The world has certainly been dark lately, and we could all use a dose of humor wherever we can get it. But rest assured, folks, because alongside the easing of COVID guidelines, the laughs are on their way: This month, like the right time, the one and only Weird Al Yankovic reappears to provide a much-needed reminder of levity. to concert stages with his “unfortunate return from the ridiculously self-indulgent vanity tour”, which will come to the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on April 26 at 7:30 p.m. (Emo Philips will open the show; tickets start at $69; call the Bardavon box office for availability.) The five-time Grammy-winning accordionist is by far the best-known popular song parodist in the era. smash hits by everyone from Michael Jackson to Nirvana, Queen, Madonna and Chamillionaire, as well as a successful producer, video director and actor. The clown prince of the parody answered the questions below by email.
Peter Aaron: Radio host Dr. Demento introduced your music to the world via his “The Dr. Demento Radio Show” in the late 1970s, but before you knew him, you were already a longtime listener of his program. What attracted you to the show and the music Dr. Demento played on it when you were a teenager?
Weird Al: Dr. Demento exposed me to weird music that I had never heard before in my life. You have to remember that in the 70s there was no internet, no YouTube… you couldn’t just do a Google search for Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg and hear what you wanted immediately. Dr. Demento was alternative radio in the truest sense of the word. The rest of the week, the station played standard contemporary rock fare, but for those few hours each Sunday night, I was transported to a different world.
Your music was notoriously inspired by your own era; that is, your parodies of contemporary hits or your original songs ridiculing modern pop culture. But to some observers, your style also seems rooted in the comedic musical work of characters like Alan Sherman, Spike Jones or Fats Waller, and may even date back to the vaudeville era. Have you ever felt part of this tradition and seen your influence reflected in the work of young artists? If so, who?
Those artists you mentioned are my musical heroes, the people who directly inspired me – so of course I would feel deeply humbled to be considered part of that lineage. I’ve been told that a number of young comedy bands like The Lonely Island grew up listening to my music – so if I had any influence for them, I’m extremely honored.
Besides being popular, what else do you think makes a song ripe for parody? What qualities do you look for when considering material to parody?
It’s hard to articulate exactly what makes a song a good candidate for parody. I tend to choose songs that have a strong musical or lyrical hook – something that sounds unique and jumps out at you when you hear it on the radio. I hope the song isn’t too repetitive – I need to have enough words to play around with (which is why rap songs have always been fertile ground for parodies). And it also helps if the lyrics are too heartfelt or heartfelt – it’s much easier to edit them for comedic effect.
You’ve had a pretty surreal career in the music industry. Looking back, what do you think was the most surreal moment of your career?
Oh man, I’ve had so many surreal moments in my life so far, way more than my fair share. But honestly, if I had to choose, I’d say shooting the movie we’re doing BIZARRE: The story of Al Yankovic. It’s beyond surreal to walk onto a film set and see Daniel Radcliffe made up to look exactly like me in the 80s and recreate moments from my career. Really, if you’re ever lucky enough to have a big Hollywood biopic about your life, I highly recommend it.
Not only do you play Carnegie Hall on your “The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Vanity Tour” tour, you also play – ta-da! – Poughkeepsie. Will you adapt your set list and your routines to each location? For those of us in the Hudson Valley who have heard your hits and watched your videos but never seen you live, what should we expect at Bardavon?
Each of my 133 shows on this tour will have a different setlist, which is one of the reasons the band loves doing the “Vanity Tour” – it never gets old for us. We also like to do the big multimedia shows, of course, but out of necessity these have to have the exact same set list every night, and it’s starting to look a bit like groundhog day after a while. This tour gives us a lot more flexibility, and we will definitely adapt the shows to the places where we play. For example, when we play Poughkeepsie, I start the show by saying, “Hello, Poughkeepsie!” This is just for the Bardavon audience – I promise you we won’t be doing this ANYWHERE else.