Welcome to Milwaukee Record’s Weird Al Week, sponsored by Lakefront Brewery! Want daily Al-related articles culminating in a recap of Al’s May 24 show at the Marcus Performing Arts Center? You’re in the right place! Oh, and because this is our third Weird Al Week, we’re calling it Weird Al Week (In 3-D)! You know, like the album!
Just over four years ago, Milwaukeeans (some of us, anyway) celebrated their first Weird Al Week, culminating in a pair of superb concerts at the Pabst Theater. While the whole experience brought on an avalanche of emotions, nostalgia played a huge part, and looking around at the crowds at those shows, they skewed undeniably to my age group, kids who’d been with Al for most of his career and refused to grow up. While his career was arguably going through a revitalization at the time, why weren’t there more actual kids in the audience?
That’s not to say that Weird Al music is solely meant for children, of course, or else he certainly wouldn’t have brought Emo Philips along as his opening act. However, I’m guessing that in the ’80s, a large percentage of the adults attending Yankovic concerts were humoring their offspring. You can’t put the blame on parents; I discovered the Yankovic catalog via my peers at school, not my folks. So what happened? Did Al’s sense of humor age along with him? Are kids growing up so fast these days that they don’t take to goofy puns and gross food jokes? Is the human race doomed?
My faith in humanity was somewhat restored at the Strings Attached Tour stop in 2019, when the young girl who happened to be sitting next to me at the Miller High Life Theatre was at least as animated and enthused as I was, while the adult accompanying her seemed utterly nonplussed by the proceedings, as my parents undoubtedly would’ve been in the ’80s. But it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that any kid I know found their way into Weird Al fandom. I had to find out how this had happened.
The kid in question was Jane Eckerman, age 9. She’ll be joining me and her dad, Brian, for her first concert ever at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts this week. I traveled to their place in my hometown of Janesville and we talked for nearly an hour about all things “Weird.” I came away feeling like maybe the kids are alright after all, and that at least in some cases, Al’s music can even be a bridge between generations, as long as both parties are sufficiently weird.
Milwaukee Record: Would you say you listen to a lot of music?
Jane Eckerman: I do listen to a lot of music. Dad shows me music all the time.
MR: What kind of music did you listen to when you were a baby?
JE: I liked to listen to “Happy Jack” by The Who, I liked to listen a lot to “Bike” by Pink Floyd, and I also liked to listen to “Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys, because when I would hear the song “Bike,” I would want Dad to play it over and over again, because I loved the song so much. I would say, “Dad, play it again! Dad, play it again!” He would get very tired. … I [also] loved the Beatles and I still do.
MR: What about those other songs, are those still favorites?
JE: I don’t know…I don’t listen to it much, but sometimes when the song “Bike” comes on Dad reminds me, “you used to love this song when you were little,” so I start to remember that and I start to like it a little bit more.
MR: That makes sense. Do you have a favorite band nowadays?
JE: I actually have a lot. I’m very into Weezer. They have a new album, it’s [called SZNZ:] Spring. It’s really good. There’s just one song on it that Dad likes ‘cause he’s very picky.
MR: You’re not as picky as him?
JE: No, I’m very picky also…I like to arrange things and make [them] in a nice order.
MR: Hmm, where’d you get that from?
JE: You know where! D-A-D. He likes to have things in a nice order. And yet there are still albums on the floor.
MR: Well, nobody’s perfect. So what about the other kids in your class, what do they listen to?
JE: Well, not a lot of people listen to old music any more. They always listen to, like, if a new song comes out, everyone wants to listen to it. Either they like it or don’t. My teacher actually plays Harry Potter when we’re doing something. Some people in my class like rap, a lot of people in my class like Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish, like me. That’s really all I know about what music they like, I don’t really know.
MR: Do you remember the first time you ever heard Weird Al?
JE: Well, actually I do. The first song I ever heard by him was when he covered “Africa.” He did it in the video with Weezer.
MR: Oh yeah, I think I remember seeing that.
JE: That’s the first song I ever heard by him. And I even said, “This is weird, I don’t like it,” but his name is “Weird Al,” so of course! But then when Dad started showing me more, I started liking him a lot better, and now I really like him.
MR: Okay, because your dad is also in a band…
JE: Slick And The Burnouts. He also used to be in a band called Schlock. He has a magnet of it outside in the garage on his mini-fridge. I used to start laughing when I saw pictures of him with long hair, shaking it everywhere. It made me laugh so much, ‘cause he used to have long hair.
MR: What kind of music would you say Slick And The Burnouts play?
JE: They play old music. They play Johnny Cash, they do Willie Nelson…I like the song…“Lonesome Town” by Ricky Nelson…
MR: How would you say that compares to the music that Weird Al plays? What kind of music is his?
JE: Weird Al plays hilarious music. He does parodies. That’s what he’s known for. I like the song “Perform This Way.” I actually know it better than the original song by Lady Gaga.
MR: Do you think Weird Al’s version is better than Lady Gaga’s?
MR: What about the Michael Jackson ones he parodies, who’s better?
JE: No offense but I like Michael Jackson.
MR: No offense taken! That’d be a tall order.
JE: When I hear “Fat,” sometimes it gets stuck in my head and then I get really annoyed. I still like the song, it’s funny, but I think I like “Bad” a little better. Just a little better. I love Michael Jackson and Weird Al.
MR: I grew up on both of them, so I’m with you. You’ve seen some of Weird Al’s music videos, right?
JE: I’ve seen a lot.
MR: What was your favorite—do you have a favorite?
JE: No, I don’t.
MR: Do you have a favorite costume that he puts on in a video?
JE: Well, like I said, “Perform This Way,” I like that one. He puts on a lot of costumes in that one. Well actually, he’s not the one who puts on the costume, he puts his face onto a lady’s body and then the lady puts on a costume.
MR: Ah okay, I don’t think I’ve seen that one. I should’ve done more research for this interview.
JE: Yeah, you should look up “Perform This Way” by Weird Al.
MR: Okay. Now, thinking about the old Weird Al versus recent Weird Al, he used to have a mustache, and he used to wear glasses, and he doesn’t do that any more. Which way do you think he looks better?
JE: Umm, hmm, I can’t say. I think he looks good both ways. He also used to have short hair and glasses when he was a teenager, like in the song “White & Nerdy,” that was probably a few years ago because he was a teenager. And now he’s like 50.
MR: And then there’s “Amish Paradise,” where his hair is like…
JE: Oh yeah, I like “Amish Paradise,” that’s a really funny video.
MR: So, you said that your dad looks funny in long hair, what about Weird Al? Do you think he should cut his hair?
JE: No. Well, my dad had hair longer than I have right now.
MR: Does your dad have any Hawaiian shirts like Weird Al wears?
JE: No, but actually his friend Jason does! Whenever he comes to our house he wears a different silly Hawaiian shirt, like with skulls on it or gorillas.
MR: That’s total Weird Al style.
JE: It is! I think he wore one in “Eat It?”
MR: I’m guessing he will at the show we’re seeing, too.
JE: I hope so.
MR: Because sometimes he does tours where he does a lot of costume changes, but this show’s gonna be more about just playing the music.
JE: Dad told me he’s only gonna do originals, like ones he made, not parodies. I wish, but it’s still gonna be good, because Weird Al’s awesome.
MR: Let’s talk about the songs that aren’t parodies. Do you have any favorites of those?
JE: “Let Me Be Your Hog.”
MR: Oh really?
JE: That’s not a song; it’s a little…part of it.
MR: It counts!
JE: But it’s really funny!
MR: So, you’ve seen your dad’s band play. Is that the only band that you’ve seen play live?
JE: I don’t know…I’ve probably only been to my dad’s concerts, but I have been to show of a famous comedian, her name is Tig Notaro.
MR: Oh really!
JE: She’s really funny.
MR: Yeah she’s great.
JE: You’ve heard of her?
MR: Yeah! You know, there’s going to be a comedian opening up for Weird Al at this concert.
JE: There is?
MR: Yeah, his name’s Emo Philips.
MR: So this is going to be your first big concert.
MR: Are there any other bands that you hope to see in concert one of these days?
JE: Definitely Weezer. I love Weezer, Weezer’s awesome. I also wanna go see Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. Oh! I also wanna see Paul McCartney.
MR: I’m really hoping he comes back to Wisconsin, too.
JE: He actually sounds different now that he’s older, but still. I think he’s great, he’s one of my favorite Beatles.
MR: Did you know that Weird Al used to do a parody of a Paul McCartney song?
JE: He did?
MR: Do you know the song “Live And Let Die?”
MR: You might recognize it if you heard it. Weird Al did a version called “Chicken Pot Pie.”
JE: That sounds like him. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s actually a song he did because that sounds like Weird Al. “Chicken Pot Pie.”
MR: He has a lot of songs about food, have you noticed that?
JE: Yeah he does. He has “Eat It,” he has…that song, he has…
MR: I’ve got a list right here. I was gonna go through this list to see if you think Weird Al has good taste in food.
JE: Oh, he has “Lasagna!”
MR: “Lasagna,” that’s one. Do you like lasagna?
JE: I’ve never tried lasagna.
MR: Never tried lasagna??
JE: No. I hear it tastes like spaghetti.
MR: Kind of…
JE: I don’t like spaghetti.
MR: I think it’s better than spaghetti, personally.
JE: Okay! I’ll take your word for it.
MR: What about…do you love rocky road ice cream?
JE: Yes, I do like rocky road! That’s a good song, it’s funny.
MR: What about Oreo cookies, do you know the one about those? It’s called “The White Stuff.”
JE: You know what, a lot of people do this, my dad doesn’t: I take an Oreo, I take the top off, and then I scrape out all the inside, and then I dip the chocolate into milk. My dad just eats it whole, or dips it in the milk whole. He doesn’t take it apart.
Brian Eckerman: I don’t play around with it.
JE: Excuse me? I don’t play with my food. It’s called, eating it properly.
MR: Have you heard the song “Taco Grande?”
JE: YES! “Taco Grande,” that’s a funny one.
MR: Are you a fan of tacos?
BE: Wait, you’re not a fan of tacos??
JE: Oh, I thought you said ‘afraid of tacos!’
JE: No, I like tacos. My favorite kind are my dad’s. When someone mentions tacos, I always say this: When we were going to Green Lake once, we went to Taco Bell, you remember this Dad. And Dad said, “Do you have any chicken tacos?” to the lady and she said, “Not really.” And then I whispered in the car, “It’s a yes or no question.”
BE: We were dying laughing all the way to Green Lake.
MR: I would be afraid of those tacos. Okay, what about Spam? Have you ever had it?
JE: No. I don’t want to. I’ve heard the song, it’s really funny, I’ve actually seen Spam at Woodman’s, and whenever I see the word “spam” I say “Dad, spam!”
MR: And then you get the Weird Al song stuck in your head?
MR: He’s got one called “Grapefruit Diet.”
JE: I’ve never heard that.
MR: Okay. … What about “My Bologna?”
JE: Yes I like “My Bologna,” that’s a funny one.
MR: But do you ever eat bologna sandwiches?
JE: No. I don’t know what bologna tastes like. I like summer sausage.
MR: What about spuds? Would you say you’re addicted to spuds?
JE: I don’t know what that is.
MR: That’s just another word for potatoes.
JE: I like red potatoes, the little ones. I like when they’re cooked and they’re cut and they have pepper on ‘em and they’re greasy.
BE: So are you addicted to ‘em?
MR: Have you ever watched the movie UHF?
JE: Yes! That’s the only movie I ever saw with Weird Al…I don’t like the part where the guy cuts his fingers off with the wood chopper. I don’t like blood at all. When there’s a movie with blood, I say, “Dad! Who do you think you are! Do you have a problem or something? Why in the world would you show this to us, this isn’t appropriate!” Then I march upstairs.
MR: Well, UHF isn’t very bloody, just that little part.
JE: Yeah. But I like the part where he’s Indiana Jones, that’s actually the first part.
MR: Have you ever tried a Twinkie wiener sandwich? Do you remember that part in the movie?
JE: I’ve heard that he made up a Twinkie wiener sandwich…I’ve even seen this video on YouTube, Weird Al was on Hot Ones, he said he made up a Twinkie wiener sandwich and how to make it. It doesn’t sound good to me. You split a Twinkie in half, you put a wiener in there, and then you put spray cheese on it?
JE: Doesn’t look good! I’ve never tried spray cheese but it looks gross! I don’t think I’d like a Twinkie with a wiener. I’ve never tried a Twinkie, but whenever I hear the word “Twinkie” I always say “Dad, it’s a Twinkie, you know who likes those!” I always think of Egon from Ghostbusters.
MR: I think Twinkies were a lot more popular in the ‘80s than they are these days.
JE: I’ve actually seen them in grocery stores but I’ve never seen anyone eat them.
MR: See, the only way I’ll even eat a Twinkie is as a Twinkie wiener sandwich.
JE: Well something’s wrong with you.
MR: How can you say that when you haven’t even tried it?
JE: How does a wiener, a Twinkie, and spray cheese go together? It’s a good prank, but…
MR: Well, somebody at some point thought “Hey, let’s put peanut butter and chocolate together” when nobody had heard of it before…
JE: BECAUSE THAT’S DELICIOUS.
MR: Well maybe a Twinkie wiener sandwich is too.
JE: I don’t think you’ve ever even tried it, either.
MR: I have!
JE: And right after, you threw up?
MR: No, I kept it down!
JE: And then you had constant diarrhea?
MR: Well, I don’t remember for sure, I have to admit. I can’t say for sure how my body reacted the next day, but I ate it. And I think I’m going to have another one next week when I see UHF again.
JE: And then you are going to have constant diarrhea! Wait, there’s that saying: “Beans beans the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot…” But that’s not about diarrhea and it’s not even about cheese so I don’t even know why I thought about it.
MR: Maybe put beans on the sandwich…
JE: Then you’d throw up and have constant diarrhea at the same time.
MR: That’s the deluxe version. So have you ever been to Milwaukee before?
JE: Yes, actually I’ve been there quite a few times, because my aunt lives there.
MR: Is there anything in Milwaukee that you know of that you’d like to do? Like, before the Weird Al concert?
JE: Um, my mom, she likes to go places, she likes to see things, she loves murals. Like at the Looking Glass, there’s that mural of Blackhawk. We actually learned about him today. We’re actually learning about Janesville’s history. Blackhawk was an important Native American who used to live here. Native Americans were the first ones who lived here, actually, and there were a bunch of trees and plants everywhere. It looked a lot different here than now. And we’re getting off track. Again.
MR: Well I can’t disagree with you there. We actually have a new mural in Milwaukee that they just finished painting; have you ever heard of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the basketball player?
JE: No. I’ve heard of Lebron James…
MR: Oh my goodness. Easier to remember?
JE: Yeah, I already forgot the name you just said.
MR: It took me a while to remember, I’ll tell you that.
JE: Also, I’m not really into basketball, because you know why? I’m not good at it. I do swimming lessons, I do piano lessons, on the same day.
MR: How long have you been taking piano lessons?
JE: Probably since I was seven. My sister inspired me, probably, because she did piano lessons. So I got into piano and I’m actually going to be doing a recital, some time this month.
MR: Oh, cool. Well you know, another instrument that has keys kind of like a piano is the accordion. Have you ever tried that at all?
JE: No, I’ve heard of the accordion…
MR: That’s what Weird Al plays!
JE: Oh, yeah! Like I mentioned, he was on Hot Ones, and he actually played accordion on there, a children’s practice play accordion.
MR: What is Hot Ones?
JE: Hot Ones! It’s a series where this guy…Celebrities come on his show, and they eat really spicy chicken, and they talk about stuff that’s been going on in their careers. Weird Al on there says, “Why did you do this to me??”
MR: Because the chicken was so spicy?
BE: His was tofu, though.
MR: Oh yeah, it would have to be.
JE: He says, “I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS!” And then he gets up at like the third or the seventh level of chicken…
MR: Or tofu.
JE: “Seventh level of chicken,” that’s a funny sentence to say.
MR: That could be a band name!
JE: NO! That’s probably the worst band name ever. But I’m probably the first person on Earth to say “seventh level of chicken.”
MR: So, what’s your biggest hope for this concert?
JE: I hope he’ll ask, “Who is the youngest person in this audience?” I’ll definitely raise my hand. I’ve actually thought about this before…I even thought about someone raising their hand and being like, “I’m 24!” And then I raise my hand and say, “I’m 9!” and then he says, “We’ve got a winner! What’s your name?” And I say, “Jane Faith Eckerman!” proudly. And I have this dream where he gives me the microphone and says, “Would you like to give a speech to the audience?” and I say, “NOOOOO. I’d like to go back to my seat, but nice to meet you, Weird Al!”
BE: Or maybe you’d say, “LET ME BE YOUR HOG!”
JE: Ooohh!! I might say that, but right after it I’d say, “I regret saying that to you, please don’t ask for a pet hog because I’m not available.”
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