You may know "Weird Al" Yankovic as the "Eat It" guy (check out his bio on Twitter). After all, until 2006 his parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was his highest charting single. And although he's made a name out of using other artists' songs to write funny stuff, he's gotten a lot of critical acclaim for his original work as well.
Yankovic's often PG-songs are sensitive to the fact that he has a ton of young fans. There are songs on food and television that could be mistaken for fluff, but are actually a critique on our consumer-driven and pop culture obsessed culture. His more knowledgeable fans know him for being a nice guy, a vegetarian, a nerd, a grammar enthusiast and now bestselling children's book author.
But Yankovic also has a dark side; many of his songs have downright disturbing narrators. You'd be surprised at the creepy, sometimes psychotic turns his songs can take. The following are the ten darkest Weird Al moments. Enter if you dare.
10. Weasel Stomping Day (Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
by JibJab has the distinct honor of being featured on an episode of was made by Adult Swim's Robot Chicken and appeared on the show; the song is reminiscient of The Simpsons's episode "Whacking Day." Like snake whacking, weasel stomping is done out of tradition, and "that makes it okay." Grab your boots and stomp your cares away, and try not to be disturbed by the sounds of guts squirting out.
You wish your stalker was this dedicated: he falls in love with Melanie while she's in the shower, he gives her cat a Mohawk, he goes through her garbage just to learn more about her, and he jumps out from the sixteenth story window right above her. He may be dead but he still loves her.
My stalkers, in comparison, have all been pathetic, giving up so easily just because I changed my phone number and my bus route twice. Losers.
8. Why Does This Always Happen to Me? (Poodle Hat, 2003)
This style parody of Ben Folds (a friend of Yankovic's who plays the piano on the track) has the heartfelt warmth and integrity of the sweetest Ben Folds song-- the narrator laments a devastating earthquake in Peru that killed 30,000. Yankovic sets it up perfectly, as if the narrator is about to ask an existential question: "And I said, 'God, please answer me one question-- Why'd they have to interrupt The Simpsons just for this?" (In his defense, this was before Hulu so he really would have had to wait for the rerun to see the part he missed).
7. Good Old Days (Even Worse, 1988)
A lovely, acoustic style parody of James Taylor starts with an idyllic scene: dad going fishing, mom making apple pie, but our psychotic narrator spends his time "torturing rats with a hacksaw and pulling the wings off of flies." And then he starts killing people.
Yankovic performed this for the Tiny Desktop Series at All Songs Considered last year. Song starts at around 1:40.
6. I Was Only Kidding (Off the Deep End, 1992)
In this taunting, teasing, belittling, harsh as hell song, the narrator admits that his proclamations of love and his proposal were all just a prank. He's mighty pleased with himself and surprised that he got her to fall for all his yarns. This is his most mean-spirited song (possibly "I'm So Sick of You" can rival it) and hearing the uncharacteristic mocking tone in Yankovic's voice saying all those things makes it even more heartbreaking.
5. The Night Santa Went Crazy (Bad Hair Day, 1996)
Yankovic has a knack for Christmas songs. In this one, as the title suggests, Santa realizes he's been getting a raw deal all these years and exacts his revenge. The darkest moment is when he barbecues Blitzen, takes a big bite, and says, "It tastes just like chicken."
4. One More Minute (Dare to be Stupid, 1985)
Reportedly written after a breakup, Yankovic's list of torture he'd rather endure than spend one more minute with his ex girlfriend gets easier to tolerate after 100 or so listens. But until then, the lyrics to this song cause extreme discomfort. Even the tamest, like the paper cuts on the face thing, makes me cringe.
Like mentioning the number 27, ending albums with a really long track is kind of Yankovic's thing. Unlike "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," however, this eleven-minute tangentfest serves to make one simple point (the narrator hates sauerkraut). But until you get there, this song is a major bummer. Our narrator was kept in a basement, fed sauerkraut every day by his mother, and when he finally escapes, he's the only survivor of a plane crash. Perhaps the darkest moment of the song (well, besides biting that guy's jugular): the narrator leaves his wife and mother of his children because she wants him to join the Columbia Record Club, which is just too big a commitment.
2. I Remember Larry (Bad Hair Day, 1996)
We all know a prankster who never tires of shenanigans, even when it's not anywhere near April Fool's Day. As irritated as we are, most of us do not actually kill the prankster. This is not the case with the narrator of this "Weird Al" tune. The moment when the song makes the chilling turn from simple nostalgia to homocide is sufficiently dark, yes, but this song may also have the distinction of containing Yankovic's darkest pun: "it was a pretty good gag."
1. Christmas at Ground Zero (Polka Party! 1986)
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Before September 11, 2001, the term "ground zero" referred to nuclear holocaust. When Yankovic's record label strongly encouraged him to write a novelty holiday song, the U.S. still wasn't pals with what was then the Soviet Union, and the country feared nuclear war. Because of the Reagan Doctrine, anti-communist sentiments were particularly strong, making the time in U.S. history when Yankovic released this song not unlike the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when we were encouraged to check the color given by the Homeland Security Advisory System every day, but still expected to spend and live normally "or else the terrorists win." Except under the Reagan Doctrine, we were supposed to be constantly ready for nuclear war while going about our daily lives. Yankovic's contribution to novelty Christmas music (including the self-directed video which features old duck-and-cover footage) depicts the chilling juxtaposition of happy images of Christmas and nuclear annihilation. Despite its brilliance, the label wasn't pleased and didn't want to produce a video and the song was banned in some markets. Yankovic insisted on a video and made it himself, probably on his own dime. Look closely for a cameo by the Gipper himself!
"Christmas at Ground Zero" was Yankovic's first attempt at directing. He has since directed many more of his own videos and some for others, including Ben Folds and The Presidents of the United States of America.
Weird Al's Alpocalypse Tour comes to the Pacific Amphitheatre on July 9. Tickets, $15-$35, go on sale Saturday, May 28, at 10 a.m.