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Silly time with Johnny Carson and Weird Al
July 11, 2014 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Travel back in TV time to 1985 when Weird Al Yankovic appeared as a musical guest for the first and, tragically, only time on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

In honor of what may be Yankovic's final album, Mandatory Fun (depressingly, after nearly 40 years in the music biz, it seems nobody can spell his last name), Splitsider has reviewed his episode of Tonight at the Paley Center for Media. In the review we learn about the second appearance that could have been: "In an [earlier] interview with PopMatters.com, Al mentions that one of his few regrets throughout his career came in the late 80s when he was asked if he could come in immediately and replace James Taylor, who had dropped out, and perform Taylor's song 'Fire and Rain.' He wrestled with it in the moment, thinking it could be a fantastic moment of surreal comedy, but ultimately felt, in his own words, 'that not enough people would kind of find that funny and it would just be like a lot of people thinking it was stupid, but now that I look back on it, I'm like "Why didn't I do that? That would've just been so out there, so wrong on so many levels."'" A nation weeps.
posted by Smells of Detroit (34 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps I missed a memo. Is he retiring? :(

I would pay many many internets to see him do Fire and Rain.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:25 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I believe the "final album" talk is that Al has said he might stop releasing songs in chunks of a dozen every couple of years and just toss them out as singles/EPs as he finishes them.
posted by Etrigan at 7:26 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


In case you missed it, Weird Al killed it as Isaac Newton in a recent installment of Epic Rap Battles of History.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:27 PM on July 11 [17 favorites]


Mandatory Correction
During the closing stages of the Alpocalypse tour, Yankovic stated in an interview with The Morning Call that he had one more album on his contract; the paper and other sources took to mean that this album would be his last.[1] Yankovic later clarified that this was the last album on the current recording contract with his label, that he is currently "weighing his options" for renewing the contract or looking to another publisher, and made it clear that he was not retiring from music in the foreseeable future.[2]

retrieved 2:27 AM Saturday, July 12, 2014 (UTC)
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:28 PM on July 11 [17 favorites]


Is there video of that Tonight Show appearance that I missed? Simply reading about it underwhelms.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:30 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


Really nice post, I look forward to reading the links.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:32 PM on July 11


Is this a textual description of a thing I can't actually watch?
posted by bleep at 7:33 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


it seems nobody can spell his last name

It's probably just retaliation from Big Signage and Bad Grammar for his sign corrections.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:40 PM on July 11


Technically, all albums are potentially final albums.
posted by RobotHero at 7:43 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


In case you missed it, Weird Al killed it as Isaac Newton in a recent installment of Epic Rap Battles of History.

He also recently played a role in the Joe Louis segment of Drunk History.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:50 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Almost 30 years later, after finally shaking off the guilt and shame that punk later heaped on me in regards to this, I can openly admit that Weird Al was a hero and inspiration to me as a awkward, introverted pre-teen (*whew*). Thanks, Al and Smells of Detroit - look forward to digesting these links.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:55 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Not to detract from Al himself, but his amazing band must also get their due!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:01 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Because this is his last album on contract, I'm still not sure if the album title is a joke for its own sake or a meta-joke like Monty Python's "Contractual Obligation Album".
posted by Gary at 8:08 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Well, Weird Al doesn't know it...but I'm the guy who made him famous!

I was working for the local TV station in San Luis Obispo as the weekend news director. The anchor was looking for a feature "kicker" one weekend, and I told her to take a cameraperson and go check the guy I'd seen up at Cal Poly playing an accordion and lots of interesting songs.

They went up to the campus, filmed him, and we ran it on the local news (KSBY) that weekend, then I told them they should send it to NBC (we were an affiliate) and put it on their news feed that went to stations all over the US. A lot of stations picked it up and ran it, and...he took off from there.

So when you see Al, just remind him some old guy on the Blue gave him his start! Ha.
posted by CrowGoat at 8:19 PM on July 11 [74 favorites]


So, Johnny Carson completely understood where Weird Al was coming from, and did his damnedest to play up Weird Al's own schtick and sell it to his audience - and some Millenial who has no idea who Carson actually is or was (America's Dad? Really?) takes offense.

Meanwhile, grammar counts.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:20 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


No kidding, Johnny let him play two songs on the 80s Tonight Show? That's awesome. A polka medley, on network TV with Doc Severinsen's band? I'm very disappointed we have snark instead of video.
posted by Gary at 9:16 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering how Carson was able to accidentally slip "into Dana Carvey's impression of him" a full year before Carvey's SNL debut.
posted by hilker at 9:43 PM on July 11


I saw weird Al walking back and forth on a slack rope, three feet above the floor, wearing a sort of Fred-Flintstone cave man suit, and holding an umbrella. This was about 1986 or so, in Portland Oregon, at a science fiction convention. I won't be able to sleep tonight, because I can't remember the name of the song he was singing.

He is my hero. He didn't push the envelope; he just sort of chewed little holes in its corners, and let the sand dribble out at its own good speed.
posted by mule98J at 9:49 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


I saw weird Al walking back and forth on a slack rope, three feet above the floor, wearing a sort of Fred-Flintstone cave man suit, and holding an umbrella. This was about 1986 or so, in Portland Oregon, at a science fiction convention. I won't be able to sleep tonight, because I can't remember the name of the song he was singing.

You're sure it wasn't 1993? That's the year he dropped Bedrock Anthem.
posted by Ed The Sock at 11:11 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


So, Johnny Carson completely understood where Weird Al was coming from, and did his damnedest to play up Weird Al's own schtick and sell it to his audience - and some Millenial who has no idea who Carson actually is or was (America's Dad? Really?) takes offense.

Yup. I hate to surrender to fuddy-duddyism, but sometimes these goddamn whippersnappers just make it way too tempting.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:18 AM on July 12


Damn, I still remember hearing a bit about Weird Al on the Charlie Tuna radio show in 1980 where they played 20 seconds of him performing "My Bologna" (My Sharona). As someone who avidly read Mad Magazine, it dovetailed nicely with my developing primordial sense of satire and parody. Then 1983 hit and he came out with "I Lost On Jeopardy", "Eat It", etc and it was all mainstream from there on. Still, he hasn't lost much of his edge... the polkas every several years have been awesome.
posted by crapmatic at 12:51 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


But to get that true polka sound, Al is joined by the brass section of the NBC Orchestra, and just in case a bunch of old white dudes in tuxes playing polka music while Al sings "Relax / When you wanna come" from Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax," there are also bubble machines to truly make you feel like you're watching an insane episode of Lawrence Welk.

Yeah, I think I have to see this. Some superfan, please upload to YouTube.
posted by ignignokt at 4:45 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I'm happy that I live in a world where Weird Al is still going strong decades after the bands whose songs he first parodied faded away.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:56 AM on July 12 [12 favorites]


(depressingly, after nearly 40 years in the music biz, it seems nobody can spell his last name)

The first link demonstrates that even fifty years in showbiz was not enough time for some writers to get Charles Nelson Reilly's surname right.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:18 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Here's Michael J Fox's appearance on the same episode of Johnny Carson. I can't find the Weird Al portion, but this section of The Weird Al Story covers the same general time period. Also related: Weird Al's Here's Johnny and CNR . . .
posted by flug at 9:14 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


You're sure it wasn't 1993?

I'm sure. It would have during the SF convention in Portland, 85-87. Other experiences bracket this show quite firmly. I was in the Sierras during the early 90's.
posted by mule98J at 10:24 AM on July 12


As I said before, Weird Al should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has had a tremendous career by any standard, and is a first class musician.
posted by Silvertree at 5:51 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


As I said before, Weird Al should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Weird Al's failure to be so much as nominated is the purest possible indictment of Wenner and his lackeys.
posted by Etrigan at 7:55 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Here's as good a place as any for this:
http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org/weird-al-yankovic/
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:49 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Here's an NPR segment that has a few clips from the new album. It's a nice mix of the standard interview questions he gets with some good new ones thrown in.

Al was also on the Jonah Raydio Podcast. That episode has almost nothing to do with his new album and is mostly a bunch of nerds hanging out. But that's fun too.
posted by Gary at 9:02 PM on July 12


Tacky music video. The first of eight being released in eight straight days.
posted by Gary at 8:27 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Grantland piece on the album and Al's career.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:54 PM on July 16


It's a few years old, but this is prime: "The Saga Begins," to the tune of "American Pie." (He looks really handsome! she said with mild alarm.)
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:59 AM on July 17


And given my username I can't resist posting "Word Crimes."
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:19 AM on July 17


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