Let it be known that for all the parodies he has provided to pop songs of the moment, “Weird Al” Yankovic is not above poking fun at himself.
For his current tour, the multi-Grammy winning comedian and rock ‘n’ roll jester is performing without the abundant theatrics and costuming that have distinguished his shows for decades. He is also ignoring the song send-ups that landed him in the public eye in the first place.
As such, an advertisement on Yankovic’s website has this to say about his current, self-described “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.”
“It’s coming. The live concert event that you may or may not have been waiting for – ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic… performing a bunch of obscure songs you barely remember. Nobody thought this was a good idea. But he’s doing it anyway.”
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In conversation, Yankovic is polite and quite specific about his reasons for essentially jettisoning much of the buffoonery his career was built on.
“The band and I just really wanted to try something different this time out,” he said. “We’ve been doing the same kind of tour for the last 30 years and we’ve been enjoying it. We just felt like we wanted to challenge ourselves.
“So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to just go out and do one tour where we’re not bringing along all the big theatrics. It would just be the band going out and playing like musicians and playing a lot of the songs we’ve never been able to play live because they’re not the hits. They’re songs a lot of our hardcore fans like, but they’re not really meant for a general audience.
“We wanted to do a really scaled down tour playing much smaller theatres. We’re having a great time onstage and to our surprise and delight, our fans are having a great time, too. We’re selling out virtually everywhere.”
So instead of “Eat It” (his parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”), “Amish Paradise” (a rewiring of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” or “Like a Surgeon” (Yankovic’s hysterical take on Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”), the repertoire will consist of original songs from over 30 years of albums.
The works may be from Yankovic’s pen, but the music is openly inspired — even borrowed — from other acts and genres. Examples include the pokerfaced stab at country music in “Good Enough for Now” and or the mock-dramatic portrayal of doo-wop in “One More Minute.” In other words, the original songs may be less familiar than the parody tunes, but are equally sidesplitting.
“Even though this is being billed an ‘originals’ tour, my original songs are almost always pastiches. They’re based on somebody else’s style, personality or genre. Sometimes I call them ‘style parodies.’ I do stress, of course, that these are all comedy songs. It’s not like this is a ‘serious songs’ tour.”
Which brings us to the newest recording that has again made Yankovic’s pop culture humor uncannily in tune with the times. It’s “The Hamilton Polka,” which reconfigures the un-killable Broadway smash into a five-minute polka.
The project didn’t just receive the blessing of “Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was actually the composer who approached Yankovic, a long time friend, to concoct it. He sought out the parody for his online mixtape project “Hamildrops,” where contemporary artists from various genres give their spin on “Hamilton’ music.
“Once ‘Hamilton’ took over the world and was sort of in the atmosphere, people were like, ‘When is Al going to do ‘The Hamilton Polka’? Then Lin-Manuel came to me about a year ago and said, ‘Hey, want to do ‘The Hamilton Polka’ sometime? I was like, ‘Yes. Yes I do.’ Then we put it on ice for awhile.
“Now he’s started this Hamildrops series. I think sometime in early January, Lin got back to me and said, ‘Hey, you remember that ‘Hamilton Polka’ thing we were talking about? Well, we need it now.’ So I immediately put it together, went in the studio and finished it right before I went on tour.”
“Historically, things always seem to come up for me. I’ve been given opportunities, which I’m very grateful for. So we’ll see what happens going forward.”
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com