Podcasts Political Beats

Episode 113: Andrew Heaton / ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic poses backstage with his award at the 61st Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., February 10, 2019. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)


Scot and Jeff discuss “Weird Al” Yankovic with Andrew Heaton.

Introducing the Band:

Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Andrew Heaton. Andrew is a comedian and political satirist you might know from Reason TV. He is the host of The Political Orphanage, a funny policy analysis show for people tired of tribalism. You can find him on Twitter at @mightyheaton.

Andrew Music Pick: “Weird Al” Yankovic

You should know a few things about Al before we start. First, Al is super smart. He was two years younger than all the other kids in grade school and was going to be an architect before music intervened. Second, Al is super nice. There are no bad stories (that we know of!), no scandals. He doesn’t even do a parody unless the artist gives the “Okay,” even though there’s no particular reason for him to do that. Three, Al is a super-good songwriter. You might think of parodies when you think of “Weird Al,” but a goal of this show is to convince you that his originals & pastiches are even better. 

The short Al story begins with the “Dr. Demento” radio show. Al was a fan. He passed him a cassette tape with some songs when the Dr. visited his high school, one of which then was played on the show. After that, Al continued to contribute and people took some notice. Well before the first album was released, he got national airplay with the singles “My Bologna” and “Another One Rides the Bus” — the latter was recorded live on Demento’s show and not even re-recorded for the debut. That ’81 performance also is where Al met his long-time drummer. The rest of the band was put together in ’82 and they’ve been together since.

Not bad when it comes to longevity and loyalty.

There are essentially four types of “Weird Al” songs:

1. Straight parodies (think “Eat It,” “Fat,” “Smells Like Nirvana”)

2. Pastiches (song in the style of REM, Devo, Talking Heads, Cake, Bob Dylan, etc.)

3. Pure originals

4. Polka medleys of current or past hits

There are certain recurring themes – food, TV, movies, the sad sack in love, lyrics with escalating comedic situations — but through Al’s lengthy career, he’s shown the ability to adapt to whatever is in front of him, both musically and culturally. There are ups and downs to be sure, but his last album, Mandatory Fun (2014), was Al’s first number one album, a sign he still commanded a sizable fanbase of nerds and weirdos. Of which all three of us are, of course.

Join the crowd, shout it out loud! Dare to be stupid with Political Beats and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

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