“Weird Al” Yankovic on Nuclear Holocaust Christmas Carols and Bad Taste
Published: October 16, 2013
Eat it. You know, as in clean your plate, ’cause “don’t you know that other kids are starving in Japan?”
Of all the jokers who ever thought to drop the “B” from Michael Jackson’s 1983 single, “Weird Al” Yankovic might be the only one who made it about food. From “My Bologna”—recorded in a bathroom at California Polytechnic in 1979—to 2006’s G-rated R. Kelly spoof “Trapped in the Drive-Thru,” Yankovic’s obsession with the stuff we stuff our faces with has been well documented (play “Nature Trail to Hell” backwards to hear the hidden message “Satan eats Cheez Whiz”), but turning songs about sex and violence into odes to junk food is only one of his methods for pulling off his most impressive feat.
Yankovic, at his most accessible, makes pop music, a product already calculated for the lowest common denominator. Some of his 150-and-counting parodies of chart-toppers have topped the charts themselves in his 30-plus year career, but on his albums, they sit alongside even stranger stuff: originals about slasher movies starring cub scout troops and Christmas carols for a nuclear winter, polka medleys of rock and rap songs, on-the-money style parodies of artists such as Frank Zappa and Smile-era Brian Wilson—music that inspires and rewards the sort of obsessive listening Yankovic clearly does himself. His live show, featuring a mix of all of these things along with elaborate costume changes, film clips and a Wonder Hamster, comes to the Majestic this weekend, the second-to-last stop on his Alpocalypse tour, which began in 2011.
I read your new children’s book (My New Teacher and Me!) and, not surprisingly, your sensibility seems to translate directly to that sort of thing. Have you always considered children as part of your potential audience?
I suppose. I mean I’ve never been calculating in that way. I’ve never really considered who my audience is, I just do what I think is funny personally and I’ve been very lucky that my appeal seems to be fairly broad. A lot of kids like me. People from all demographics seem to appreciate it. When I look at the concert audience it’s about as demographically varied as you’re likely to see at a rock show.
Are there any songs that mean so much to you personally that you can’t make fun of them?
I don’t think so, but there are some songs that are too sensitive for me to want to make fun of them. The example I always give is [Eric Clapton’s] “Tears in Heaven.” That’s such an emotional song that I don’t think any parody of that would be funny in any context. There are certain lines I would draw for myself, but nothing because it means something to me personally. It would be more that I think it would be plain old bad taste.