Rethinking the Songs of My Youth: Weird Al Edition

Anyone who completely dismisses the musical work of Weird Al Yankovic is either crazy or a douchebag. Or, more likely, a crazy douchebag. And such people do exist. I went to high school with my fair share. But the truth is that any human being worth a damn has, at one time or another, been amused by a Weird Al song, or at least delighted by the cinematic gem "UHF."

And that is what led me to the House of Blues in Atlantic City on Saturday for my first ever experience of Weird Al live and in person. I am the proud owner of three Weird Al cassettes --the eponymous debut, the classic "Even Worse," and, of course, the soundtrack to "UHF,", which I played incessantly in the summer and fall of 1989. So, since Weird Al had given me some solid laughs during my awkward formative years, I realized it was high time to pay my respects to the man.

The crowd at a Weird Al show is, predictably, maybe not the coolest collection of people ever assembled in Atlantic City on a Saturday night (amazingly, I fit right in). There were a lot of Hawaiian shirts, a healthy display of overbites, and a few awkward mustaches. But a Weird Al show is a time to celebrate all these things and to share the feeling that, if only for a few short hours, the nerds have taken control. So the naysayers and comp ticket holders were relegated to the outskirts of the audience while the Weird Al Army and I huddled up near the front of the packed house. There was momentary panic about 15 minutes before showtime when a man directly behind me, who I can only guess spent the last 48 hours losing an awful lot of money and drinking an obscene amount of free alcohol, started yelling, "Where are the lights! THIS IS BULLSHIT! Where are the lights? Oh man, this isn't even the real thing! BULLSHIT." Apparently, the show had begun for him, and it was thoroughly disappointing. Thankfully, Security removed him before he could ruin our good time.

A little after 9 p.m., Weird Al and crew came out guns a-blazing, busting out into "The Chicken Dance" as soon as the lights went up. The world's greatest group dance song (there is no argument, so don't bother) is, I would learn, the leadoff to "Polkarama," a medley of reasonably current hits off of Weird Al's latest, "Straight Outta Lynwood." The polka medley is a frequent highlight of the Yankovic ouevre, perhaps none more than the "Hot Rocks Polka" on the UHF soundtrack. I figured chances were slim that he'd bust that out, so "Polkarama" had to do. And it did just fine. Since I couldn't take pictures, and I really doubt you own the CD (to be fair, neither do I), please allow YouTube to provide the audiovisual component of this blog entry:

It's almost impossible for a show to suck when it starts off like that (especially with the best use of bubbles in a song since Huntington), and though there were a few clunkers in the set ("I''ll Sue Ya," "It's All About the Pentiums," and "The Saga Begins"--the latter of which, a parody of "American Pie" that tells the story of "Star Wars: Episode I," I am clearly in the minority about, because it got, as they say in the wrestling business, a huge pop), they were dwarfed by "Canadian Idiot" (guess what it's a parody of), the latest monster jam, "White and Nerdy" (a parody of Chamillionaire's "Ridin," a song I was only kinda vaguely familiar with), and, of course, the eternal classics "Amish Paradise" (performed in full Amish gear), "Smells Like Nirvana" (complete with gargling, though without actual marbles), and classic-of-classics "Fat," performed by Weird Al in the fat suit with the double chins. Killer.

I hadn't really thought about it beforehand, but there has to be a significant amount of downtime in a Weird Al show, to accommodate costume changes like the one for "Fat." The set breaks were taken up by various clips, most of which were "Al TV" interviews. To the uninitiated, these are interviews where Weird Al uses interview clips to construct his own fake interviews with his own questions. It was also done to great effect on "Not Necessarily the News" a lot. I'll almost always find that sort of thing funny, and such was the case at the House of Blues. To be fair, though, I did not find them as funny as the guy standing next to me, who found nearly every single second gut-bustingly hilarious. Still, that reaction was better than the heckling from way back at the bar, no doubt courtesy of some thick-necked jock who doesn't understand the Weird Al process. This was not a night for him.

As the encore wrapped up with "Albuquerque," one of those hit-or-miss Weird Al originals (sorry, but count that one as a miss for me--a hit in this regard would be "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota"), I realized that a ton of Weird Al classics had gone unplayed, not even earning a spot in the mid-show medley. No "I Love Rocky Road" or "My Bologna." "I Lost on Jeopardy" fans were denied. James Brown fans left disappointed, as "Living with a Hernia" was absent from the setlist. It's hard to satisfy everybody. But Weird Al does the best he can. And for that, a grateful nation shows its thanks. By way of me.

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