He’s weird, he’s Al, he’s Yankovic. The enduring icon of pop music parody, and the lovable goofball who makes polka medleys. There’s nobody who’s made a career out of novelty hits like “Weird” Al Yankovic, and thus there’s nobody who’s endured, evolved and improved in that craft so much that his original songs are often more entertaining than his spoofs. As he’s matured in the decades since his initial Dr. Demento hit “My Bologna” to riff on The Knack’s “My Sharona,” Yankovic has also gone into directing videos for other bands as well, which you might’ve guessed by the memorable inventiveness of the ones he puts forth for his own music. So let’s take a look at ten essential music videos from “Weird” Al Yankovic’s extensive catalog, stretching back over the last 30 years.
1. “Eat It”
This incredibly faithful shot-for-shot skewering of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” really put Al on the map, pointing out all of The King of Pop’s oddball foibles at the height of his fevered-pitch fame and worldwide adoration – back before anyone thought he even had them… even though he wore spangly jackets with epaulets. Either way, the attention to detail, the random nuttiness and riding a sped-up riff that was the most popular hit in the world delighted kids and adults alike. It was hilarious to watch this dorky white guy with glasses and a mustache mocking MJ’s every move and even his intensity.
2. “I Lost on Jeopardy”
This Greg Kihn Band parody is essential more as a time capsule than anything else, as few people remember that Jeopardy! existed before Alex Trebek. The original host was Art Fleming, and Don Pardo handled the announcing duties, and three months after the release of this song, Trebek showed up to take the reins, where he continues to this day. This video also features an appearance from Dr. Demento himself, the man responsible for exposing “Weird Al” to the world through his legendary novelty hit radio show.
3. “Dare to be Stupid”
The three staples of the Weird Al method of satire are A.) up-tempo parodies of popular hits of today, B.) polka medleys of popular hits of today and C.) original songs that aren’t direct riffs, but rather a great encapsulation of an artist’s particular style or genre. The title track to his 1985 album celebrated all things Devo… and all things stupid. Crazily imaginative and absolutely absurd, this video is a visual feast of strange old film footage and new-wave madness, and the song somehow ended up on the soundtrack to 1986’s “The Transformers: The Movie.” Go figure.
Returning to Michael Jackson – it was hard NOT to, considering his dominance of the popular music scene throughout the 1980s, and it was hard not to want to, considering that Jackson was a big fan of Al’s work – he donned a massive suit of pseudo-flesh to take MJ’s “Thriller” follow-up “Bad” into territory obese with comic potential. Legend has it that, when seeking out his compatriots for this video, he put an ad in the paper that just asked for “fat dancers,” and these guys all showed up – on the same actual set Jackson used for his video. Again, the shot-for-shot detail is impressive, and the crotch-grab is now in full-force, as are the inexplicable whiplash sound effects that MJ had taken to. The mouse-trap gag never gets old, either. He even pokes fun at the pompous extended edition of “Bad,” and there’s no line of dialog in popular culture anywhere as powerfully effective as “Yo, Ding Dong, man, Ding Dong. Ding Dong, yo.”
5. “Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies”
To be honest, this particular clip – the “Beverly Hilbillies” theme computer-animated like the Dire Straits video – isn’t so much essential in its own right, but it’s included here because of the necessity of the hilarious movie it’s culled from. “UHF,” Al’s feature film that got drowned out at the box office by Tim Burton’s “Batman,” has become an absolute cult classic with its clever sketch comedy woven through a narrative that features the pre-Kramer Michael Richards going full-bore crazy with physical comedy. Much like the original version of “Jeopardy!,” folks today likely don’t even remember what UHF even means. It’s a reminder of the pre-internet days of television’s wild frontier – if you found a station on the UHF band, chances are it was something weirder than Al.