When it comes to pop parody, there’s “Weird Al”, and then there’s everyone else. It’s been 37 years since a young Al recorded “My Bologna,” a riff on The Knack’s “My Sharona,” in the bathroom of his college’s radio station. Thanks to radio icon Doctor Demento, who promoted the song and the young artist, it became a hit, and opened the door for three plus decades of masterly mimicry. Now, with Al taking over the keyboard on IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought it was time to rank his 10 best music videos.
10. “The Saga Begins”
“Weird Al” and Star Wars go together like Cheese Wiz and spam, so it makes sense that he’d pull out all the stops for his take on Star Wars: Episode I. Al, sporting an Anakin-esque rattail, retells the entire saga complete with an Unplugged-style Cantina performance.
9. “Jurassic Park”
Al has often experimented with animation for his videos (his 2011 album Alpocalypse featured videos from several different animators), and his parody of the Steven Spielberg dinosaur blockbuster was the perfect vehicle for Claymation antics.
8. “Word Crimes”
A stand out track on Al’s recent Mandatory Fun album, “Word Crimes” achieved viral success thanks to its visually distinctive video which demonstrated the many grammatical errors we encounter every day on the Internet.
7. “White and Nerdy”
Think about what it takes to master as many styles of music as the prince of parody has. Here’s a guy who started out playing the accordion, and yet here crafts some truly legit, tight rhymes about X-Men comics, fanny packs, riding Segways and Ren Fairs. The song — thanks in part to a clever video which featured cameos from Seth Green and Donny Osmond — became Al’s first Top 10 Billboard hit. (Look for Key and Peele as the guys in the car who can’t believe how white and nerdy Al is.)
6. “Amish Paradise”
Featuring The Brady Bunch‘s Florence Henderson in the Michelle Pfeiffer role, Al perfectly lampoons Coolio’s video and song from the Dangerous Minds soundtrack. There’s actually a bit of controversy surrounding this song. While Al always asks for permission before moving ahead with his parodies, there was some miscommunication between Al and Coolio’s record label. While Al thought he had permission, the rapper later claimed he never gave it. Years (and quite a few royalty checks) later the two made amends, and Coolio admitted he was stupid for ever having a problem with the song.
5.”Smells Like Nirvana”
Al had a bit of trouble getting permission to move ahead on this song, too. Apparently, Kurt Cobain proved hard to track down. When Al finally got him on the phone during Nirvana’s appearance on SNL, the grunge rocker had one question: Would the song be about food? When Al explained that it would actually be about how no one could understand what he’s singing, the rock star loved it, and gave permission on the spot. Weird Al would go on to use many of the same extras in his video that appeared in the original video.
4. “Dare to Be Stupid”
A pitch perfect parody of Devo’s music videos, lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh actually told VH1 that after hearing the song for the first time, “I was in shock. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. He sort of re-sculpted that song into something else and… I hate him for it, basically.” The song would go on to be the theme for the Junkions in 1986’s Transformers: The Movie.
No one was bigger in the 1980s than Michael Jackson. Well, okay, no one except for Weird Al in “Fat,” who must have clocked in at a solid five-hundo, thanks to all the “ham on, ham on, ham on whole wheat or rye.” This classic video actually won the Grammy Award for Best Concept Music Video in 1988, cementing Weird Al’s status as the king of parody.
2. “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies”
Here’s a song with a fairly straightforward idea, combining the music from Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” and the lyrics from The Beverly Hillbillies theme song. It was the music video, which first appeared in the Weird Al feature film UHF, that stood out, using early computer graphics to precisely mimic the original video. In fact, the boys from Dire Straights were such fans of Weird Al’s spoof, band members Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher actually played on the song.
1. “Eat It”
In a catalog of classics, “Eat It” just might be Weird Al’s most famous hit. A shot for shot remake of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” the song riffed on all of the King of Pop’s bizarre quirks at the very peak of his fame. This is the video that took Al from a cult hit to a superstar in his own right.