In 1992, “Weird Al” Yankovic released the single “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” a song about a homicidal ex-girlfriend and a dope who isn’t sure if the relationship is over despite her repeated attempts to kill him, at one point cutting his brakes and later pushing him down an elevator shaft. The darkly funny song is one of the few singles by Yankovic that’s an entirely original work instead of the parodies for which he’s well known. In fact, although Yankovic was riding a wave of success thanks to “Smells Like Nirvana,” his hugely popular parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the record label allowed Yankovic to make “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” only if he filmed a parody video for the song. He did, mocking Extreme’s artsy and sensitive video for “More Than Words.”
Twenty-four years later, not only is Weird Al still in the parody songwriting business, but he’s also running it, his profile higher and more visible than ever.
Yankovic’s 14th studio album, Mandatory Fun, is the first in his three-decade-plus career to debut at number one on the Billboard charts. It’s a remarkable feat. Even Yankovic is somewhat taken aback at the massive appeal of the record.
“That took me by surprise, and everyone else, I guess,” he says. “You could look to a number of factors. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it seems like over the years, I’ve been gaining more and more fans.”
At 56 years old, Yankovic falls into a generation of humans who aren’t synonymous with YouTube, but his recent triumph harnessing the power of the video-sharing site is something he’s been working toward for many years. In the ’80s, Yankovic was a star on MTV in the cable network’s infancy, appearing in possibly the first comedy video, “Ricky,” an homage to Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy and a goofy take on Toni Basil’s “Mickey.”
All hail Yankovic.
Photo by Robert Trachtenberg
There was also UHF, the wacky 1989 film he wrote and starred in that could be seen as a precursor to YouTube in terms of pirate programming done on the cheap by the average person. The visual aspect of Yankovic’s work has always been an integral part of his comedy, and it seems these days it’s all coming full circle. People seem to love seeing his trademark oversize eyeglasses and curly locks as much as they do listening to his polka-flavored pop-culture medleys. As silly as he is, Yankovic’s footprint in so many forms of media might even have an impact beyond making us laugh.
“Word Crimes” is a standout among the videos that were attached to Mandatory Fun, and it tackles the often painful world of grammar on the internet — YouTube comments, for example. On the subject of whether his song has had an impact on the public’s self-editing, Yankovic is hopeful.
“Well, possibly,” he says, chuckling at the thought. “I’d like to think so. I mean, certainly people in my Twitter feed second-guess themselves, because they go, ‘Oh, Weird Al is watching. I’d better make sure my grammar is all right.’”
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His impact on our general education notwithstanding, “Weird Al” Yankovic is a force to be reckoned with. His Mandatory Fun tour comes to Miami this Friday, and by all accounts, including his own, he’s bringing every weapon in his goofy arsenal to entertain us.
“Obviously, it’s a lot of material from Mandatory Fun, and we do as many of the greatest hits as we possibly can, and we throw in a few sort of deep cuts for the hard-cores.”
On the Mandatory Fun tour. 8 p.m. Friday, June 10, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $39 to $273.