“Weird Al” Yankovic has been doing this whole parody thing for more than 30 years now, so it makes sense that many would tire of his shtick and move on to the next thing. This holds particularly true in Weird Al’s case, in the sense that he has always been a relatively clean performer, one who relied on wit, innuendo and a whole lotta “cheese factor” in catering to his legion of fans. So it would make sense for Weird Al to be reduced to the bargain bin more than three decades into his run.
This, however, is not the case. Instead, Weird Al is still riding high on the heels of his 2014 release, Mandatory Fun, his only album to debut in the top spot on the Billboard album charts. The man himself will play Brown Theater at Wortham Center on Thursday, so in advance of the show, here are Weird Al’s ten best parodies.
10. "Couch Potato"
Two constants have remained throughout Weird Al’s career. The man loves to tackle current events, which can certainly date his material; and he loves to skewer fat, lazy people, which will become evident throughout this article. In this track, he parodies Eminem’s Oscar-winning “Lose Yourself” and does so by spending a day in the life of perhaps the world’s laziest, most TV-addled man. At least the guy makes time for some C-SPAN.
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9. "Like a Surgeon"
Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is one of the most '80s songs ever, and so too is its spoof video. The video is grainy and cheap-looking and the song is cheesy as all hell (as most Weird Al tunes are). But, as a mid-'80s parody, it somehow kinda all works.
8. "Living with a Hernia"
To many, James Brown’s “Living in America” is always going to be the song that played moments before Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. So kudos to Weird Al for coming along a year after the movie’s release to give the song a comedic edge, one that speaks to a painful, hernia-afflicted existence.
7. "Trapped In the Drive-Thru"
R. Kelly’s video for “Trapped in the Closet” is so strange and surreal, it’s hard to believe the R&B crooner wasn’t parodying himself. He wasn’t, at least intentionally. Leave it to Weird Al to step in and fill the void with “Trapped in the Drive-Thru,” a ten-minute ode to a married couple who simply can’t figure out what to do for dinner. For those who don’t feel like sitting through the video to see its resolution, the couple opts for fast food.
6. "It's All About the Pentiums"
The year was 1999, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs was a musical thing, and computers were becoming mainstays in many American homes. Parodying Puffy’s “All About the Benjamins” is no easy feat, mostly because Puffy’s musical output, in retrospect, was pretty damn humorous on its own (Weird Al nails Diddy’s “uh-huh/yeah” cadence). As became tradition over the years, the video version of the Weird Al song really put this one over the top.
5. "The Saga Begins"
What do you get when you mix Star Wars and the legendary Don McLean track “American Pie?” You get one of Weird Al’s best parodies, one that essentially walks listeners through the entire storyline of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Thanks to Al for saving us some time; that movie was terrible.
4. "Eat It"/"Fat"
Weird Al’s first big hit was 1984’s “Eat It,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s iconic “Beat It.” He followed that up four years later with “Fat,” which apes Jackson’s “Bad.” Keep in mind, this was the '80s, when Michael's professional life was at an all-time high and his personal life was still cloaked in secrecy. Tackling such noteworthy tracks was no small thing; Weird Al did so in fine fashion. Twice.
3. "Amish Paradise"
Coolio was NOT a fan of Weird Al’s spoof of his smash hit, “Gangsta's Paradise,” but because of legalities, was unable to stop the song’s production. He later came around and admitted that ego got in the way, which is nice, since “Amish Paradise” really is a highlight of the Weird Al canon. “There’s no time for sin and vice/ Living in an Amish Paradise.” That’s a great lyric.
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2. "Smells Like Nirvana"
Look, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is an absolute anthem, the song that essentially kick-started the grunge movement. That said, anyone who said he understood Kurt Cobain’s lyrics at first listen is an outright liar, and the song lyrics themselves don’t make a hell of a lot of sense anyway. “Buy our album/ We’re Nirvana.” In the '90s, millions did just that.
1. "White & Nerdy"
Of course, the parody of a Houston artist is going to clock in at the top spot! Unlike other musicians, including Weezer and Coolio, Houston’s own Chamillionaire had no issue with Weird Al parodying one of his tracks, the smash single “Ridin'.’” In fact, he took it as a compliment! “Weird Al is not gonna do a parody of your song if you’re not doing it big. You gotta be a big dog,” he told Soundslam. As a bonus, Weird Al’s rapping chops on “White & Nerdy” are actually pretty good, and the music video features a pre-fame Key & Peele.
Weird Al Yankovic performs 8 p.m. Thursday, July 14 at the Wortham Center's Brown Theater, 501 Texas. See houstonfirsttheaters.com for details.