Jonah Ray brings emotive passion to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s classic song in his new cover, “Welcome to (Amish) Paradise.”
“Welcome to (Amish) Paradise” – Jonah Ray
Comedy isn’t meant to be covered. You can find comics whose acts are just impressions of the greats, or if you scrub YouTube, you can find a few people who have uploaded covers of Tenacious D’s hardest rocking tracks, but comedy is often something that original artists maintain nearly complete ownership of. There are no Jeff Buckleys doing “Hallelujah” in comedy. That makes Jonah Ray’s (of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame) new EP You Can’t Call Me Al so strange. The EP (available now via Asian Man Records) features the comic, actor, and former musician covering a handful of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s original songs and parodies. His take on “Amish Paradise” (titled “Welcome to (Amish) Paradise“) is an infectious ode to the Parody Prince, giving the song the feel of Bomb the Music Industry’s DIY pop-punk.
While the idea of someone releasing an EP of punk covers of Yankovic’s songs sounds strange on paper, it’s also important to remember how punk Yankovic’s music is. Despite it being as much a rite of passage for a young pop star to have a song spoofed by Yankovic, he’s also offering some form of speaking truth to power, as Brian Posehn demonstrated in his special The Fartist. Even if you’re someone who hates any song he’s parodied, you can still love Yankovic’s take. As he’s entered this sort of legendary status, Yankovic’s music has sometimes eclipsed the originals and some have formed an emotional connection to it (as Ray demonstrates to close the EP after his “Eat It” cover). “Amish Paradise” is one of those songs. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed seeing Yankovic perform it live, and it’s almost more likely that you’ll cry from emotion instead of from laughing.
Ray’s take is unsurprisingly similar to 90’s pop-punk greats like Green Day [i], but he’s also informed by more modern artists like Jeff Rosenstock, who benefit from a plethora of influences, including more alternative-bent indie rock. Being acoustically driven, the song wouldn’t sound out of place alongside artists like Rosenstock, and he delivers the song very straightforwardly. He sounds earnest as he delivers quips like “Tonight, we’re gonna party like its 1699” or “I’ve been milking and plowing so long/Even Ezekiel thinks that my mind is gone.” Most people outside of comedy don’t really notice, but a great joke is similar to a great song in that you can assign so much meaning to it and hear it over and over again. When he delivers what may be Yankovic’s most memorable lines in the whole song, he screams it with the same level of intensity as you’d expect from a Modern Life is War song.
A local boy kicked me in the butt last week
I just smiled at him and turned the other cheek
I really don’t care, in fact, I wish him well
CAUSE I’LL BE LAUGHING MY HEAD OFF WHEN HE’S BURNING IN HELL
Ray gives the track the best level of care, and he recognizes what so many reflections on the twentieth anniversary of Enema of the State have tried to put into words in the past month or so: stupid jokes really matter. Sometimes the silliest things become what we most associate with our memories and are just as important to the moments in our lives as the “serious” pop culture we consume.
Watch: “Welcome to (Amish) Paradise” – Jonah Ray
Partially due to the nature of his art, “Weird Al” Yankovic is the type of musician where it seems like no one could reinterpret his work, but Jonah Ray’s You Can’t Call Me Al EP challenges that by offering a very genuine take on his work. While comedy is intensely personal in a way that often can’t be repeated by someone else, Ray one-ups that argument by showing that great comedy is important on a deeply personal level. Releasing the EP with the legendary label Asian Man Records just reiterates that point.
[i] This comes as no surprise since “Welcome to (Amish) Paradise” is an obvious parody of Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise.”
? © Aaron Rapoport