June 10, 2012

Jimmy Fallon and Weird Al

Left: Jimmy Fallon opening for Weird Al in 2002.  Right: Weird Al as guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2009.

Ok, I know we've been posting a lot about Jimmy Fallon lately, but in our defense there's really not much else on TV right now, and he does have a big album coming out next week, so we're kind of in Jimmy Fallon mode.  And while watching his YouTube Presents concert last night, something dawned on us: It seems that Jimmy Fallon was heavily influenced by comedy singer "Weird Al" Yankovic.  Longtime followers of this blog know that not only are we big fans of Jimmy Fallon, but of Weird Al as well.  (Check out our previous Weird Al-related posts here.)  And while we knew that Jimmy was always a fan of Al's work, we never realized just how big an influence he really was to him...

Though most people think of Jimmy Fallon as a late night talk show host who did great impressions on Saturday Night Live, music has always been an important part of his act.  When we saw Jimmy live during his College Tour before Late Night started, he sang many comedic songs in addition to his stand-up.  In fact, back in 2002 he released a Grammy nominated album entitled The Bathroom Wall, which contained a collection of some of his best early stand-up bits and funny songs. And of course, next Tuesday Jimmy will release his second album, Blow Your Pants Off, which is made up of his best musical sketches from the show, as well as a few new songs.

"Weird Al" Yankovic has been making comedy music for over 30 years, releasing his first self-titled album back in 1983 and his most recent album, Alpocalypse just last year.  Over the last 3 decades, he has parodied  a myriad of  musical artists, everyone from Michael Jackson and Madonna, to Eminem and Lady Gaga.  Though he's most famous for his parody songs, about half of each album are original compositions, which usually parody the style of a particular artist, but not one song in particular.  Most albums also contain a polka medley, a medley of popular songs sung in a polka style.

When Weird Al was a guest on Late Night a few years ago, Jimmy talked about how his first concert was Weird Al's Dare to be Stupid tour, and that he used to listen to Weird Al all the time as a kid.  And in his Rolling Stone magazine cover feature, it says of Jimmy's childhood, "As a kid, he spent hours in his Saugerties, New York, bedroom, working on impressions, listening to Weird Al, Dr. Demento, and audio recordings of SNL episodes, and playing guitar."  The article later mentions, "...[Jimmy] became obsessed with Dr. Demento and Weird Al - the first comedy his sister found too strange to enjoy".  Like Weird Al, Jimmy often does comedic parodies of popular songs.  But while Weird Al does huge, full length parodies, Jimmy usually does a series of short mini-parodies about one particular topic.  When Jimmy was a cast member of Saturday Night Live from 1998-2004, he would often perform  these mini-parodies during Weekend Update.  Here's a clip of Jimmy on SNL singing a series of short parodies about the opening of Star Wars.

The last parody in the clip above, "Livin' La Vida Yoda" is particularly reminscent of Weird Al's parody of The Kinks' "Lola" entitled "Yoda".  (The song starts about the 23 second mark.  This video also includes the "Yoda Chant", a Weird Al concert tradition where towards the end of the song, Al and the band start chanting random things in perfect unison, before concluding the song.)

On Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy continued to do parodies, often performing longer song parodies  in costume rather than the series of songs on just guitar.  But while Weird Al avoids singing about topical subjects to stay timeless, since Jimmy has a nightly talk show, he'll often do parodies about what's going on in the news, such as his parody of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" about Tebow-mania, his parody of Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" about Linsanity, or this parody of Justin Bieber's "Baby" about Bieber's paternity scandal:

Jimmy and Weird Al also both have a love of television shows. Weird Al has done so many songs about TV shows that he released an entire compilation album entitled "The TV Album".  Here's his first TV-related song from his debut album, "Ricky", a parody of Tony Basil's "Mickey" about the classic TV show I Love Lucy:

Jimmy has also done many TV shows parodies, those his are usually non-musical.  So far, Jimmy has parodied The Hills, Real Housewives, Glee, Lost, Jersey Shore, and most recently,  Downton Abbey:

Not only does Weird Al sing songs about TV shows, but he often sings parodies of songs using the lyrics of classic TV theme songs.  Weird Al sang The Brady Bunch theme to tune of "The Safety Dance" and The Beverly Hillbillies theme as a parody of Dire Straits's "Money for Nothing".  Here's a really old live performance from 1984 of Weird Al's "Brady Bunch". (The audio is pretty bad at the beginning, but it's fine once Al starts singing around the 40 second mark. The first half of the song is about random TV shows, the second half is the Brady Bunch theme.) After that is the official music video for Wierd Al's "Beverly Hillbillies/Money for Nothing".

While not direct parodies of other songs, Jimmy Fallon has sung classic TV show themes in other styles as well.  Here's the theme from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as sung by Neil Young, the theme from Charles in Charge as sung by Bob Dylan, and the theme from Reading Rainbow as sung by The Doors.

This last Doors performance seems to be heavily influenced by Weird Al's recent style parody of The Doors entitled "Craigslist".

In addition to parody songs, both men seem to enjoy crafting intricate comedic medleys of popular songs.  What's interesting about these medleys is that they're not changing the words or the tunes of the songs, but they still manage to make them funny.  As I previously mentioned, most of Weird Al's albums contain his signature polka medley, such as "Polka Face" off his most recent album:
Comedy Central Stand-Up

While Jimmy doesn't play the accordion or do polka, he has teamed up with Justin Timberlake three times to perform their "History of Rap" medleys:

Earlier in his career, Jimmy also used to perform a comedic medley of popular songs.   One of the signature bits of his stand-up shows was he would sing a medley of 80's songs while the beat of MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" would play:  Here's a low quality YouTube video of the bit from the Concert for New York.

Aside from their similar musical styles, Jimmy and Al also seem to kind of be friends.  Jimmy actually was the opening act for one of Weird Al's concerts back in 2002 and he's had Al on Late Night a few times as an interview guest, musical guest, and just to sit in with The Roots (as pictured to the left).  He even has a character on the show named Weird Al Roker, who sings parody songs about the weather.

While Jimmy and Al both have distinct, unique comedy styles, in our opinion Weird Al has definitely had a huge influence on Jimmy.  As huge fans Weird Al, it's been fun to see how his influence has helped shape Jimmy's career, and we look forward to seeing how Al might inspire Jimmy next!

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