Hoopla

Keeping Al Weird: Weird Al Yankovic with Strings Attached coming to Cedar Rapids July 30

Ed Newton

Weird Al will perform Tuesday at McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids.
Ed Newton Weird Al will perform Tuesday at McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids.
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Weird Al Yankovic isn’t very weird during interviews. The parodist, who is beyond parallel, is courteous, thoughtful and soft-spoken during chats. During a recent conversation, Yankovic was his quirky, upbeat self until Mad Magazine, which recently ceased publication, was mentioned.

“I am very sad about it,” Yankovic said while calling from Detroit. “It’s the end of an era. Mad was an American institution. They’re a big reason why I turned out weird. It changed my life and warped my comedic sensibilities.”

Yankovic, 59, has been incredibly consistent as a musical parodist. His initial hit, 1979’s “My Bologna” was a mock up of The Knack’s “My Sharona.”

Four-years later Yankovic spoofed Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” with “Eat It.”

“Smells Like Nirvana,” playfully made fun of Nirvana in 1992. “When Kurt found out that I was going to parody Nirvana he asked if the song would be about food,” Yankovic said. “I said it would be about how you can’t understand him when he sings the words to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He thought that was hilarious. He said it was a badge of honor to be parodied by me.”

Lady Gaga said basically the same thing, according to Yankovic when he altered her “Born This Way” to “Perform This Way” in 2011. “Gaga said it was a rite of passage for her,” Yankovic said.

Yankovic said every recording artist must give him the thumbs up before he parodies their work. The only entertainer who was upset with Yankovic after a parody dropped, was Coolio. Yankovic parodied “Gangsta’s Paradise” with “Amish Paradise.”

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It all worked out in the end after a misunderstanding was cleared up but when Coolio still had issues, the rapper and Yankovic boarded the same flight.

“We were flying from Los Angeles to Toronto,” Yankovic recalled. “We were both in first class, but I hid behind a newspaper during the entire flight. I don’t like confrontations — I’m anti-drama. People recognize me and I try not to stir things up.”

It isn’t easy for Yankovic to pick a favorite of his many parodies but when pressed it’s not surprising that he selects his hilarious “White and Nerdy,” in which he turns Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’ Dirty” inside out.

“Chamillionaire loved my parody of “Ridin’,” Yankovic said. “He came up to me during the Grammys years ago and said that my parody was the reason “Ridin’” was so huge. I favor “White and Nerdy” since I came up with a lot of it through personal experience.”

The hilarious “White and Nerdy” video, which features a self-deprecating performance by the hopelessly clean cut Donny Osmond, enabled the song to land in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, a first for Yankovic.

“You never know what you’ll get from a celebrity when you ask them to do a video,” Yankovic said. “They might phone it in, but Donny went beyond 100 percent. He was just amazing. He came with all of these ideas and just executed. I couldn’t have been more impressed.”

It’s common for recording artists to inquire about the possibility of a Yankovic parody.

“I run into guys in bands at awards shows or wherever and they will ask, ‘When are you going to do one of my songs?’ I don’t know when they’re being serious or just trying to strike up conversation. That’s something that has happened to me many times over the years.”

For the first time in many years, Yankovic will not render any of his Michael Jackson parodies due to the recent “Leaving Neverland” documentary, which paints a disturbing picture of the King of Pop.

He said he removed the Jackson songs due to the documentary.

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“I’ve been doing the Michael Jackson parodies in concert for 35 years. It was time to give them a break,” he said.

Who would ever guess that Yankovic would outlast many of the artists he parodied? Jackson died. The Talking Heads, Dire Straits and Devo are among the many bands, parodied by Yankovic that are defunct.

Does Yankovic think it is odd to still be standing while those acts are history?

“It’s pretty crazy and quite ironic,” Yankovic said. “Nobody wanted to sign me to a record deal during the early ’80s. I was told, ‘You’re a novelty act, you’ll be gone in three months.’ I’ve been lucky, but I’ve worked hard.”

Yankovic continues to evolve. Yankovic plays the accordion while backed with an orchestra on his “Strings Attached” tour, which stops Tuesday at McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids.

Inspiration for the tour came from when Yankovic performed at the 2016 Hollywood Bowl with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

“I did two nights at the Bowl and it was like a religious experience,” he said. “With the orchestra, the songs sounded better than they ever did.”

The highlight for Yankovic is delivering his “Star Wars” parodies with the orchestra.

“When we first started doing the ‘Star Wars’ songs at the Hollywood Bowl, I got a little misty-eyed. It felt like I was inside the movie. Those ‘Star Wars’ songs are ingrained in your head from the first time you saw the movie.”

What’s left for Yankovic to accomplish?

“I would love to do a Broadway show full of original songs,” he said.

Then Yankovic would be ripe to be parodied.

“I would be fair game, wouldn’t I?”

Get Out!

WHAT: Weird Al Yankovic

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday (7/30)

WHERE: McGrath Amphitheatre, 475 First St. SW, Cedar Rapids

COST: $32, $42 and $92

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TICKETS: (319) 362-1729, www.mcgrathamphitheatre.com

ARTISTS WEBSITE: weirdal.com

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