The Phantom Tollbooth

Running With Scissors
 Artist:  "Weird Al" Yankovic
 Label:  Volcano Records
 
"Weird Al" Yankovic isn't as funny as he was when I was thirteen years old.  That's not to say his latest album, Running With Scissors,  isn't funny.  It just doesn't measure up to the soundtracks of my pre-teen years, such as Off the Deep End or Dare to be Stupid.
 
The first thing you notice about Al is that he's shaved off his characteristic mustache, grown his hair longer and straighter, lost the Hawaiian shirts, and had his vision corrected.  Al now looks like an eerie combination of Alanis Morissette and Marilyn Manson.  Presumably this is so he won't be as easily recognized in public, but one has to wonder how many times he's addressed as "Miss Morissette."
 
Thank goodness the music is still good.  Running With Scissors opens with  The Phantom Menace set to Don McLean's "American Pie," and it's a side-splitter.  Over the next twelve tracks, Al parodies Barenaked Ladies ("One Week" becomes the rather crude "Jerry Springer"), Puff Daddy ("It's All About the Benjamins" is transformed into "It's All About the Pentiums"), and Offspring ("Pretty Fly for a White Guy" becomes "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi").
 
The original songs on this album include the witty "My Baby's In Love With Eddie Vedder," the theme to Al's short-lived Saturday morning  TV show, the eleven minute stream of consciousness "Albuquerque," and the highly disturbing "Truck Drivin' Song":
 
            Oh, I always gotta check my lipstick  in that rear-view mirror
            And my pink angora sweater fits so tight
            I'm jammin' gears and haulin' freight
            Well, I sure hope my seams are straight
            Lord, don't let my mascara run tonight
 
 The song is sung in a manly baritone, leading the listener to only one conclusion.
 
No, Al's not as funny as he was when I was thirteen, but should he be? His  target audience is obviously pre-teen boys, and he does another exceptional  job making us laugh with Running With Scissors.
 
Michial Farmer  (8/11/99)