Singer/songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic, who is best known for his parodies of famous songs and musical acts, also is a musician, a producer, an actor and an author. But he is not a serious songwriter, and he never will be.
“That’s not anything that I am excited about,” said Yankovic, who will perform on Oct. 12, at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. “Some people have nice careers with serious music. I do funny music. There is enough unfunny music out there already.”
Yankovic has been doing “funny music” for more than 35 years. The performer, who was a shy, accordion-playing teenager, got his start by sending in homemade audio tapes to the Dr. Demento Radio Show. Eventually he would become one of the biggest-selling comedy recording artists in history with more than 12 million album sales.
He has won three Grammy Awards. Yankovic’s most recent album “Alpocalypse,” featuring the Lady Gaga parody “Perform This Way,” was released in June of 2011. His classic parodies over the years include “Eat It,” “Like a Surgeon,” “Smells Like Nirvana” and “Amish Paradise,” among others.
“I would send tapes to Dr. Demento just for grins and hope that I get played on the radio,” Yankovic said. “I am fortunate to eek out a living in an ideal vocation for me.”
Yankovic’s success is partly due to his use of music video to further parody popular culture, the song’s original artist and the original music videos themselves. Backed by his band, Yankovic’s stage show features comedy, music, a video screen and multiple costume changes.
“It’s a high-energy, multi-media show,” he said. “I work with the same band that I have had since I started, who rock the costume changes. I think we are doing three more costume changes than Lady Gaga. It’s very theatrical.”
In addition to his recordings and music videos, Yankovic is known for his cult-hit feature film “UHF” (1989), his 1990s CBS-TV Saturday morning series “The Weird Al Show” and the numerous specials that he’s made for MTV and VH1.
Yankovic also is a children’s book author. His “When I Grow Up” was released by HarperCollins Publishers in 2011. His second children’s book, titled “My New Teacher and Me!,” was released in June 2013.
But parodies, like “Eat It,“ based on Michael Jackson’s hit “Beat It,” and “White & Nerdy,” based on the song “Ridin’” by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone, are still the entertainer’s main focus.
“I narrow it down to songs that I think would be good candidates for parody, then look at the themes that would likely be good to work with,” said Yankovic about the songwriting process. “Then I approach the artist and ask permission to parody the song. I would not do the song if I did not get the blessing of the songwriter and performer. They are usually O.K. with it. They know it is all in good fun and not mean-spirited. Now it has gotten to the point that people know they have made it if they have a ‘Weird Al’ parody of one of their songs.”