"Weird Al" Yankovic
Aug. 13, 2010
On Friday night at the nearly full Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, thousands of people paid to hear a 50-year-old man sing the lyrics of the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song over the music of "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits. The year is 2010.
"Weird Al" Yankovic's continued popularity is at least a little puzzling--strictly speaking, it just doesn't seem like there would be that many people in the world who would be interested in hearing someone sing a song about Craigslist in the style of the Doors. But the fact that there is speaks volumes of the unifying power of fatsuits and songs about Star Wars.
Weird Al's humor exists in a very specific medium between crude and sophisticated. Take his White Stripes style parody, "CNR"--it's definitely a lot funnier and more original to attribute Chuck Norris jokes to "Match Game" dandy Charles Nelson Reilly ("Charles Nelson Reilly won the Tour de France with two flat tires and a missing chain"), but the song still retains the visceral element that made Chuck Norris jokes appealing in the first place. He embraces the masses, but not in a crass way, and that makes him sort of unique in today's cultural climate.
It's precisely this sensibility that makes Weird Al such an enduring figure, having literally outlasted several generations of musical trends. No, the OC Fair-attending kids in the audience might not know "Forrest Gump" or the illustrious work of the Presidents of the United States of America, but there's suitable silliness in "Gump" to elicit laughs nonetheless. It helps to explain why, 30 years after "Another One Rides the Bus," Weird Al has nearly 1.8 million Twitter followers--though, that could also partly be a quirk endemic to Twitter, like how LeVar Burton has more followers than Conan O'Brien.
The man also knows how to put on a show, performing for about two hours, though a sizable chunk of that was videos playing during costume changes--if you've ever wanted to watch every time Weird Al has ever been mentioned on a sitcom, a talk show or any other type of media, this gig had you covered. They also played several of the "AlTV" bits that have aired on MTV over the years, which also proved that concepts like "timeliness" don't apply to Yankovic--no one else would dare to try and get a laugh these days from jokes about Celine Dion having an old husband, much less succeed.
Pretty much every song you'd want to hear from him was performed, partly if not in whole, or at the very least heard during one of the interstitial videos. But it wasn't just '80s and '90s nostalgia--the show began with a polka medley of popular songs from the last couple of years, the same type that appears on each of his albums.
Much of the set was newer material. "CNR," "Craigslist," and the geographically appropriate Jungle Cruise guide lament "Skipper Dan" (which is apparently a Weezer style parody, though I would have never realized that if Wikipedia hadn't told me so) are all from the 2009 digital EP Internet Leaks.
Yankovic, from not-all-that-far-away Lynwood, noted that this was kind of a hometown show for him, and the OC Fair also features his 3D "Al's Brain" edutainment exhibit. He's playing another fair show tonight.
Critic's Bias: "Dare to Be Stupid" deserves nothing but praise for its close association with one of the greatest achievements in film history.
The Crowd: Surprisingly diverse--you'd expect nerds and post-ironic hipsters (there were more of the former than the latter), but the show drew lots of families with kids, who were oddly pleased to hear parodies of songs written 15 years before they were born.
Overheard in the Crowd: It's fascinating to watch a grown man sing along to lyrics like "My, my this here Anakin guy, maybe Vader someday later, now he's just a small fry."
Random Notebook Dump: The merchandise booth was selling a particularly enticing item--Weird Al trading cards.
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Polka Face Medley--including "Poker Face," "Womanizer," "Right Round," "Day 'n' Nite," "Need You Now," "Baby," "So What," "I Kissed a Girl," "Fireflies," "Blame It," "Replay," "Down," "Break Your Heart," "Tik Tok"
You Make Me
Good Old Days
Smells Like Nirvana
Dare to Be Stupid
Let Me Be Your Hog
Wanna Be Ur Lovr
Parody Medley--"Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies," "Whatever You Like," "I'm In Luv Wit Da Skipper," "Confessions Part III," "eBay," "Bedrock Anthem," "Ode to a Superhero," "Trapped in the Drive-Thru," "Gump," "Eat It"
White & Nerdy
We All Have Cell Phones
The Saga Begins