This is my phone interview with Weird Al Yankovic before his show on May 8th, 2012 in Akron, OH. I have been such a huge fan of Al since I was a kid so it was an absolute honor to have him take the time out to talk with me. Here are links to an episode of his new web series, Face to Face: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B5h-14jZ9w and his music video for “Polka Face”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRJILK3NxSM.
CHECK OUT THIS INTERVIEW ON OUR NEW SITE: http://www.jbrinlinginterviews.com/
First off, how are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
Me: I’m doing great.
Are you enjoying the Alpocalypse tour?
I enjoyed it all throughout last year and I am actually leaving tomorrow for the road for the continuation. I’ve been out on the road for awhile and it’s just such a different world and it takes a bit of an adjustment but after 24 hours you are right back to it.
What are the signs before we reach the Alpocalypse?
The ocean will turn into strawberry jello and everyone that is left handed will become right handed.
Your latest album took you to the Grammys I saw, what was that night like?
It was a lot of fun. I wasn’t going into it expecting to win anything so I didn’t have to really worry about an acceptance speech and was able to just enjoy the fantastic show. I was actually able to bring my wife and my nine year old daughter, who had never been to one before, so that was a proud moment for dad that night.
Being a vegan, how difficult does that make eating when you’re on the road?
You know, they supply us with food at the shows we perform at so they know coming into it to supply vegetarian meals for a couple of people in the crew and the band. So that part isn’t too difficult but if we ever have a truck stop that’s a little more of a challenge because it really narrows down your choices. It’s like choosing between toast and applesauce.
So now you’ve become an author of children’s books as well, what inspired that? It’s a wonderful book by the way.
Oh thank you. I actually just finished writing my second one and the artist is actually just starting to work on the layouts now. I’m very happy with the new one. It won’t be out for another year or possibly year and a half but writing children’s books was always something I had been interested in. Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein; I have always admired their craft and I got a very generous offer from an editor at Harper Collins a few years back saying that if I ever wanted to write my own books that they would love to put them out. I thought about it for awhile and came up with some ideas and the one they liked was When I Grow Up. So, we proceeded and wrote the book and it did quite well so it’s something I look forward to keep doing again for awhile because it’s something I really enjoy doing.
You recently appeared on both 30 Rock and The Aquabats Super Show (who are JBrinling Interviews alum), what was working on those shows like?
Fantastic! I love The Aquabats and it’s always fun to hang with those guys and those same guys that do Yo Gabba Gabba!, which was also a lot of fun. 30 Rock is actually one of my all time favorite shows and it was number one on my wish list of if you asked which TV show I wanted to be on. My dream came true and Tina Fey actually wrote the script that featured me and it was a pleasure to fly out to New York and hang out with the 30 Rock folk. It was amazingly fun.
I have to bring up your new web show with Nerdist, Face to Face, the series has really brought back the interviews you had done on AL TV, have you enjoyed making these types of videos again? Do you have a habit of imagining interviews now as being recreated in this new way?
I always have enjoyed making those videos and we’ve always had a tough time just finding a venue for me to do that and finding source material. It was looking like it wasn’t going to happen until a good friend of mine named Chris Hardwick told me that he wanted to do a show for me on his channel and he was able o track down a bunch of old press junk footage and we were able to do this show. I sat down and wrote ten episodes. I directed and edited them and they are coming out every two weeks. I am loving it and I am really getting a kick out of doing these interviews mixed in with the live show, it really fills a dual purpose. (Laughs) Sometimes I will imagine and see somebody getting interviewed on TV when I say ‘oh! I wish I had that footage.’ That’d be great.
I don’t know if you saw or heard about this but on a recent Saturday Night Live, Andy Sandburg did an impression of you in one of their sketches. Are you flattered by this? Do you think he did a nice job?
I’m very flattered by this. Andy actually e-mailed me about ten minutes before the show started and said ‘watch Saturday Night Live tonight. I’m going to be doing you.’ He was very self deprecating and saying ‘oh, it’s really not a good impression, we’re not doing anything on the edge and you don’t have to worry about anything.’ But really it was very sweet and I was very flattered by it. I found it a little odd that they had the glasses and mustache, which was my more 80s look. But he did a very good impression and I was very happy to be lampooned on the show.
I was doing research and saw that you had written a script for a feature length film. Now little details have been said about what exactly the script is about, a title, etc. Is there anything you can tell us?
Nothing that really needs to get out there. I had written a script for a TV movie for Cartoon Network, the deal actually took a couple of years with lawyers and all that. It was really a big build up for what wound up to be…nothing (laughs).Cartoon Network had at one point decided that they were going to discontinue their live action productions, which included me. I still have the script but I’m probably not going to do anything with it because it was written fairly specifically for Cartoon Network and I don’t see this being a theatrical release. I’m not sure that it would be appropriate anywhere else. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t get made there and I’d still love to do a feature film with somebody somewhere (laughs) so we’ll have to see if that ever happens.
Me: Well it’s Cartoon Network’s loss.
Well thank you.
So in this sea of movie sequels being announced, are you going to make a large announcement that there will in fact be a sequel to the all time classic UHF?
A lot of people ask me that and UHF is a beloved movie even though when it came out it had pretty much bombed, didn’t do well at the box office, and critics pretty much hated it. It was pretty much an unqualified failure but 20 years after the fact, it holds the title of classic and some have seen it over a hundred times and I’m very gratified that fans are so into the movie. I can’t imagine however that a major motion picture studio would knock on my door and ask for a sequel. I think if I wanted to do another feature, it wouldn’t be UHF related.
Directing has played a part in your career in the past, do you plan to continue?
Yeah, I direct all of my own live action music videos and I haven’t directed for other people in awhile and that’s really just because I haven’t had any real offers that I was really excited about. It’s not a bi thing that I do but if I had a friend that was looking for me to direct a video or if I got an interesting offer out of the blue, I’m happy to do it. It’s not really the thing I want to do full time though.
Rifftrax, was it fun to work with those guys?
Yeah absolutely, I’ve been a fan since the MST3K days (Mystery Science Theater 3000). The guys, Mike and Bill, are just so funny and it’s just really great to be working with those people and they make it easy and fun for their guests so I’m always excited to work with that group.
If you could give yourself advice 5-10 years ago, what would you say?
Don’t forget to unplug the cappuccino machine… (Laughs). No, I don’t have a real answer for that. Maybe, buy Apple stock.
If you could co-write a song with anyone, who would it be and why?
These questions are like a take home quiz, so many thoughts are just bouncing through my head. Let’s go with Paul McCartney just because I’m a big Beatles fan and the most starstruck I had ever been in my life was when I met him for the first time. That would obviously be an amazing thing.
I have to ask, does it ever frustrate you when an artist declines to be parodied?
Well, yeah absolutely. It’s difficult when you approach an artist with what you think is a fun and clever idea and if they say no, yeah it’s a huge disappointment but luckily those times are pretty rare these days. The most turndowns would happen in the 80s when people still didn’t know who this “Weird Al” character was. Now that I have this track record, people know that it’s all in good fun and it’s meant to be an homage and I’ve have no turndowns for quite sometime now.
What concert have you been to that changed your life?
Probably my own (laughs). The artist Ben Folds is a good friend of mine and one of the first Ben Folds concerts I went to, I had such a good time that I had the impulse to follow his tour around the country for a little bit. It helped me realize what some of my fans do in following me for half the summer as well. I was able to appreciate that mindset a little bit.
Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
I don’t really have one particular song, some are more enjoyable than others, but the whole show is enjoyable for me. I find myself thinking ‘oh good this song is next’ and not ‘oh no, I have to play this song now.’ I’d probably have to say “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” which is an original that has a faux lounge singer type of vibe and what’s different about that one is that I actually go out into the audience and seduce women in a really horrible way. It’s always fun because I never know what will happen.
What’s one of your greatest memories in your career so far?
Winning my first Grammy was a huge deal for me, that was like 1984, when I was just starting out. It was the first time I was ever nominated and I won and I was up against Eddie Murphy and Dangerfield and I was really only a few years out of college and it was so surreal to walk on stage and pick up a Grammy.
What are your plans for future?
We start the 2012 leg of the tour tomorrow. The Face to Face web series will continue. Hopefully, I’ll be able to also spend a little bit more family time; I know July is the vacation time for my wife and daughter. But yeah, it should be another busy year and I’m going to be working on a new album as well, I’ll be writing a little bit and then start heading into the studio.