Still weird after all these years 

For someone who got his start in the music business by recording his first single in a men’s room, “Weird Al” Yankovic has certainly come a long way.

Forging a wildly successful career that has lasted three decades and counting, the master of musical parodies is as surprised at his longevity as anyone else.

“I constantly have moments where I want to go back in time and tell my 12-year-old self what I’m up to now, and watch the reaction,” Yankovic said recently on the phone before a concert in Florida. His tour comes to San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre on Tuesday.

Since his first mainstream recognition in 1979 with “My Bologna,” an accordion-fueled take off on The Knack’s “My Sharona,” Yankovic’s zany spoofs have targeted everyone from Madonna and Queen to The Kinks and Don McLean, selling millions of albums and winning three Grammys.

“There’s no real hard set of rules as to what makes a song a good candidate for parody, but I pick a song that I think has a good lyrical and musical hook to it, something that would be considered a mainstream hit, and most importantly, something that I can come up with a funny idea for.”

Most artists are happy to be the subject of the funnyman’s cultural critiques, with some, such as Nirvana, saying the moment they realized they had “made it” was when Yankovic asked for their permission to release a parody.

“It’s very surrealistic, that’s all I can say,” Yankovic laughs. “That’s the kind of positive reinforcement that I never expected to get in my line of work, it kind of boggles my mind.”

The late Michael Jackson was another artist who had a sense of humor and enjoyed what he heard in “Eat It” and “Fat,” two of Yankovic’s biggest hits in the 1980s — so much so that he actually made one of his video sets available for the parody clip to filmed.

“He was very helpful in the early part of my career, simply by allowing me to do what I did,” says Yankovic. “I met him a couple of times briefly in person, he was very soft-spoken, but very friendly, a little otherworldly I’d even say. I don’t want to say it felt like I was meeting a figure out of Madame Tussauds, but he was such a larger-than-life person.”

Many other artists Yankovic has parodied over the years have long since dropped from the music charts, but the 50-year-old self-proclaimed nerd continues to release albums and perform for devoted fans; in fact, he was recently picked by Rolling Stone readers as the next person they’d like to see inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“It’s hard for me to assimilate that with my brain, it just doesn’t feel real,” Yankovic says. “I’m not sure that is going to happen, but just the fact that fans care enough to spend their time and energy with that goal, that in and of itself just means an incredible amount to me.”


IF YOU GO
‘Weird Al’ Yankovic

Where: The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $36 to $50
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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