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Mandatory fun required at Weird Al show

August 31, 2016
By Evan Bevins (letters@graffitiwv.com) , Graffiti

When "Weird Al" Yankovic takes the stage at the Clay Center on Sept. 22, the concert will be a little different than the other dates on the second installment of his Mandatory World Tour.

"For this particular gig, I'm going to say, 'Hello, Charleston,'" deadpanned the four-time Grammy winner and writer of comedic songs like "Eat It," "Yoda," "Amish Paradise" and "Smells Like Nirvana" in a recent interview.

Actually, there are so many elements to the performance, a number of them time-sensitive, that it's difficult to change or improvise too much.

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"Some people have said it's more like a Broadway show than a rock concert because there's so many costume changes and video elements," Yankovic said.

But concert-goers can count on hearing tunes off of "Mandatory Fun," Yankovic's 2014 effort that became the first comedy album ever to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. There will also be hits and a few deep cuts from his 13 other studio albums, although with more than 30 years of material upon which to draw, he knows there's bound to be a few tracks folks in the audience will still wish he'd included.

"No matter how long of a set I play, I'm not playing somebody's favorite song," Yankovic said.

"Mandatory Fun" features parodies of recent popular songs like Pharell Williams' "Happy" ("Tacky"), Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" ("Word Crimes"), Lorde's "Royals" ("Foil") and Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" ("Handy"). While Yankovic has long been the king of song parodies, this most recent album appears to have struck a chord different from a lot of his previous work.

"It seems like the success of the 'Fun' album's really opened stuff up for me in a major way," he said. "Not too long ago, I did two nights at the Hollywood Bowl with an orchestra. I never would have expected that."

Two days after playing the Clay Center, Yankovic will take his signature brand of weirdness to Radio City Music Hall in New York.

"These are venues that are more prestigious and larger than I've ever played in my life," he said. "The fact that I'm ostensibly peaking this far into my career is incredible."

Not long after "Mandatory Fun" debuted, Yankovic performed a live number at the Primtetime Emmys and has since been popping up in all sorts of other places, including voicing the villainous Darkseid on "Teen Titans Go!" and the title character on the upcoming "Milo Murphy's Law" for Disney XD, playing himself in the '80s on "The Goldbergs" and stepping in as the band leader/co-host on the fifth season of "Comedy Bang! Bang!"

Although his new albums sometimes contain throwback songs to parody particular pop culture elements (think the "Star Wars Episode I" homage to the tune of "American Pie" or when he transformed "MacArthur Park" into "Jurassic Park"), part of Yankovic's endurance is the way his work evolves with popular music, putting a humorous twist on the top songs and artists of the day.

"Most of my songs are based on a song being a huge mainstream hit and me thinking, 'Oh, I need to do something (with) this," he said.

And while not just anyone would think to turn "King of Pain" into "King of Suede" or "I Want It That Way" into "eBay," not every idea is a winner. Sometimes, Yankovic said, he just can't get an initial concept to morph into a full-fledged song.

"Yeah, that happens most of the time. I can always come up with ideas for a parody but not always good ideas," he said. "At this point, I've got actual standards of quality that I try to adhere to."

Asked if he'll be coming up with more ideas as he continues on the Mandatory tour, Yankovic said, probably not, at least not directly.

"I like being on tour because it's sort of my vacation," he said. "I prefer to sleep in and binge watch TV shows and surf online and I guess get inspired. This is the point where I'm sort of feeding in all the pop culture."

Something he definitely won't be doing is writing a serious song. Yankovic knows his wheelhouse.

"I've written instrumentals, which I guess would be non-comedy," he said. "The last time I tried to write some earnest love song or earnest rock song, I was in my teens.

"That's not the way my brain is wired. I just have to embrace my inner weirdness."

 
 

 

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