For years “Weird Al” Yankovic has been making people laugh with his song parodies. If you say “Weird Al” many people start busting out in their favorite song from his huge body of work. From songs like White and Nerdy,” “Yoda,” “Amish Paradise,” “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Fat,” and “The Saga Begins” fans of Al can tell you about a certain memory that comes to mind when they think of that song.
When I was working at my job in college one of my best friends played “Amish Paradise” on the speaker system for the whole store to hear. Employees and customers were all entertained as I saw many chuckle at the lyrics of the song.
Now while artists who “Weird Al” has done parodies of are no longer in the entertainment industry Yankovic keeps putting out hits. Last week he came out with his fourteenth studio album, “Mandatory Fun.” (Buy the album here!)
Along with the release of this album Yankovic has produced videos to showcase each day to celebrate his latest creation. These new tracks and videos are already going viral. I had the honor of talking with Al about “Mandatory Fun,” fatherhood, and more.
Art Eddy: First off I want to say congratulations on “Mandatory Fun.” It is an outstanding album. I listened to all of it last night. I love the fact that you are releasing videos each day on YouTube to celebrate the release of the album. What made you do that?
“Weird Al” Yankovic: I thought that it was a good way to really bring attention to it. I wanted to make it an event this week. My kind of material and comedy is burnt very quickly. It is not like a traditional record that can stay on the chart for weeks or months at a time. People enjoy my stuff, but it is consumed very quickly. So I figured if I can make each of my videos go viral for a day and bring a lot of attention to it that would be a good way to do it.
AY: There is not that much you can do to police that really. I try to do what I can to keep things under wraps, but ultimately the internet is what it is. You just have to make the best of it. That is one of the reasons why I didn’t include the videos along with the CD this time. I knew that would leak as well. That would totally take away from the whole point of doing these world premiere videos.
The fact that my album didn’t leak to the pirate sites until I think three or four days before my album came out, people thought that was pretty darn good actually.
AE: I will second that. With everyone now doing internet memes and parodies is there more pressure on you to make a song that others haven’t done yet?
AY: Well it helps me step up my game. I kind of had the field pretty much to myself in the 80’s and 90’s. Not that I was the only one ever doing that, but certainly I had the most exposure. I had a major label record deal and I had videos on MTV. I was sort of the face of musical parodies.
Now with the advent of YouTube there are thousands and thousands of people doing funny music videos and music parodies. It is a crowded field now. For any pop song in existence there will be dozens and maybe hundreds of parodies of them on YouTube. It makes my job a little harder in the fact that I am still trying to be unique. I don’t want to do the most obvious idea anymore because someone else would have taken that idea already. I try to come up with new and unique ways to be funny.
AE: Well I think you always are funny with each album you come out with. I LOVE “Word Crimes.” I think I listened to that track at least ten times in a row. How do you pick the songs that are popular at the time to do a parody of them?
AY: There is no secret to it. I watch the Billboard charts. If the song has been number one for any period of time I think it makes it a good candidate. I listen to the radio. I search the internet. I try to determine what the mainstream is anymore. Our culture is very fractured, but I try to figure out what the good candidates would be. It needs to be a song that everyone is familiar with.
Once I have that list then I systematically and analytically kind of break it down. I figure out what the variations on a theme I can do for every single song. If I can come up with what I think is a clever or funny idea for one them then I will go with that.
AE: It is great to see another polka hit on this album. “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!” is just pure awesomeness. Are those polka tracks your favorite to do?
AY: It is certainly one of them. It is lately been the only track features the accordion. It is nice to be able to bring my squeezebox into the studio and polka down with my bad self. (Both laugh.) I do enjoy it. It is certainly fun to play live. I know it is a big fan favorite and nobody gets hurt.
AE: You hear at universities all over the world where the keynote speaker says do what make you happy. Find a job you love. I am guessing you are an example of that notion. In your wildest dreams did you ever think that this would be what you would be doing as a career when you were younger?
AY: No. It is amazing that I have been able to make a living at all. The fact that I am still doing it after all this time mind boggling. If I was a kid and you asked me to figure out what my absolute dream job would be, it is this. I feel very fortunate that I get to do this for a living.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what are the main set of morals you look to instill into your daughter as she grows up?
AY: My daughter is like an old soul. We haven’t had to really instill too much into her. It seems like she came with a pretty good set of value judgments already. We have taught her about the golden rule. We try to have instilled a sense of empathy. Treat people the way she would want to be treated. It seems like it is innate with her. It is like she doesn’t need to be told anything. She gets it already.
AE: Well I know from my experiences as a father that kids are like sponges. They tend to look at more of what you do rather than what you say. So I would say that you and your wife are doing a great job of being role models.
AY: Well hopefully a little of that too.
AE: What advice would you give to new dads out there?
AY: For the new dads I would say get as much sleep as possible before your baby is born because you are not going to get a whole lot afterwards. For any dads that are worried that they are not bonding with their young baby. I found talking with other dads you bond more strongly once you are able to make them laugh.
For the first few months they are just kind of like cute fleshy goo, which is really sweet. I found that dads really bond with their kids more when they are able to get some kind of response from them.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
AY: We have a vacation home in Maui. After this promotional tour we are heading out there for a few weeks. That is going to be the perfect vacation. That is what we are looking forward to. In the morning we go in the backyard and crack open a fresh papaya off the tree. We put some lime on it. We have breakfast and then walk down to the beach. We watch the waves and sit in the hammock. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie?
AY: Oh boy. My daughter doesn’t like to watch the same movies over and over again like a lot of other kids. I think she has seen “Frozen” like three times. So that is a record for her so let’s go with that.
AY: She is way too old for this now, but it used to be the theme song to the show “Peep and the Big Wide World.” That show came on when my daughter was a toddler. She would march all over the house. We would all march with her. That is the only thing that comes to mind.
AE: What song do fans request the most during a concert?
AY: It is pretty wide spread. It is not like there is one song that everybody is requesting. Everyone has their own favorites. It is probably the hits “White and Nerdy,” “Yoda,” “Amish Paradise,” “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Fat,” and “The Saga Begins.” It is hard to say just one because everyone has their own taste.
AE: Do you have a pre-concert ritual?
AY: A little bit I would say. It is not a ritual per se. I take a shower. I relax. I don’t use my voice. I just rest my vocal cords. I suck on a cough drop and do a few warm up exercises and stretch my legs. That’s about it. I have some quiet time before I go crazy.
AE: Do you have a favorite venue to play on tour?
AY: Not so much. It is not about the venue as it is about the fans. It really varies from place to place. Anywhere fans are into it is a good place to play.