Weird Al Yankovic Goes “Face to Face” with Us
By Luke Y. Thompson on April 3, 2012
Though he’s going to have his own interview show going live today on the Nerdist Channel, we’re just as fascinated with Al Yankovic as an interview subject as we are with his ability to conduct such things. Thus, before celebrities go Face to Face with Weird Al Yankovic, we got him to go head to head with us first. Dare we say that we cut to the chase like a surgeon?
Nerdist: How are you handling your responsibilities as “Nerdist of the Year?”
Weird Al Yankovic: Quite frankly, I wasn’t aware that there was so much paperwork involved. Sure, all the trophies and parades were nice in the beginning, but now, it’s mostly just mind-numbing clerical work. I think maybe going forward they should just do “Nerdist of the Week” or something – all this pressure is really wearing on me. I’m not sure I can handle it much longer.
N: What can you tell us about Face to Face with Weird Al Yankovic on the Nerdist Channel?
WAY: I’m very excited that the Nerdist Channel is allowing me to do the show I’ve always wanted to do. Even though I’m known primarily as a musician, my real skill is in interviewing celebrities. And every other Tuesday on the Nerdist Channel, you’ll be able to see me going face-to-face with some of the biggest stars in the world, asking the questions that nobody else dares to ask and exposing a side of them that the public rarely sees. Guaranteed to melt your brain, or your money back.
N: Is there any song that simply cannot be parodied or do you have a song that you would never parody because it’s “sacred?”
WAY: There are many, many songs that I’ve chosen not to parody, simply because I couldn’t think of a clever enough idea for them – not because they’re “sacred.” In general, I’d say that no song is off limits, but there are always exceptions – I don’t think it would’ve been very cool to do a “Tears in Heaven” parody, for example.
N: Over the years, what parody are you most disappointed you weren’t able to do?
WAY: There were a number of Prince songs that I would have loved to tackle during his heyday in the ‘80s, but as you may have heard, he isn’t quite so much into the whole parody thing.
N: When the subject of one of your classic parodies passes away (like Kurt Cobain or Michael Jackson) is it harder to perform that song, or does it feel like a tribute?
WAY: It’s definitely a tribute, and those artists did in fact approve of and enjoy their parodies – but it’s still difficult for me at times. I had to perform “Smells Like Nirvana” on tour shortly after Kurt died, which was hard. I did a serious dedication to Kurt onstage before we played the song, and the audience loved the performance (it was my big single at the time – we couldn’t NOT play it)… but still, it wasn’t easy to put on that wig every night.
N: You were one of the first artists to come out and criticize the RIAA with your song “Don’t Download this Song.” What has your experience been with digital distribution? And what are your thoughts on recent attempts by congress to censor the Internet in the name of copyright?
WAY: Digital distribution has been an exciting new wrinkle in the music business landscape – among other things, it allows me to potentially be more topical and timely with my releases. Regarding SOPA – while I certainly understand and appreciate the concerns of record companies and copyright holders, I believe that policing the Internet is a slippery slope, and ultimately a dangerous thing.
N: You have been a staple of the comedy landscape for three decades now. Who are some of your favorite comedians working today?
WAY: I’m a fan of and friends with so many comedians that it wouldn’t be fair to name just a few… but if you’re curious, I’m following a lot of my favorites on Twitter!
N: UHF is held in high regard by the nerd community; we really want to see more features from you. Is there any update on the script you wrote for Warner Bros./ Cartoon Network?
WAY: No – frankly, I kind of lost interest in that script after Cartoon Network pulled the plug… it was pretty much tailored specifically for them. But, as I’ve been saying for 20 years, I would LOVE to make another movie… hopefully that’ll happen one of these days!
N: Have you ever considered doing an album of original songs for the accordion, akin to Steve Martin’s The Crow for the banjo?
WAY: Well, no, not really – but hey, if Steve needs a hot accordion solo for his next bluegrass album, I’m there! (DM me, Steve!)