky road ice cream is delicious. Also, the video was directed by Dror Soref, who would go on to direct some Power Rangers episodes and I like to imagine him on set yelling, “Get the f*cking moves right, damn it! I directed the ‘I Love Rocky Road’ music video!”
1) “You Don’t Love Me Anymore”
A Weird Al Yankovic original song with a music video that takes down the dorky music video for Extreme’s “More than Words” while also detailing the hilarious ways in which a woman tried to murder her inept lover? It’s a song written for my own foolish heart. You can keep the parodies, because I’ll always take Al’s original stuff over them every time.