Share this article

print logo

'Weird Al' Yankovic explains how 'Hamilton' led to his new polka

For those going to see “Weird Al" Yankovic’s show at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts on March 13, you’re officially warned that the performance will be a “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity” concert.

That’s not commentary; it’s just the name of the show. Instead of leading audiences through a parade of his career musical satire hits from “Eat It” to “Word Crimes,” Yankovic is focusing on an intimate performance with his band as they play original and obscure songs from his 14-album catalog.

“That’s the reason for the self-deprecating advertising campaign,” Yankovic said during a recent phone interview. “It’s partly to be funny, but it’s also to really inform people that this is not the ‘Weird Al' show people are used to. I’ve been doing high-energy, bi-production concerts for the last few decades, and they’ve been getting bigger year after year. Instead of trying to top myself this time out, I decided to go in the other direction.”

The tour comes on the heels of the release of a career-spanning “Squeeze Box” recording set, which includes all of his 14 albums remastered plus a rarities disc and archive book, packaged in a replica accordion.

“I’ve been thinking about the tour a long time before I was approached about the box set, so it was nice synchronicity that the box set came out before the tour, but one didn’t really influence the other,” Yankovic said.

Yankovic’s new single “The Hamilton Polka” features a polka melody satire of the mega-successful Broadway musical, and its genesis comes from a surprising source.

“ 'Hamilton’ is a phenomenon, and I probably would have approached (creator) Lin-Manuel Miranda at some point, but as it happens, he actually pitched me on the idea,” Yankovic said. “(He) has been a fan of mine since he was kid, and it was a dream of his for me to do a polka melody of his work. I’m a huge fan of ‘Hamilton,’ and it was a labor of love. I wanted to make it my best polka melody ever.”

The crossover success of “Hamilton” was an easy sell for Yankovic, who noted that pop culture is so fragmented now that it’s harder to write a satire everybody would recognize.

“Back in the '80s, all I had to do was look at Billboard’s 'Hot 100' chart and those were the hits,” he said. “You have to look at a lot of different sources and media (today) to find out where the zeitgeist is.”

His longtime friend, comedian Emo Philips, will join Yankovic for the show. The two starred in Yankovic’s cult comedy "UHF," which featured a number of pop culture sketches shown on the film’s local television station. While Yankovic has found success releasing his recent videos on YouTube (the modern version of an oddball local access station), he doesn’t have any interest in reviving "UHF" for the streaming generation.

“Fans for the last 25 years have been wanting me to do a ‘UHF’ sequel,” he said. “If you were to do it these days, the obvious way to go would be for an online or Internet thing, but I don’t have any big interest. I would love to do another movie, but I don’t want to tie it into something like that.

"There are a lot of fans that have a lot of love for that movie, and if I were to do a sequel, there’s no way it couldn’t be a disappointment because it wouldn’t fulfill whatever expectations everybody had for it. I’m going to let that movie live in its own era and let people have their memories of it.”


“Weird Al" Yankovic

With Emo Philips. 7:30 p.m. March 13 at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, Amherst. Tickets are $43.50 to $81.50.  For info:

Story topics: / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment