In 1979, Weird Al Yankovic released "My Bologna", a
parody of the The Knack's "Sharona", and a legend was born.
Over 25 years and 12 albums later, the accordion playing wacky genius
is still going strong with his latest release "Straight Outta
Lynwood". With tracks like "Don't Download This Song" and
"White and Nerdy", Al's as relevant and funny as ever, with his
uncanny ability to parody pop tunes while capturing the look and feel
of the originals in both song and video form. Using Myspace and
YouTube to reach more fans that the nearly music free MTV can handle
these days, Al's fan base continues to get bigger. A day after
his CD release, we interviewed Al to talk about things old and new,
and of course, Osama bin Laden.
Your new CD just came out this Tuesday, correct?
Yesterday, right, yeah.
So the fan response has been pretty
amazing so far. What do you think is so different about this CD
that's made it such a big so far with a lot of the fan community?
Especially on the internet.
It's hard for me to say. Every time
that I put out an album I try to make it the best thing I've ever
done. I'm a little biased, I suppose, there's a little bit
pressure every time I do something to top myself every time out. I
think the material on this album ranks up there with some of my best
stuff, and I think fans are hopefully picking up on that.
Weird Al's latest video, "White and
Nerdy" featuring Donny Osmond!
The video for "White and Nerdy" is
really making the rounds out there pretty heavy on YouTube and
other websites and whatnot. What was it like working with Donny
Osmond in that video?
It was amazing, I have to tell you.
I didn't know exactly what to expect. Donny was the first call,
because if you have to have a white and nerdy icon in your video, like
who else do you go for? I didn't really know what he'd bring to the
table, frankly. As soon as he showed up on the set, he blew everybody
away. I didn't give him a whole lot of direction, he was asking "Like
what do you want me to do?" And I said, "You're basically the Krayzie Bone in this video. And you're gonna be behind me, just kind of
like dancing and moving. Just let the cameras roll and we'll do
coverage of the entire song, we'll do one take, I dunno do
something, and we'll take a look at it and see what's good and
what's bad." So we turn the camera on and we got on the set and
Donny just went nuts. And it was the most hilarious thing I've
ever seen. We watched the tape, and the two of us were just cracking
up, we were like two little kids.
Oh yeah, it's hilarious. It's
So he really didn't need any direction
at all from me, he was just amazing. It was just so fun.
Robot Chicken's take on "Weasel
That's cool. What was the
inspiration behind your song "Weasel Stomping Day" on your new
I don't know where that came from
exactly, I wanted to do a song about some bizarre made up holiday and
"Weasel Stomping Day" just sort of came to mind. I wanted it to sound
like a festive holiday song like it was part of one of those Rankin
Bass holiday specials from the sixties, very cheery and festive, yet
at the same time, as disgusting as possible.
Yeah, the sound effects of the
actual weasel stompings really add a nice touch to the song, that's
Thanks. I don't know if you saw the
making of documentary that's a part of the DVD for it but it shows me
actually squishing the watermelon in my hands and biting the celery
and making all the actual sound effects.
great. Well Dr. Demento was instrumental in helping you launch
your career. What was it like when you actually met him
for the first time.
Well, I think I might have been all of
13 years old when I met him. He came to a school assembly at
Lynwood High School to do a show for the kids. I was a bit star
struck, of course, and I think I might have had a cassette tape that
I gave him at the time, cause he was having some kind of "Pico and
Sepulveda" song contest, I forget what the prize was, I think
maybe a copy of the actual 78 RPM
record of "Pico and Sepulveda" (retroCRUSH
note: This was a 1947 song by Felix Figueroa and was used for years
as Dr. Demento's radio show theme song), but I wasn't even in the running, it
was so bad back then, he never even played it on the air. That was my
first physical contact with the good doctor. And of course I
sent him stuff in the mail and continued to send him things until he
played them on the radio. And then after a few more years my stuff
became popular on his show, and by the time I graduated from college
I had a cult following and a couple of nationally released singles.
That's right, and if I'm correct,
every album since your first has had more sales than the last?
Well give or take?
Give or take, but the fan base
continues to grow.
Do you find it ironic that your
career and success has outlasted many of the folks that you've done
parodies of in the past?
Yes I do (laughs) I suppose I'm amused
by that, yes.
Do you find one genre of music more
fun to parody than others, or are they all equally fun to kind of
take a crack at?
They're all fun. I try to hit as many
different genres as I can, and that's part of the challenge of what I
do. I hope not to repeat myself too terribly much. I'm always
looking for new genres to cover and new avenues to explore. I
shamelessly follow pop culture wherever it goes.
Here's a great example
of Weird Al's ability to do spot on parody using music video, with
Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Al's "Smells Like Nirvana"
side by side. I still laugh when he sings with those marbles
falling out of his mouth.
I really loved watching this
footage of Nirvana watching your "Smells Like Nirvana" video, and
just watching them laugh and fall on top of each other thinking it
was so great.
I'm sorry, what is this?
There was this special on MTV some
time ago, where Nirvana was sitting watching your video
for "Smells Like Nirvana".
You're kidding? I don't think
I've ever seen that. I'd love to get that footage, I wonder
where I can find that? That sounds great!
It was great, gosh, I wish I could
recall what it was , it might have been one of those Kurt Cobain
tribute specials or something.
Man, I wish I could track that down,
that'd be cool. But thanks for letting me know about it.
Is there a nervousness that you
have before the artist first hears what you've done with their song,
wondering what they're going to think of it, or do you kind of work
that out with them as it's progressing before they hear it for the
Well, I run the idea by them first, I
don't bother writing an entire song before I even know if whether
have a sense of humor or not. As soon as I have a concept for
the song, and I feel that the concept is strong enough to merit
being on the album, generally I'll have my manager contact their
representatives and see if they're even open to the idea....If
they've agreed to the song in content, I've never had someone come
back and be disappointed with the final product. If an artist is just
predisposed toward not liking or wanting parodies, then I won't
bother because I don't want to spend all the effort if they're just
going to turn it down anyway.
you've mentioned, on your site I believe...that Prince has always
been a longtime holdout in not wanting to have his work parodied.
What are some of the ideas that you've thrown at Prince through the
years that he's said "No" to?
I hate to start mentioning the ideas
because I tend to recycle, if I don't use it for Prince, maybe it'll
show up somewhere else.
It's now an Eminem song.
It's been about 12 years since your
last boxed set. Are we gonna see a Super Deluxe Weird Al
Collection any time soon?
No plans any time soon. I would
anticipate there being some other kind of collection in the
future. Certainly my record label has the prerogative for
doing as much. The original boxed set actually went out of
print, because oddly enough, my old record label had either lost or
misplaced all the artwork for the boxed set.
They couldn't even make more copies
of it, huh?
I guess they could probably Xerox the
existing copies, but that wouldn't have looked so hot.
Yeah, old ditto paper stapled on
Well, it's just as well, anyway, it's
a little bit of an anachronism, it's not really so much a boxed set
if it's my collected work up until, whatever it was, 1993 or
If you had to pick just one of your
songs as your all time favorite, what would it be?
Out of everything that I've done in my
entire career, I'd have to say my all time favorite parody is
whatever one I'm currently promoting, so that would be "White and
Well, how about your original song
that you like the most?
Again, it's hard to peg, there's
several on the new album that I'm very fond of. "I'll Sue Ya"
is a favorite song of mine, and we're looking forward to doing that
live on stage for the next tour. "Don't Download This Song" is
another big favorite. That was actually the first single for
this album, which is quite unusual because we usually release a
parody as the first single, but I thought that putting that out
first would be a good sort of appetizer for the album.
Al's "One More Minute" video from 1988
I remember really liking your "One
More Minute" song when it first came out.
Thanks! That's a longtime
favorite. I've done that one in concert, gosh, for about 20
years now, it's one of my favorite ones to perform live.
Are you planning a tour to support
Yeah, we're not going out immediately. We're definitely going to be on the road next summer in the US.
We were talking about doing some international dates, that's not for
sure yet, but if we can work it out we'd love to go back to Australia
maybe early next year. And we've never played in Europe so
it'll be great...if we can work it out logistically.
Do you have any advice for kids
that'd like to learn to play the accordion?
Well I think accordion playing is a
stepping stone to much bigger things in life, so you can't go wrong
taking accordion lessons.
I would think your daughter is
pretty lucky to have Weird Al sing songs to her at night time, does
she have any particular favorites, or do you get to try out a lot of
your material out on her to see what she thinks?
She's heard a lot of my stuff, and I'm
very happy that she seems to be a fan. She often requests "Daddy
Music" which is very touching, of course. She doesn't
particularly like "Don't Download This Song", she thinks it's too
slow. But she loves a lot of the songs from the new album, in fact,
one of her favorites, and I was very leery about playing this for
her, because it's a little violent, but she loves "Weasel Stomping
Day". I didn't know how appropriate it was to play that for a 3 year
old (laughs), but she thinks it's very funny. I wanted to make sure
she understood the irony of the song, and said, "You know, Nina, you
wouldn't really stomp on weasels" and she said, "I KNOW that...it's a
JOKE, daddy!", and I'm like, "Good, as long as you get that."
You may be sued now...from someone
blaming you for their weasel stomping spree.
(laughs) That's the problem with doing
irony is like there's always people out there that won't understand
that it's supposed to be ironic.
"Don't Download This Song" with
animation by Bill Plympton
Speaking of the irony, you've got
your "Don't Download This Song", the first single from Straight
Outta Lynwood here, at first it certainly sounds like a real
holier than thou scolding but then it just gets like, "you're keeping
us from buying gold-plated Humvees and diamond-studded swimming
But you have been really vocal on
the reality of downloaded music and royalties versus buying the CDs
and whatnot. Where do you balance...as an artist that really
wants your fan to enjoy your stuff versus the horror stories you hear
where the RIAA is suing dead people because their son that visited
was downloading some songs. Is there a happy medium, or
are we at the right place now with more enforcement of what's out
I think the record industry is just
trying to feel its way around the whole issue right now. And as
you could probably tell, the lyrics in that particular song of mine
are fairly ambiguous because I don't really come down hard on either
side of the issue. Basically what I feel is I think it's OK to
illegally download music, unless we're talking about Weird Al Yankovic songs, in
which case people should be handcuffed and
But seriously, I feel like illegal
downloading is obviously a major problem for the recording industry
and it's something that the industry needs to deal with, but I think
that the RIAA's reaction to it has been a bit ham-fisted to date, and
I don't think that the criminalization of file sharers is necessarily
the bet way to deal with the problem and it's certainly not the best
I'm curious what your all time
scariest movie is?
Probably The Way We Were...it freaks
We opened up to our readers and the
Something Awful website's forums, they're big fans of your as well,
in fact they were really pushing the "White and Nerdy" video out
there pretty heavy when it first came out.
Which is funny, by the way, I don't
know if you've ever checked out YouTube too often, but there's
already people making their own "White and Nerdy" videos with your
I saw that there were "White and
Nerdy" videos out on YouTube before we were even finished doing
It's almost like they're embracing
it as an anthem to be proud of.
But the one question that came up
that a lot of people wanted me to ask you was, do you feel that you
should have done more to catch Osama bin Laden?
That I should have? Every day I
feel the guilt that I didn't do more and take advantage of my situation,
back when I had a chance.
Well we're looking forward
to seeing you on tour and I advise everybody to check out Straight Outta Lynwood. Is there anything you'd like to say to the fans
before you go?
I would just like to encourage all of
the fans to brush and floss regularly, because dental hygiene is very
One more question for you.
You're a fairly recent vegetarian, correct?
Well, since '92, so...
Someone wanted me to ask you if
science could grow meat in containers that was never alive, would you
consider that OK to eat?