He’s the king of the musical parody! As well as his four Grammy wins, American musical comedy legend ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic has been nominated a further 11 times, had six records go platinum in the US and his latest album was the first comedy record since 1963 to reach the number one spot.
While other musical comedians (like Tim Minchin and Bill Bailey) make up their own original songs, ‘Weird Al’ is best known for his pitch-perfect parodies, like ‘Tacky’ (his spoof of Pharrell's ‘Happy’), ‘Fat’ (pastiching Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’) and fan favourite ‘Amish Paradise’ (more on that below).
To celebrate his rare London tour date, we asked some of our favourite musical comedians to pick the best ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic songs.
Parody of Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. Picked by Rachel Parris and Pippa Evans.
Rachel Parris says ‘“Amish Paradise” makes me lose it! It’s a perfect parody. Instead of Coolio and Michelle Pfeiffer in an urban ghetto, you’ve got a beardy Amish fella and his wife in a candlelit barn. He quotes the Bible and shuns electricity in flawless comedy rap – “Even Ezekiel thinks that my mind is gone” – and sings the famous chorus with religious fervour: “We sell quilts at discount price, living in an Amish paradise.”’
Pippa Evans says ‘“This is just the best. I love the double contrast of Al and Coolio and Amish and gangsters. What? Al takes something silly and makes it hilarious. It’s harder to do than most people think. I didn’t know what Amish people were till I saw this song and now I have a really clear understanding. I am sure it is on the landing page of www.amish.com.’
‘I Love Rocky Road’
Parody of Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll’. Picked by Frisky and Mannish.
Frisky and Mannish say ‘In Joan Jett’s song, she says “Ow!” twice, like the badass rocker she is. In Weird Al’s parody, he says “Ow!” twice too – once in reaction to an ice cream-induced brain freeze, and then in reaction to a kid biting his leg. If that’s not pure silly genius, we don’t know what is.’
‘Confessions Part III’
Parody of Usher’s ‘Confessions’. Picked by Rob Broderick, aka Abandoman.
Rob Broderick says ‘The original “Confessions” and “Confessions Part II” songs feature Usher confessing to his girlfriend that he has impregnated another woman. I love that Weird Al feels there’s probably an unreleased part III, where a series of slightly lower-impact revelations are offered up. This song is best listened to directly after the originals.’
‘Genius in France’
Parody of Frank Zappa. Picked by Rob Madin, aka Brett Domino.
Rob Madin says ‘Most people associate Weird Al with his plethora of pun-based song parodies, but he’s also bloody great at spoofing the actual “sound” of a band or artist. “Genius in France” is a nine-minute take-off of bonkers rock innovator Frank Zappa’s entire back catalogue – which is as exactly as ridiculous as it sounds.’
‘Peter and the Wolf’
Parody of Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’. Picked by Vikki Stone.
Vikki Stone says ‘It’s hard to choose a favourite but his version of Prokofiev’s “Peter And The Wolf” is well worth a listen. If you’re the sort of person who, like me, appreciates Prokofiev played with questionable midi orchestral sounds, and Peter catching the wolf with dental floss, then you’re in for a treat.’
Original song. Picked by Beardyman.
Beardyman says ‘“Albuquerque” is a rare example of what happens when Weird Al writes something from scratch. It’s an 11-minute rambling stream-of-consciousness about sauerkraut, flesh-eating weasels, plane crashes and glow-in-the-dark snorkels. Weird Al is at his most stupendous -- and, well, weird -- in this bonkers exercise in not giving a fuck.’
Original song. Picked by Laurence Owen.
Laurence Owen says ‘If you made it to the credits of the obscure and awful “Pokémon 2000” movie, you were treated to Weird Al’s “Polkamon”: it’s just a string of Pokémon names, but so ingeniously set to his ridiculously virtuosic accordion playing that it actually makes the previous 90 minutes worthwhile. I love it.’