Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Feast of Saint Weird

My Fellow Comedists,

This weekend we celebrate the 50th birthday of Weird Al Yankovic. I remember listening to a call-in interview show where a listener asked him if "Weird Al Yankovic" was his real name. Without missing a beat he responded that no "Weird Al" was not his given name, that his mother named him "Weird Alfred."

Weird Al is the contemporary Spike Jones. In the 40s, he led the City Slickers, a band that parodied big band swing hits of the day. They were goofy, they were clever, and most of all, they were extremely talented musicians. Spike Jones' run came to an end in the 50s with the rise of rock and roll which he said could not be parodied, being too much of a parody itself.

Perhaps he was right, but for a different reason. Parody requires twisting easily identifiable icons and rock and roll was too new to have the sort of figures and themes that could be played off of.

But by the late 70s/early 80s, it did and Al Yankovic was there with accordion in hand. From his parody of the Knack with "My Bologna" and the support of Dr. Demento (blessed be his name), he got a contract with Capitol Records. "Another One Rides the Bus" and "I Love Rocky Road" on his well received first album led the way to "Eat It" which landed him permanently on the cultural landscape. While he trades on silliness, his band is no joke, a very talented lot with his drummer Joe "Bermuda" Schwartz playing the part of Spike Jones' George Rock, his on-stage foil and gagman.

Happy birthday, Weird Al.

Here's some Spike Jones and Weird Al to celebrate: