He’s the man who, unbelievably, is over 60 years old, yet somehow hasn’t lost a single step — not when it comes to his songwriting, his wit, and sure as hey-all not when it comes to rocking the accordion.
That’s right, we’re talking “Weird Al” Yankovic.
But despite the fact that he continues to dominate the world, he REALLY dominated the ’80s. The man was an icon. And while his originals are equally witty and impressively musical, he built his monolithic career on the incredible strength of his wordplay, intelligence and satire.
In other words: his parodies.
With a parody catalogue so immense and full of pure genius, it’s tough to narrow it down to just 10 songs, even when we’re sticking only to parodies released in the ’80s. I mean, damn, there are just so many. No matter how many classics you pick, there will be one you miss.
That’s why we didn’t include originals. That list will have to wait for another day.
Besides having to be a “Weird Al” parody from the ’80s, criteria include best wordplay, how it plays off the original and number of times I go: “oh man, this is great!”
So put on your Hawaiian shirts and relive the best “Weird Al” parody songs from the 1980s, in order, from 10 to 1.
10. I Think I’m a Clone Now — 1988
I vaguely remember my oldest brother’s friend whipping her hair back and forth to the Tiffany classic, I think we’re alone now, which was of course itself a cover of the Tommy James & the Shondells original. But, c’mon, we all know Tiffany gets the cred.
But what I remember even more is Weird Al’s somewhat sci-fi and yet also deep philosophical exploration of the nature of existence. I mean, it’s basically someone wondering if they’re actually a clone, and what that means for their existence—ultimately culminating in becoming famous and being a guest on Oprah. So turns out being a clone is actually pretty cool.
Part of what makes I Think I’m a Clone Now so great is the earnestness with which Yankovic delivers the lyrics, missing the goofy voices he often invoked in the ’80s. Clone also gets bonus points for being one of the few breakout Weird Al songs that didn’t have an accompanying video (although there are many, many fan videos out there).
9. (This Song’s Just) Six Words Long — 1988
This is like The Onion headline of songs for Weird Al—it all hits you right up front with its sheer hilarity and brilliance.
This is where Weird Al’s true genius is really on display, taking the essence of the original and turning it into a joke that is both just downright funny but also perfectly aware of the hidden humor in the original that would otherwise be missed.
Even George Harrison himself, whose original hit I Got My Mind Set On You was the inspiration for Six Words Long, surely had to chuckle at this one.
The only reason this gem isn’t higher on the list is because, true to the original, it loses steam after a bit. The joke, as brilliant as it is, runs its course after the first minute or so.
I only said, “Oh man this is great!” a few times before I had to switch to the next track on this bad boy.
8. The Rye or the Kaiser — 1984
The first of several food songs on this list, it was almost inevitable that Weird Al would take on the Rocky theme song and anthem for pretty much anytime in life you need to get pumped up, Eye of the Tiger.
Weird Al’s excellent wordplay is once again on display here:
Try the rye or the kaiser, they’re on special tonight
If you want, you can have an appetizer
Frickin’ brilliant. Also, it makes me hungry.
7. Girls just want to have lunch — 1985
Weird Al was in full goofball mode on this one, complete with his nasal, screwball singing, which really helped to define his rise and mid-80s persona.
And it’s just straight-up classic Weird Al, complete with fart-like sounds during the xylophone solo.
It’s the perfect parody of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, an ’80s staple that was begging for the Yankovic treatment. And it really gets to the heart of what all women actually want, regardless of any other defining quality: not breakfast or dinner or brunch—lunch.
6. I Love Rocky Road — 1983
Weird Al has become really, really talented at creating music that so closely mirrors the original song that you wonder if it was simply lifted (it’s not, he’s just that good). He also now plays pretty much any instrument in existence and has become a very good singer.
But sometimes I miss the days when the accordion was a stand in for guitar.
I Love Rocky Road is one of the most clever puns Al every came up with, and dare I say makes you want to dance even more than Joan Jett’s original, I Love Rock and Roll.
And the low-budget video is some of Weird Al’s finest comedy work.
Yes, Al, I will have another triple scoop with you.
5. Living With a Hernia — 1986
Not only one of the best Weird Al parodies of the 1980s, but one of his best music videos ever (sorry for the weird side-by-side video above, due to licensing that’s all we could embed—you can see the real video here.)
The many examples of how people get hernias—lifting heavy groceries, playing basketball, getting food out of the oven—are just one aspect of Yankovic’s pure comedy in Living With a Hernia, which parodies James Brown’s Living in America (not to be confused with the Eddie Murphy movie of the same name).
One of the finest moments of both the song and video is when Weird Al goes into an explanation of the different types of hernias one can get. It’s not even a joke, just a straightforward list of real medical terms, but it’s hilarious.
4. Money for Nothing / Beverly Hillbillies — 1989
If you’re like me, a good portion of your childhood was spent watching Weird Al’s quintessential ’80s movie, U.H.F.
Somehow, some film executive gave the green light to provide Weird Al feature-length screen time, and boy did he deliver with a movie that took aim at all things ’80s—not to mention was just stupidly funny.
The dreamlike sequence where Weird Al falls into a perfect parody of Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing simply had to be on this list, if not for its sheer genius, then for the fact that it represents U.H.F.
He really nails this one to the point where if you’re not listening closely enough you would think it’s the original. Sing it, Al!
3. Another One Rides the Bus — 1981
Weird Al was once turned away by a recording studio, according to the clip above, before recording My Bologna in the bathroom of a college radio station.
Yankovic’s rise was unlikely to everyone except for anyone who likes both music and laughing, which is basically the general population.
When he premiered Another One Rides the Bus, it was performed live on the Dr. Demento show, which catapulted Weird Al to underground success and eventually to becoming an icon of the ’80s and beyond. (And the Dr. Demento show was also a formative cultural force that deserves its own post another day.)
It’s maybe the most raw parody you can get your hands on from Weird Al, at times verging on punk rock in its energy. And it is rightfully only bested by a small handful of ’80s parodies.
2. Eat It — 1984
Weird Al is known for getting permission from artists to do all of his parodies, not just to avoid getting sued, but out of respect for the artist. And when Michael Jackson said “yes” to parodying his iconic Beat It, it was clear Yankovic was on to something.
At the time, Michael Jackson was truly the king of pop, and Yankovic found the perfect way to parody him with one his greatest tricks—talking about food.
Weird Al is also one of those comedians that is clean without it being a bang you over the head thing. He can sing about tuna casserole and make it hilarious, and that talent is on full display with Eat It.
Recently Weird Al decided not to perform any of his Jackson parodies during live performances, and for really great reasons. He didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable following the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. Just another example of being a great artist and a great man.
1. Yoda — 1985
Only Weird Al could take a song about cross-dressing (The Kinks’ Lola) and turn it into an anthem about Star Wars.
And really, was there ever any doubt in your mind that this would be number one on this list?
There is no try, and it almost feels like Weird Al just sat down and belted this one out without trying, and has been doing so ever since.
And when I saw him perform at Red Rocks earlier this year, it’s clear his fans have been doing so too—there’s nothing like 9,000 people singing along to “Yoda” to make you realize what an impact Weird Al’s ’80s parodies truly had.