Weird Al takes over

Weird Al takes over

Who would have thought Weird Al Yankovic would be one of the hottest names in pop music?

The veteran US parodist's latest album Mandatory Fun charted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its first week.

With over 104,000 copies sold, it is the 54-year-old Californian's best-seller to date.

It is not only Weird Al's first No. 1 album but also the first comedy album to hit the top spot in 51 years. The last was My Son, The Nut by Allan Sherman in 1963, famous for Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter From Camp).

Yes, the flamboyant unabashed nerd has outsold Glamour magazine's Sexiest Singer Alive aka 37-year-old crooner Jason Mraz.

STAYING CURRENT

On Mandatory Fun, Weird Al - real name Alfred Matthew Yankovic - parodies Iggy Azalea's Fancy (Handy), Lorde's Royals (Foil), Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines (Word Crimes) and Pharrell Williams' Happy (Tacky).

He joked on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast that while he thinks his grammar-based Thicke parody is funny, "it might have been even funnier a year ago!"

In an interview with Billboard.com, the star said that he uses his 11-year-old daughter to keep himself abreast of current trends.

"I was following Iggy on her rise up the charts and I thought, 'Oh, this might work'. I asked my daughter, 'Are people talking about Iggy Azalea at school?'."

His daughter's resounding yes was the green light.

STAYING AHEAD

Weird Al cleverly plotted a social media strategy to unleash what is not only his last album in his contract with RCA, but possibly his last album ever.

His #8videos8days project unleashed a video a day on sites such as Nerdist, Funny Or Die and CollegeHumor. This smart move not only expanded his fanbase but offset production costs in exchange for exclusivity.

Just don't compare this to Beyonce's 2013 self-titled album, which had a sudden release.

He told Time magazine: "(The comparison) does irk me a little bit because on my last album (2011's Alpocalypse), I released 12 videos for the 12 tracks all at the same time.

"I doubt that (Beyonce) got that idea from me, but saying I pulled a Beyonce, that's just not accurate."

Despite this success, he may not release another full-length CD.

"I consider myself more of a singles artist. I want to be topical and timely," he told Comedy Bang Bang.

"I may just put out a song or digital EP, but waiting until I have 12 songs? I'm probably not going to do that anymore. I just want to get it out there quickly."

AUDIO COMEDY RENAISSANCE

Comedy albums are nothing new. Stand-up albums are constantly being released physically and digitally. But the model is changing.

American comedy group The Lonely Island found success after creating original music videos for Saturday Night Live that went viral. They have three successful albums, with 2011's Turtle Neck And Chain hitting No. 3.

Stand-ups like Louis CK and Sarah Silverman are bypassing the usual routes too. Louis CK sells his recent shows for US$5 (S$6) on his site and nowhere else now. Silverman recently filmed the trailer for her new album on her iPhone.

Podcast creators like Earwolf and Nerdist - both Weird Al affiliated - are creating outlets for comedians to be heard for free.

EVERYONE LOVES WEIRD AL EXCEPT PRINCE

The videos feature a multitude of guest celebrities.

Tacky includes Jack Black, Margaret Cho and Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Weird Al described the shoot as "the most fun I've ever had".

"It was like a party," he said.

He also had no issues with the artistes whose songs he parodies on Mandatory Fun. Pharrell Williams, he told Billboard.com, was especially forthcoming. "I sent (Williams) an e-mail requesting permission. He sent me a very sweet e-mail back immediately saying he'd be honoured. I was just blown away."

While he doesn't have to approach the stars he parodies, he has always asked for permission.

Notable blockers in the past are Led Zeppelin, although guitarist Jimmy Page is a fan. As is Paul McCartney, though he said no to a parody of Live And Let Die. His reason being that the title would be changed to Chicken Pot Pie and McCartney is a staunch vegetarian.

In an interview with Access Hollywood, Weird Al singled out eccentric pop star Prince as the "only person who has consistently said no" to his parodies. "I haven't approached him in 20 years."


This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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