When Just For Laughs announced this year’s festival line-up would include a free outdoor “Weird Al” Yankovic concert, you could practically hear the collective cry of delight across town. Who better to entertain the masses than he who bridges the gap between pop music, social commentary, and comedy? Excitement was in the air, though the full extent of that excitement wasn’t evident until last night, when several thousand fans huddled together under a sea of umbrellas in an unrelenting downpour, refusing to leave Quartier Des Spectacles until they’d seen a good show. And boy, did they ever.

Weird Al took the stage shortly after 9 p.m., accordion at the ready and wearing one of his signature Hawaiian shirts, determined to get the crowd revved up. He launched into “Now That’s What I Call Polka!” – a toe-tapping number featuring snippets of everything from Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” to PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” Though the waterlogged audience applauded, it was clear they’d need more to chase the clouds away. So, following a brief video break, Al reemerged as a purple octopus with an ice cream cone hat to sing his Lady Gaga parody, “Perform This Way.” Mercifully, the rain let up as he continued with his 1985 ode to the absurd, “Dare To Be Stupid,” and then proceeded to slip into a fat suit and double chin to crotch-grab his way through another Yankovic classic, 1988’s “Fat”.

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Weird Al rocking the accordion in Montreal, July 21. Photo by Matthieu Deshayes

It was exactly what everyone had shown up for and yet strangely, the crowd – themselves noticeably White & Nerdy – did little more than sway or bob their heads as Al and his tight four-man band cranked out tune after tune. The atmosphere improved slightly when he mixed things up with an acoustic set, blending “Eat It” and “Lost on Jeopardy” with “I Love Rocky Road” and “Like a Surgeon,” but throughout the evening the most enthusiastic response seemed to come mostly from those closest to the stage.

Which begs the question – why the hesitancy to dance? Weird Al’s parodies cover four decades of the biggest hits in pop and rock music, many of which are regular crowd-pleasers in clubs and at weddings. With lyrics that often outshine those of the original songs they’re spoofing, how could several thousand Montrealers not find themselves whipped up into a gyrating frenzy? Why the palpable sense of hesitancy to let loose and dare to be stupid with someone who’s all but begging you to?

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Weird Al performing “Fat.” Photo by Matthieu Deshayes.

Was a language gap preventing the crowd from fully appreciating the playful lyrics? Had the rain simply tired everyone out? Or are people so used to enjoying his work in a more intimate setting – say, during a road trip with friends, or while hanging out in someone’s basement – that being grouped together felt odd? Audiences are accustomed to publicly rocking out to good music or laughing at a clever comedian. Perhaps it’s when the two experiences are merged that they clam up, uncertain of how best to respond.

Even if they never completely embraced the party atmosphere Al was trying hard to create, he certainly didn’t let it faze him. Donning a maple leaf-patterned blazer, he strutted around the stage for “Canadian Idiot” before moving on to “Word Crimes,” a delightfully scathing riff on Robin Thicke’s infamous “Blurred Lines” that takes aim at our constant misuse of English grammar and spelling. A song that reminds you of the best way to use an apostrophe while also making you laugh is a rare delight indeed.

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Weird Al under the rain. Photo by Matthieu Deshayes.

His zany personality and sharp wit, highlighted in those aforementioned video clips of his various appearances in film and animation over the years, earns Weird Al a place alongside the stars he’s spent his career lampooning. One particularly hilarious moment screened between costume changes showed him “interviewing” rapper Eminem through careful editing. The resulting repetition of Mathers’ uttering, “You know what I mean?” left the audience roaring in delight.

It’s worth pointing out that the audience was very much intergenerational. Adults who’d grown up in the ‘80s watching Al TV on MTV stood alongside those who only become aware of his existence when he parodied Lorde’s “Royals.” Retirees, Hipsters and tiny tots alike were all able to enjoy the content of the show – a testament to the artist’s lasting appeal and proof that JFL organizers were wise to book an act that could appeal to families as much as the comedy club regulars.

Perhaps the most impressive element of the tightly choreographed show was his unfaltering voice. Whether growling like Nirvana or hooting like Michael Jackson, the man has some serious pipes that held up extremely well over the course of the 90-minute extravaganza. By the time he stepped out in a black coat and beard to sing 1996’s “Amish Paradise,” the crowd had no choice but to believe his claims that he had nothing left in the tank as he exited like James Brown with a cape draped around his shoulders. After all that singing, how could he? Thankfully, he returned in fine form for an encore of “Yoda” that featured an unexpected a cappella/scat interlude. Though the crowd wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it, their deafening cheers made it clear that, come rain or come shine, Yankovic’s particular brand of weirdness was definitely worth waiting for.

Weird Al continues his Mandatory Fun tour this week with Sold Out shows in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. For tickets to his Maine and New Jersey shows, visit www.weirdal.com.

Photos courtesy of Mathieu Deshayes and Just for Laughs.

As you have probably heard, Weird Al Yankovic will be performing outdoors in Montreal tonight. Also, experiencing His Weirdness live won’t cost you a penny as the show is FREE!

This is both part of Just for Laughs and a stop on the Weird One’s Mandatory Fun tour. For many Montrealers, myself included, attendance is, well mandatory. This is also the case for out-of-towners who are heading to Montreal just for this show.

Now, while whatever songs Yankovic chooses to play will be great, there are five tunes I really hope to hear tonight in Place des Festivals. In no particular order, they are:

The Night Santa Went Crazy

While Wierd Al is known for his parodies, he also has an ample roster of original tunes. They are still funny, but funny on their own, without the need of a well-known tune. My favourite, by far, is The Night Santa Went Crazy.

This was the closing track on his 1996 album Bad Hair Day. It’s a take on our cultural obsession with violence and, as such, is quite dark.

Amish Paradise

Sometimes, Weird Al’s parodies are bigger hits in the long run than the original songs they were inspired by. Such is the case with Amish Paradise. It’s no wonder Coolio was initially upset that the Weird One chose this song to cover. I don’t think a parody of Fantastic Voyage would have gone over quite so well.

Word Crimes

This song from the Mandatory Fun album makes it possible to enjoy that tune everyone was humming a few summers ago without having to listen to Robin Thicke’s misogynist lyrics. Also, it’s about English grammar.

If that wasn’t enough, it’s the tune that let Weird Al show some true class in handling criticism. When people pointed out that his use of the word “spastic” was offensive, he responded with this:



Now this isn’t one of Al’s best tunes, but the film it comes from is a treasure. In fact, I was initially inspired to create media after watching it. It made the prospect of getting your voice out there seem possible, which the internet later turned into a reality.

I wonder if Weird Al ever contemplates the effect he has had on culture and people. Maybe it’s just go-go-go.

The Saga Begins

If you want to know what happens in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace without having to sit through over two hours of CGI animals farting, Jar Jar and trade negotiations, this is the ticket. It’s the whole plot summed up in one tune before spoiler alerts were even a thing.

While I am also partial to Weird Al’s other Star Wars-themed tune Yoda, this one has the added advantage of being set to Don Maclean’s classic American Pie, a song which a bunch of the people who listened to Al’s 1999 album Running With Scissors were apparently unfamiliar with. When Madonna released a cover of American Pie a year later, some wondered why she was covering a Weird Al song from the year before and changing the lyrics.

Other tunes I’d like to hear tonight include: Foils, You Don’t Love Me Anymore, Smells Like Nirvana, one of the Michael Jackson or Madonna parodies and, of course, a polka! Hell, maybe he’ll play a medley of all of his polkas!

Are there any Weird Al tunes you hope to hear tonight?

* Weird Al Yankovic performs in Place des Festivals tonight, July 21st, at 9pm, FREE!