There's something odd about "Weird Al" Yankovic lately. In his latest video, a spoof on the Star Wars trilogy set to Don McLean's "American Pie," Yankovic has shed his glasses and goofy 'do with the aid of vision-correcting surgery and hair straighteners. Then there's that Behind the Music special, in which "Weird Al" came across as possibly the most levelheaded person the show has ever profiled: no stories about winding up in the gutter licking the curb, no wallowing in self-pity because he snorted millions of dollars up his nose, no sob stories about the burdens of being a multimillionaire. Nope, Yankovic's just a regular guy who made it big and never lost his head. Dare we say it: "Weird Al" is starting to look a little sane.
Don't let Yankovic's appearance fool you. Behind that sensible facade is a certifiably mad musician. Using pop songs as parody fodder, the accordion-playing nerd creates a silly world in which Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" becomes "Another One Rides the Bus" and Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" turns into "I Love Rocky Road." He has targeted Michael Jackson with "Eat It" and "Fat" (parodying "Beat It" and "Bad," respectively), producing memorable recordings and videos that earned the Weird One a couple of Grammys.
To think, it all began in 1979 when Dr. Demento decided to give airplay to an architecture student's 39-cent home recording of "My Bologna," a spoof on the Knack's "My Sharona," the first of many food parodies to come. Despite years of industry proclamations that the public would tire of his shtick, Yankovic has outlived most of his satirical targets. Perhaps even more amazing, Yankovic and his band have shown the versatility to mimic styles as diverse as those of Madonna, Kurt Cobain and Toni Basil. For all the fun and games -- and it is fun, to be sure -- "Weird Al" takes his music seriously. With his latest CD, Running with Scissors, his formula of parodying hits continues to keep him on top of the charts, where he has appeared off and on for more than two decades. That may just make him the sanest, most stable man in the music business.
"Weird Al" Yankovic performs Friday, March 17, at the Aerial Theater, 520 Texas Avenue, at 8 p.m. $25-$29. For more information, call (713)230-1666.