From his "My Sharona" parody "My Bologna" to his latest hit, the Chamillionare-spoofing "White and Nerdy," "Weird Al" Yankovic has served as pop culture's funhouse mirror for nearly 30 years. The Grammy-winning music, video and movie star performs in North Texas tonight. He spoke with DC9 about his live show, possible Broadway roles and suicide rumors.
I've read that you're saying this tour is the biggest of your career so far. How so?
That's with anything I do. I try to make each album the best one yet, and each tour too. Every time out, we try to better ourselves.
I do reach pretty deep into the catalog. I do a few semi-obscure oldies from time to time. I'm not doing "Dare To Be Stupid" or "Another One Rides The Bus" on this tour, but they'll come back, they'll recur. I'll put them in the set list, then take them out. We're doing some of the older hits, you know, "Yoda," "Fat," "Smells Like Nirvana," "Amish Paradise." We do pretty much all the greatest hits. Sometimes we condense some of them and do a medley, since if we played them all the show would be four hours long.
Are you playing any new material, or do you wait until after touring to work on new songs?
We're not playing anything from a future album, but there are a couple songs we play in the live show that aren't on any albums, just because I like to have a few surprises for the hardcore fans.
I tend not to write when I'm on the road. I don't have my antenna out for new ideas, so basically I just focus on the live show each night. It's a pretty exhausting show, and I tend to save my energy for that. If I write when I'm on the tour, it might confuse my brain, because I only have so much RAM space in my head.
UHF is one of the funniest movies ever. Are you planning to follow it up with a sequel, or do another movie any time soon?
Well, it's not entirely up to me. I'd like to make another movie, but I kind of doubt anyone is going to seriously want to make a sequel to UHF. It didn't do that great at the box office, even though it was a big hit on DVD when it came out eventually. I'd like to do another movie. In fact, I was pitching an idea for a movie earlier this year, which got a lot of positive feedback but so far no takers. I get asked to be in movies every now and then. Like, with the Naked Gun movies, I love those guys and I was thrilled to do that, but I also get asked to be in some movies that I don't think are as good. I generally turn those down, because I'd rather not work at all than be in something that is not that great. But I would like to be in another movie.
Can I ask about the movie you were pitching?
I'm really not supposed to talk about it, sorry.
So it still has a possibility of coming to fruition?
An extremely low possibility. We've pitched pretty much everybody we could find in Hollywood, and they all said, "This is really funny, but... no."
You've conquered music, television, film and YouTube. Is there any medium you haven't tried yet that you're curious about experimenting with?
I'm sure there's a few opportunities left. I'm not sure that I'd want to do this, but I was asked to be in a Broadway stage production last year. The idea interested me, but I just didn't want to do it at that point in my life and for whatever reason, it just didn't work out. But it's something I'd be interested in trying.
I suppose this was a comedy musical?
Yes, it was.
Have you ever been asked to do any serious roles?
I have, but I don't know why someone would want me to do that since there are so many good dramatic actors, and that's not my forte. A long time ago I was asked to be on … Gosh, what was it? It was like L.A. Law or something, a really respected program. But they wanted me to play this serial killer who murders retarded women, or something like that. [Laughs.] It was this really deep, dark, sicko thing and I was like, "You know what? No, I don't think so." I don't think I'd be that good at it, and that's not the image I want to be putting out there.
Do you have any Al TV appearances on MTV scheduled?
No, those generally coincide, coincidentally, with a new album release--almost as if we're trying to promote the album. So chances are there won't be one until a new album comes out. Then again, that depends on if VH1 or whoever is willing to let me do it again, because they take a big chance every time we do it, since we're kind of flying by the skin of our teeth, legally, on a lot of that stuff.
It seemed like the 1980s were going to be your heyday, but your most recent CD, Straight Outta Lynwood, turned out to be your first to crack the Billboard Top 10. How did you feel about that? Was it a surprise?
I was proud of the album, but I didn't know how people were going to react to it. It was extremely validating to me. There are not many artists that reach the pinnacle of their career 25 years into it. Most of my contemporaries from when I started in the 80s aren't around anymore. It is kind of funny, as you mentioned, because a lot of people consider me an '80s artist since I broke in the '80s and sold a lot of albums in the '80s. But I sold a whole lot more albums in the '90s than I did the '80s, and then in this decade I had my biggest chart success yet. So I like to think that I'm a contemporary artist as well. [Laughs.]
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
It seems like every couple years back in the '90s, whenever there was a lull between albums, there would be a rumor that you were dead.
Oh yeah. It accelerated whenever that King of the Hill episode came out where Hank Hill said, "Al Yankovitch blew his brains out in the late '80s after he stopped selling records. You don't want to be like him, Bobby." Then people were like, "What? He blew his brains out?" And it continues to this day, since the show still in syndication.
Your music career started when your parents bought you an accordion, saying there should be another accordionist Yankovic [other than Frankie] in this world. How do you think you would have turned out if it had been a different instrument?
I don't know. That's a hard thing to know for sure. I think the accordion warped me at an early stage, so it did really change the trajectory of my life. If I played the guitar, I probably wouldn't be as weird. I'd still have my sick and twisted brain, but a guy with a guitar isn't quite as novel as a kid with an accordion. It's definitely different. It's a good ironic instrument. -Jesse Hughey "Weird Al" Yankovic performs at 8 p.m. tonight at Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie.