If you know anything at all about the work of “Weird Al” Yankovic – from early songs like “Eat It” right up through his most recent collection, the top 10 album “Alpocalypse” – you know there are only two kinds of people in this world: people who think Yankovic is a genius, and people who have no idea what they’re talking about.
At least that seems to be the prevailing view of the faithful, sometimes almost cultish fans who show up at his many concerts. In fact, people who only know Yankovic through his records and videos may not realize what he brings to the stage: His shows are multimedia extravaganzas, featuring a barrage of video clips and costume changes to accompany his parodies and his equally hilarious original takes on modern life and pop culture.
Last time Yankovic toured he talked to us about songwriting and pie; this time, he agreed to answer some questions about being weird in front of strangers.
I’ve seen you in concert three times since our last interview, so I feel like I can ask you more intelligent questions this time, such as: What’s it like to perform dressed as a giant fuzzy peacock [which he does during the Lady Gaga parody “Born This Way”]?
I don’t really think about it (laughs) – it’s just what I do. It’s like if I had another hat on I’d be going and doing spreadsheets every day, but as it turns out my vocation involves dressing up in a giant peacock outfit.
Your concerts are really elaborate. Can you explain a little bit about the planning that goes into those shows?
The costume thing sort of evolved over the years. I think the first thing we incorporated was the “Beat It” jacket when “Eat It” came out [in 1984] … and it just sort of evolved into this costume-filled, multimedia show.
At the beginning of every tour I figure out what sort of setlist [we’ll have] and there are a number of songs that we pretty much have to do, because they’re hits and the fans kind of expect it. … The tours change by about half from time to time because there are so many songs we’re expected to play, but we also try to switch it up – obviously with things from the new album, as well as a few chestnuts from the archives. So oldies and deep cuts from the oeuvre …
At your show in Lowell, Mass., you sat on my sister-in-law’s lap and frankly she was a little bit traumatized. What’s the craziest reaction you’ve gotten from a fan you’ve approached in the audience?
Sorry about that! That’s my favorite part of the show – that’s for my song “Wanna B Ur Lovr,” when I basically cross the proscenium and try to faux seduce all the ladies in the audience. It’s fun for me and, depending on their attitude, either fun or horribly embarrassing for them.
Page 2 of 2 - You never know what’s gonna happen … I just sort of play off the people, and I’ve never had any real horrible experiences. You know, I’ve never had to go out with any kind of bodyguard (laughs) – people are generally well behaved. I’ve never had an experience where things have gotten out of control!
While performing, are you ever just struck by the absurdity of it all? I did see you crack up once, I think at the dancing Darth Vader.
Yeah, it sort of strikes me – you know, I’ve done some songs literally 1,000 times on stage, and every now and then I just think how crazy it is that I’m doing this. But you have to kind of stay in character, and just stay serious and pretend that everything’s completely normal.
There’s been an online movement to get you named as the Super Bowl Halftime Show performer. Would you accept if offered, and how do we make that happen?
Sure – I wouldn’t turn that down! I mean, that would be the opportunity of a lifetime. … But in reality, I have to remind myself that the chances of that happening are I think easily less than 1 percent. I don’t think the NFL would really consider it, just because I don’t think they have that much of a sense of humor.
Also, if that were to happen I would just be insanely nervous between then and the actual show – that would be the most terrifying experience of my life. At the same time, you know, I would certainly look forward to it and pull out all the stops, and do everything I could to make it a real spectacle.
Now that most of the audience is obese, do you ever feel funny about performing the song “Fat”? It’s like you’re making fun of the entire country.
Even with the country’s expanding waistline I like to think that my character in “Fat” is still a SLIGHT exaggeration. Once or twice I’ve actually met somebody who looks sort of like that guy, but he’s pretty morbidly obese – I can’t imagine that there are too many people who really empathize strongly with him.
In fact, he might make people feel pretty good about themselves …
Yeah. … “At least I’m not THAT bad.”
Visit “Weird Al” Yankovic at weirdal.com.
Contact Peter Chianca at firstname.lastname@example.org.