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Published July 2, 2007

'Weird Al' Yankovic
Parodist promises a high-energy show -- with costume changes

Christian Czerwinski | NOISE

"Weird Al" Yankovic has a mission: He said he's here to pop the bubble of pretentiousness that pervades the music industry.

When artists like Michael Jackson and Prince were dominating the early '80s, Yankovic emerged as pop music's unofficial court jester with songs like "Another One Rides the Bus," a parody of Queen's chart-topping "Another One Bites the Dust," and "I Love Rocky Road," inspired by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock 'n' Roll."

No matter what he hears on the radio, he's always thinking of how he can make a song his own.

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"The process usually starts with the source material. I'll hear a song on the radio and see a video on a channel and think of variations on a theme," he said on the phone from West Fargo, N.D.

"I think of what direction I can go with it that's warped and twisted. That's the way my brain works, and that's the way it's always heading."

On the phone, the frizzy-haired Yankovic is down-to-earth, cordial and has a surprisingly deep voice (he said it's from all the interviews he's conducted). Although he takes time to answer a call from his wife (he called her "sweetie poo"), Yankovic said he likes to keep his personal life separate.

Throughout his career, Yankovic has parodied songs by a majority of pop's heavy hitters and hasn't shied away from any genre. He's done pop songs, rock songs, New Wave, and some things that defy genres.

In 1984, he scored an MTV hit with "Eat It," patterned after Michael Jackson's "Beat It," and once again mocked the Gloved One in 1988 on the platinum album Even Worse, with the song "I'm Fat." And there's more people on his radar, even if he won't say who.

"There's certainly a lot of artists I haven't gotten around to tackling. I'll get around to them eventually. Nobody that comes to mind because I've taken every major artist I can think of," he said.

During his live show, Yankovic doesn't use the glove anymore, but still dons the fat suit and red jacket with the zippers.

"For the people that never had the experience, it's a high-energy rock show with costume changes and film clips. It's family-friendly with a lot of production value and the show is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long," he said.

"We have about one more costume change than Cher."

A Weird Al crowd ranges from toddlers to geriatrics as he puts it, and isn't without an attempted faux seduction of the women in the crowd during "Wanna B Ur Lovr."

The shows starts with his trademark accordion and runs in every direction possible. If you want to hear the classics, he's got you covered, as he plays parts of "Eat It" and other tunes during a 20-minute medley.

"There's only so much people's bladders will accept," he said.

The last 15 years have seen Yankovic lean toward rock and rap in his parodies, especially last year when his Straight Outta Lynwood album featured the single "White & Nerdy," a parody of Chamillionaire's tune "Ridin'."

"My personal taste in music runs toward alternative rock. It's not my genre to parody. Rap songs make great parodies because there are lots of words to play with. There's no part of pop culture that doesn't deserve to be taken down a couple of pegs," he said.

He's even patched things up with Coolio, after the rapper didn't seem too happy with Yankovic's "Amish Paradise," song in 1996, a takeoff of the rapper's hit "Gangsta's Paradise."

According to a Jive Records chat, Yankovic said he and the rapper hugged during a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

For Yankovic, his job is his release. Aside from touring, he likes to just chill and spend time with his family.

"I don't have any time to collect stamps," he said.

"People already know as much as I care from them to know. I try to keep my private life private. I haven't published any photos of my daughter and I kind of keep it to myself. I'm not in the clubs. I just like doing what I do and otherwise, I'm just plain old Al."

On the road, he keeps his iPod packed with an eclectic array of music - pretty much what folks might expect.

He listens to a lot of British Invasion, New Wave (from his college years), Ben Folds, They Might Be Giants, Cake, Devo and Oingo Boingo.

Yankovic has no plans of stopping his schtick any time soon or even throwing fans off by making a serious original song.

He doesn't see the point.

"There's enough of people that do unfunny music," he said.

"I'll leave the serious stuff to Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline."

Contact Christian at christian@lansingnoise.com

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(Courtesy photo)
Weird Music
Straight Outta Lynwood. Weird Al's most successful album of his career. It features the hits "White & Nerdy" and "Canadian Idiot." The album went gold and debuted at No. 10.

Off the Deep End. This 1992 release by Weird Al marked his comeback. The album features the song "Smells like Nirvana," a parody of "Smells like Teen Spirit."

In 3-D. This album from 1984 put Weird Al on the map with singles like "Eat It" and "I Lost on Jeopardy." This is also the album where Weird Al introduced his polka medleys.


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