Hat Tricks

"Weird Al" Yankovic has turned other people's careers into his own

How much time do you spend pursuing that sort of business stuff?

That's more my manager's job than my job. Once I determine which songs I wanna go after I let him know, and he goes through the process of trying to get clearances. Sometimes if he has a hard time getting through to somebody, he'll come back to me and say, "We can't get through to so-and-so. Can you maybe put in a personal call?"

Has that worked before?

Ladies and gentlemen, the star of the tamest, most boring episode of VH1's Behind the Music, "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Ladies and gentlemen, the star of the tamest, most boring episode of VH1's Behind the Music, "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Sometimes. On several occasions that's happened, where he couldn't get through to somebody's management or somebody's management wasn't returning phone calls, and I would run into the artist at an awards show, and the artist would be like, "Oh, I would love for you to do a parody, that would be great!" A lot of times management or publishers or whoever are overprotective of their artists, when in fact the artist would be excited to have the parody done.

Eminem's refusal to let you do a video for "Couch Potato" has gotten some attention lately. Have there been other instances over the years where you weren't able to do things you really had your heart set on?

It's pretty rare. I've been actually very lucky in my career. In the very beginning I was getting turned down right and left because I was just this goofy kid from L.A. trying to do parody songs, and I didn't have a track record and nobody knew who or what "Weird Al" Yankovic was. But right about the time Michael Jackson gave his approval, that was kind of the magic golden key, because all of a sudden people were like, "Oh, if Michael Jackson was OK with it, then we certainly don't have a problem with it." And from that point on, people realized it was a real kind of honor to get a "Weird Al" parody; it was a real sign that they've achieved a certain level of success in their chosen field.

Do you ever worry that stars are getting too silly and self-reflexive on their own?

That's the reason it took me so long to get around to doing Eminem, because he was certainly big enough to lampoon a year ago, but you can't really make fun of a song like "Without Me" or "The Real Slim Shady," because there's a certain amount of self-awareness there, and they're already tongue-in-cheek swipes at pop culture to begin with; it would've been sort of redundant to do a parody of that. Whereas "Lose Yourself" was a very serious kind of anthem, and those are always the best to make fun of--it's always better to get a very serious song and to inject a little humor into it.

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