Released in 1985, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s third album, Dare to Be Stupid, showed higher production values than the first two. Al was more of an established artist by this time, and the label was presumably willing to spend more on him, hence a whopping four music videos for songs on the record. This one is actually lighter on parodies than the first two; they each had five, while there are only four here, one of which was apparently insisted upon by the label. There is a cover, however, as well as another polka medley. While the album art isn’t quite as involved as that for the self-titled record, I do appreciate the seemingly random collection of objects surrounding Al.
Like a Surgeon – The only known Al parody to have been suggested by the original artist. The story goes that Madonna told someone at a party that he should do a song with that title, and that someone happened to be friends with Al’s manager. The parody includes what might be the most commonly misheard Weird Al lyric, as the way he sings the line “Better give me all your gauze, nurse” has led many listeners to wonder what “gozners” are.
The video for this song includes some allusions to the original, including a lion walking around, Al writhing on a hospital gurney the same Madonna did in a gondola, and a Madonna impersonator making a brief appearance. Most of it, however, is just about showing hospital procedures in as bizarre and inappropriate a way as possible. It’s also the first video to show Al falling down at the end, which would become a recurring gag in later ones. There’s an allusion to an earlier Al song in that one of the patients is shown reading the Midnight Star, and there’s a spoken Three Stooges reference before the music starts. After Madonna did a live version of “Like a Virgin” that had her on a bed with men in cone bras on either side, Al did much the same when performing “Surgeon” live.
Dare to Be Stupid – The title track is a clever style parody of Devo, which Mark Mothersbaugh is known to have said was ” the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.” It’s one of Al’s most famous original songs, with good reason, as it’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t hurt that the word “stupid” is kind of inherently funny to my mind. I appreciate how “I can’t hear you” is followed up with “Okay, I can hear you now,” a good play on a lyrical cliché. This bit is played a little more straight when the song is performed live, with added repetitions of “I STILL can’t hear you!” The song’s Wikipedia page identifies the particular Devo songs referenced in both the song and the music video, and I’m not familiar with all of them.
The radiation suits and goggles are from Devo’s “Satisfaction” video; and Al’s video also features an interocitor from the B-movie This Island Earth, which you might know from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie. The song also appears in the animated Transformers film, accompanying footage of a Transformer voiced by Eric Idle, meaning you get two comedy legends for the price of one. It’s like they say, you gotta buy one if you want to get one free.
I Want a New Duck – Hey, wasn’t there already a parody of Huey Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug”? You know, the theme from Ghostbusters? Seriously, “Duck” focuses on puns, something I can appreciate. When Al did a version of “Peter and the Wolf” with Wendy Carlos, he named the duck character Bruce as an allusion to this song. Also, I understand it was used in the Disney special Down and Out with Donald Duck.
One More Minute – Basically therapy in the form of comedy, this song is one Al wrote after an actual break-up, channeling his feelings into this jokey doo-wop number. The picture he rips in the video is of his actual ex-girlfriend. The first few times I saw Al live, he went into the audience during this song, although he’s since switched to doing this with “Wanna B Ur Lovr” instead.
The video and the way he sang directly to girls in the audience during live performances were both at least partially inspired by “Spend This Night with Me” from the movie Top Secret!
Yoda – While Al recorded the demo for this one back in 1980 when The Empire Strikes Back was new, it took a while for him to secure permission from both George Lucas and Ray Davies. Apparently, when he asked Davies personally, the writer claimed he’d never been asked before. By the time the parody was officially released, Return of the Jedi had come and gone, and the line about “making these movies ’til the end of time” was likely known not to have come true. Then again, Mark Hamill is now supposed to appear as Luke Skywalker in the upcoming Episode VII, so it might be a case where it took reality a few decades to catch up with the joke. My favorite line is the understated “I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him, then you’ll be unemployed.” While the released version was carefully made to resemble the original “Lola,” live performances are closer to the demo, with the accordion as the lead instrument. They also incorporate a chant that changes a bit with each tour. Interestingly, this song didn’t appear on Al’s first Greatest Hits album in 1988, but was on the second from 1994. I’ve also seen the CD being sold in somewhat more recent years with a sticker saying it features “Yoda,” as if that was the hit single, when of course it wasn’t.
George of the Jungle – The only straight cover in Al’s catalog, and it’s of a television theme song. It figures, doesn’t it? It’s quite faithful to the original, and I’m not sure why he chose this one in particular. I guess he was just a fan of the show, which I’ve never watched, although I did see the live-action movie.
Slime Creatures from Outer Space – A tribute to science fiction films and themes from the 1950s, complete with a theremin and goofy alien vocals on the titular line. The humor is largely based on understatement, with such lines as “They wasted everybody on my block, there goes the neighborhood” and “I sure hope they don’t come in here, I just shampooed the rug.” At the very end, you can just make out the line, “Who you gonna call? Slime creatures!”, an obvious reference to the aforementioned Ghostbusters theme.
Girls Just Want to Have Lunch – Apparently the label insisted that Al include a Cyndi Lauper parody on the album, and he didn’t want to do “Glue Colors.” (Seriously, “True Colors” didn’t come out until a year or two later, but it’s the first Lauper song title that I could come up with an obvious parody title for.) It seems rather phoned-in, and is the only food-themed parody that didn’t appear on the compilation The Food Album (excluding ones he hadn’t written yet, obviously).
This Is the Life – Al further demonstrates his mastery of many different genres with this take on music from the twenties and thirties, albeit with a metal guitar solo and rap-style record scratching thrown in. It was written as the theme song for the movie Johnny Dangerously, which I’ve never seen, and apparently some video releases don’t include it for whatever reason. The video alternates between clips from the film and Al as a rich guy hanging out at a jazz club.
Cable TV – Another song based on something fairly mundane being presented as incredibly exciting. It’s strange to think that cable television was once something fairly novel, but it definitely was for me, as I grew up without it. The stations and programs Al mentions aren’t really as bizarre as you might expect with this premise. I’m also not sure if there’s any actual joke in the line “Bugs Bunny direct from Atlanta”; all I can figure is that it has something to do with how Ted Turner’s networks showed a lot of Looney Tunes cartoons. This song has the distinction of being the first Al lyric to include the number twenty-seven, which also showed up on “now serving” signs in the “Like a Surgeon” and “This Is the Life” videos. The backing vocals are provided by Julia and Maxine Waters, who have performed with a lot of famous musicians, perhaps most notably on Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”. They’d show up from time to time on later Al songs as well.
Hooked on Polkas – Wikipedia claims that the title of this song is a reference to a 1981 record that mixed classical music with disco, although I remember seeing it used as the title to a polka collection presumably unrelated to the Al song. Unlike with “Polkas on 45,” this one is entirely made up of contemporary songs from the time. Well, that’s not counting the beginning bit from the ragtime standard “12th Street Rag,” which I understand was the theme from The Joe Franklin Show, on which Al appeared a few times. I’ll admit to never having been much of a radio listener, but a fair number of the songs included here don’t appear to have aged all that well. Considering how prominent Al was in the 1980s, it’s kind of strange that these were his only takes on Hall & Oates or Duran Duran, and not even of their better-known songs. Al had also spoofed “State of Shock” on AL-TV, which included a video of record executive Harvey Leeds singing it.
The take on Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is probably the best part of the medley, and Nena’s “99 Luftballons” was also an excellent candidate for a polka rearrangement due to its being in German.
Overall, I think daring to be stupid really paid off. Next week (or whenever I get around to it), it’ll be time for a polka party.