Who would have thought that at 47, after 11 albums and two Grammys, "Weird Al" Yankovic would finally have a hit?
Yet there lies "Straight Outta Lynwood," picturing Al and his weird hair flowing over a letter jacket from his Los Angeles County high school, premiering a few months ago at No. 10 on the Billboard charts, the first time a Yankovic album has made it into the top 10.
Not only that, but "White & Nerdy," a parody of Chamillionaire's "Ridin'," became a YouTube phenomenon, getting 6 million views in its first three weeks on the Internet.
For a guy who misspent his youth playing the accordion, reading Mad magazine and - heavens to going platinum - becoming the valedictorian of his class at Lynwood, late-blooming rock stardom can be quite a thing.
"Maybe people are finally catching on to me," said Yankovic, in an interview promoting his five-month "Straight Outta Lynwood" tour, which started this week and comes to the House of Blues Atlantic City at Showboat tomorrow night. (He'll also be at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on May 31.)
Song parody, Yankovic's forte, has not been a big-selling genre. Only Allan Sherman, back in 1963 with "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!" a desperate letter from camp to the tune of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours," cracked the Billboard Top 10 for a single parody.
Tom Lehrer ("Hanukkah in Santa Monica," "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park") did not quite parody songs but had moderate success in comedy songwriting.
Yankovic, though, has been able at least to stay on the radar screen since 1979, his senior year at Cal State San Luis Obispo, when he got Dr. Demento to play "My Bologna," his accordion-backed parody of the Knack's hit, "My Sharona," on his radio show.
Knack lead singer Doug Fieger apparently loved it and got Capitol Records to release it.
Over the next few years, Weird Al struck all styles: from "Another One Rides the Bus" (Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust") to "I Love Rocky Road" ("I Love Rock N' Roll" by Joan Jett) to, perhaps most famously, "Eat It" ("Beat It" by Michael Jackson).
In his latest album and show, the greatest number of songs parody hip-hop. Perhaps the best is the 11-minute takeoff on R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet," called "Trapped in the Drive-Thru."
"People thought it was a parody already," said Yankovic of the somewhat slobbery Kelly lament. "I listened to the song and said, 'How can I not do this?' "
Yankovic's interminable song is about a middle-class guy and his wife going out for a bite to eat that neither of them particularly wants at a fast-food drive-in.
"The only way to make this funny was to make the subject matter banal," he said. "Mine is an 11-minute parody where nothing really happens - tedium with high drama."
The animated video is available on MySpace. Yankovic doesn't worry about the free downloadability. "I don't have a huge problem with people illegally downloading music from the Internet," he said with a chuckle, "except if it is my music."
Yankovic said his House of Blues show will be anything but banal and tedious. It is a pastiche of everything - polka music, old standards, hip-hop, video and a whole lotta goofy rock.
"I have a lot more freedom than any other pop act out there," he said. "I can literally do anything. I love having that much freedom." *