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.
In some of the songs that take on, relatively speaking, darker topics (“Party in the CIA,” for example), are the lyrics expressing anxieties of your own in a comedic way or is the subject matter dictated by the title?
It’s mostly just trying to be funny. Even with my dark stuff, it doesn’t really come from a dark place. I don’t really think about it. It’s just basically a reaction to the original song. “Party in the USA” was a very happy, peppy, cheerful sort of feel-good song, so I figured the direction to go with that would be to turn it on its head and make it this very dark look at the CIA.
What about an original song like “Christmas at Ground Zero”?
Well, same with that and, you know, I should point out for the people that are unfamiliar, that song has nothing to do with 9/11. It was ’87 and “Ground Zero” was just referring to the epicenter of a nuclear war, but still it was a very dark song and a lot of radio stations banned it when it came out because, for some reason, they didn’t think it was appropriate to have a song about nuclear destruction during the holidays. My record label at the time was pushing me for a Christmas album and I was like, “Really, you want me to do a Christmas album? Here’s the kind of songs it would be full of if you want me to do a Christmas album.” After “Christmas at Ground Zero,” they stopped asking.
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Alpocalypse Tour
8pm Fri, Oct 18
224 E. Houston