On set with Weird Al Yankovic
Kurt Cobain once said he first realized Nirvana had “made it” only when Weird Al Yankovic came calling. And indeed, since his 1983 debut, pop's premiere parodist has had a surprisingly stable career, outlasting many of the acts he's poked fun at (Men Without Hats, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Taylor Hicks).
But even Al will admit that his videos are crucial to his success, much more so than the records. “Like a Surgeon,” “Beverly Hillbillies/Money for Nothing,” “Amish Paradise,” “Smells Like Nirvana,” and his classic Michael Jackson two-fer (“Eat It,” “Fat”), with their outlandish costumes and scene-for-scene variations of the original clips, are often screamingly funny. That includes his latest, “White and Nerdy,” a twist on Houston rapper Chamillionaire's “Ridin'”
So there's a lot ridin' on any Weird Al video shoot, and the Houston Press was allowed on the set for his latest, a parody of Beyoncé and Shakira's “Beautiful Liar” rechristened “Beautiful Tires.” Here's a verbatim transcript of a creative discussion between Al and his director. Kinda. Maybe. Sort of.
Weird Al: Okay, the first thing we need is smoke, lots of smoke like at the start of the video! I'm thinkin' we make a huge pyramid of used tires and set them on fire! Imagine the visual!
Director: Uh, that's a nice idea, Al, but imagine the smell. And I don't think the EPA would be too happy about that.
Weird Al: All right. Just burn all the unsold copies of the second Franz Ferdinand CD.
Director: Okay. What's with the pythons?
Weird Al: Well, I think they're living mostly off Spamalot royalties.
Director: No, why do you need 20 straw baskets with 20 pythons inside?
Weird Al: I'm trying to visualize that snake charmer music on the track. I also need 20 bearded guys with turbans.
Director: Are you crazy? We're going to get a visit from Homeland Security!
Weird Al: Don't worry. We'll use Mexicans instead, Lou Dobbs isn't around. Or we could substitute a polka melody.
Director: NO MORE POLKA MELODIES!
Weird Al: Trust me on this! You'll be sorry when Rage Against the Machine includes an accordion on their next CD. Hey, is my butt mold ready?
Director: Your butt mold?
Weird Al: If I'm going to become Beyoncé, I'll need more of a bootylicious rear end. Costumes, my friend, costumes! What's a Weird Al video without wacky costumes! Remember the fat suit, the Fred Flintstone suit, the surgical scrubs, the Amish getup?
Director: So you're prepared to wear the black leather bikini top as well?
Weird Al: How do you think I got the nickname “Weird?” I'll just bring something from home.
Director: Now we'll also need a lot of writhing on the ground, running your hands through your hair and shaking your hips suggestively. Can you do that?
Weird Al: Sure, I've been to parties with Amy Winehouse.
Director: I've got to talk to you about these parody lyrics. Let me see, “Let's not buy a Goodyear/Boycott Michelin/Firestones they go flat/I want beautiful tires.” Aren't you afraid of getting sued?
Weird Al: Sued? I'm hoping they'll use the song. This is viral marketing!
Director: Al, your fans don't drive cool cars. They play World of Warcraft in their parents' spare rooms while watching Star Trek and telling fart jokes.
Weird Al: Sure. But since they're not spending money on dates with girls, they've got extra cash to outfit their robots.
Director: Okay, now what's this request for 4,000 Twinkies?
Weird Al: Food it's my trademark! Have you forgotten “Addicted to Spuds?” “I Love Rocky Road?” “Grapefruit Diet?” Plus, G Unit might be stopping by. Fiddy loves to get his yellow cake with frosty filling on!
Director: There's one more thing we've got to settle. If you're Beyoncé in the video, who's playing Shakira?
Weird Al: I've got the perfect guy he's blond, he's a diva and he needs the work since his band broke up. Again. (Yells.) Hey, David Lee! Are you ready for makeup?
Weird Al Yankovic performs Wednesday, June 6, at the Verizon Wireless Theatre, 520 Texas, 713-230-1600.
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