The King of Pop Parodies has a 'problematic' past. Will it catch up to him in our overly sensitive times?
“Weird Al” Yankovic is in his fourth decade poking fun at the biggest pop songs around.
Does he have to start apologizing for a few of them now? If so, he’s not alone.
Comedians are revisiting their past material given our overly sensitive times. Often, the decision is made for them. Just ask would-be Oscar host Kevin Hart, felled by old homophobic jokes.
Others are taking pre-emptive measures to avoid those “Apology Tours.” It’s why Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen apologized for their comedy hit “Superbad.” It might explain why Judd Apatow, the king of “white dude bro” humor, went woke.
So far, “Weird Al” has mostly avoided the PC Police.
After several bloggers pointed out that the term [spastic] has been used as a derogatory reference to those with cerebral palsy, Yankovic took to Twitter to apologize for the gaffe, claiming he was unaware of the connotations.
“If you thought I didn’t know that ‘spastic’ is considered a highly offensive slur by some people … you’re right, I didn’t,” he wrote. “Deeply sorry.”
Now, will the prolific parodist start apologizing for his past hits? A glance at Yankovic’s dense song catalog features mostly kid-friendly fare. A diarrhea joke here, a word pun there.
Often, the punch lines are silly on steroids. It’s all in good fun, consistent with his wide-eyed brand.
A select number of songs, though, traffic in the kind of material Social Justice Warriors routinely attack. Consider “White & Nerdy” – a parody of the rap hit “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone.
The entire song is problematic. There’s cultural appropriation, for starters. An admittedly white and nerdy soul adopting urban tics is rarely welcome in SJW society.
I wanna roll with the gangstas
But so far they all think I’m too white and nerdy
The seemingly harmless “Lasagna” ladles out Italian-American clichés. That minority group isn’t as easily offended as others, although mobster shows sometimes set members on edge. They might howl over lyrics like this, based on the song “La Bamba”:
‘Samatta you, ‘samatta you, ‘samatta you
You should-a taste my lasagna
Ay, you no like-a lasagna
That’s okay too
How about-a calzone
Some-a nice minestrone, that’s good for you
The singer’s “Fat” could be as controversial as Michael Jackson, the late pop icon Yankovic is parodying.
Nearly every line would send fat acceptance advocates into a frenzy. The Chinese gag at the end of this stanza adds a double dose of problematic prose.
My zippers bust, my buckles break
I’m too much man for you to take
The pavement cracks when I fall down
I’ve got more chins than Chinatown
Plus, the sight of “Weird Al” in a fat suit could prove triggering in and of itself.
His track “Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch” is a trifle. The song, spoofing Cyndi Lauper’s ’80s anthem, is anything but empowering.
She eats like she got a hole in her neck
And i’m the one that always gets stuck with the check
Can’t figure out how come they don’t weigh a ton
Oh, girls, they want to have lunch…
Imagine if all of the above hit stores in 2019. You can just hear The Mary Sue and other woke outlets penning articles that start like this:
“We need to talk about ‘Weird Al’s’ …”
Now, comedy evolves over time. Some laugh-out-loud bits from days gone by barely make us snicker. Once upon a time the sight of an adult getting thrown into a pool cracked up audiences.
Today, that wouldn’t make it through a comedy screenwriter’s first draft.
Still, the pressure on modern humorists to be funny AND never step on select toes is both creatively stifling and, well, problematic. That could catch up to Alfred Matthew Yankovic.