"Weird Al" Loves Wisconsin
By: Chris Terry

Source: Beloit Daily News, Thursday, July 10, 1997. Page 3

Pay attention at Riverfest Friday night or you might think Coolio, Michael Jackson or Soul Asylum are playing on the main stage.

But listen closely to what the accordion-wielding, mustache-lipped man is singing and you'll know better.

While Coolio rapped about living in a "Gangsta's Paradise," Weird Al Yankovic took the same song, dressed up in simple black cloths, donned a beard and turned it into "Amish Paradise".

Yankovic, the man famous for parodies like "Smells Like Nirvana," "Eat It," "I Lost on Jeopardy," "I Want a New Duck," and "Like a Surgeon," will play at Riverfest Friday night.

A $6 Riverfest ticket includes admission to the show.

Although roughly half of the songs on every Weird Al album are original tunes (also with comic themes like "The Night Santa Went Crazy" and "I'm So Sick of You") Yankovic said fans can look forward to a concert chock full of his famous parodies.

"I tend to play more of the parodies in concert because those are more of the audience pleasers," he said.

Before doing a parody, Yankovic's people usually check with the original artists to get their OK. Some bands have been flattered, although there was one reported mix up with the Coolio take off.

In a telelphone interview Monday, Yankovic said the tour is a welcome relief to the grueling hours he's been putting in on his new television show, scheduled to air Saturday mornings this fall on CBS.

"I'm sleep deprived, but I think we have a good show on our hands."

Yankovic has been kicking around the idea of a TV show since 1984, but it's a lot of work, he said.

"I can't wait to go on tour because I get to sleep on the bus," he said. "I'm really getting delirious from lack of sleep."

Yankovic said last year, he and his band toured primarily to support the release of "Bad Hair Day," which has sold more than 1.7 million copies.

"This year we're concentrating more on the fairs just because we like playing them," Yankovic said. "It's more of a party atmosphere."

Yankovic said he draws people from all age groups to his shows.

"I really draw toddlers to geriatrics," he added.

Yankovic said he really enjoys playing shows in the Midwest, specifically Wisconsin.

"We do a lot of shows in Wisconsin in part because they have the best audiences there," he said. "If I had to pick one state that's the geographic center of Weird Al fandom it would probably be Wisconsin."

Yankovic encouraged his fans to get good seats for his show. "Just go (to Riverfest) right now and wait so you can get a good spot in line."

People try to send Weird Al their own ideas for parodies, but doesn't look at them, in part because he doesn't want to be accused of stealing anyone's ideas, not that he needs to.

"I've really got more than enough sick ideas in my head," he said.

Yankovic said he pretty much chooses his parody songs first, then writes lyrics. It would be pretty hard to do the other way around, he said.

For example, when he spoofed Michael Jackson's hit song "Beat It," he said "I wasn't thinking 'Hey, I've got this song (idea) called 'Eat It.'"

A Grammy Award-winning musician, Yankovic is also a proficient accordion and keyboard player. He took his first accordion lesson right after turning 7 years old.

Was it his idea or his mother's?

"I can't imagine that I begged her for lesson," he said.

In addition to popular parodies he's now known for cramming a gazillion popular songs into a four minute polka medley on each record.

On his most recent release, "Bad Hair Day," he turned the serious chorus of Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" into more of a yodel during his "Alternative Polka".

"Since polka music is the only true alternative music out there, I thought I should do an alternative polka," he said.

Fans will also be able to hear some of Yankovic's original songs.

Yankovic said he has written a lot of ex-girlfriend type bitter yet funny songs because he has a "dysfunctional" love life.

For the latest official news from "Weird Al" on the Internet, check drummer Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz's Web site at http://www.loop.com/~bermuda

Note: His page has been moved to http://www.weirdal.com