This past weekend I had the immense pleasure of seeing Weird Al Yankovic perform at The Vic Theatre, fulfilling a lifelong dream I've had ever since I was 12 -- actually leaving the house.
Weird Al is one of the few elite celebrities who helped shaped my humor as I grew up. (Mel Brooks obviously being another one.) I first became aware of Weird Al when he sung the opening credits to the somewhat underrated parody movie Spy Hard. At the end of the song, sung emphatically in the style of all the "James Bond" themes, he held a note so long that eventually his head literally exploded.
Needless to say, I was hooked. Luckily, I'm not a fish, so getting hooked wasn't nearly as life threatening.
This artist who was dubbed as "Weird" intrigued my 9-year-old self quite so, but seeing as this was 1996 and Wikipedia wasn't invented yet, it was difficult to get much more info on the man. Therefore, it wasn't until I grew up (around 3 years later) when I truly discovered Mr. Yankovic's wonderful works on his tenth album, Running with Scissors. From this point forward, my obsession with Weird Al became quite palpable, a word which here means, "I went out and bought all of his previous albums and listened to them incessantly, neglecting all mainstream music from the era I grew up in." Truth be told, I only knew any of that mainstream music because Weird Al did a parody of it.
But the more I listened to his music, the more I realized that the Weird Al songs I enjoyed most where not the parodies, but his original and arguably much more skillful (and wacky) songs such as "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," "Everything You Know is Wrong" and "Dare to Stupid," just to name a few. To name a lot, I'd be taking up too much space.
When I read that this latest tour was described as "a scaled-down tour in smaller, more intimate theaters, with limited production (no costumes, props, or video screens) and Al's set list will be comprised almost entirely of his original (non-parody) songs," to no one in particular, I said, "Ah, he made a tour for me."
This show would be something completely different. This wasn't the hits; it was the deep cuts, the aforementioned non-mainstream originals that arguably required a lot more skill and wackiness to conceive. And, should I be a bit presumptuous, the songs Weird Al prefers himself, hence why he called the tour "The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour," which I found to be perfect, since I'm a ridiculously self-obsessed Al-derived comedy connoisseur.
The tour was right at my speed, which is anything under 55 miles per hour, or I'll blow up. The songs many of his fans perceive to be less popular were the ones I got to belt out at the top of my lungs at this show. That said, I wish he'd played the 11-minute anecdotal marathon that is "Albuquerque" though I found his 9-minute bus-athon of "Jackson Park Express" to be an acceptable substitute (and oddly appropriate for Chicago. Or should I say "weirdly" appropriate. Yes, I should).
Don't get me wrong though, I don't discount the parodies or the fans who prefer them. When he played one of his hits, "The Saga Begins," a parody of Don McLean's "American Pie" chronicling the plot of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, I was glad to have everyone else belting out with me; a Weird Al fan is great no matter how you slice them. Unless it's into 7 quadrants. That way of slicing doesn't make sense.
Honestly, I'm amazed how much of the Weird Al discography I remember after having not listened to some of these songs for the better part of a decade. Which, because I wasn't singing them, makes that the worst part of the decade.
Also, seeing him perform original songs validated something I've said for years: his original stuff is what makes him a great artist. Almost every song is in a different style. To be able to switch from pop, to classic rock, to blues, to reggae is incredible, even more so when you see it live.
And really, in all creative media, I always appreciate original work, and I think I may credit this lifelong philosophy I've had since the age of 12 to the funniest, most energetic polka-playing accordionist I know -- and also, Weird Al Yankovic.