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"Weird Al" Yankovic: An Interview About Humor

Straight Outta Lynwood


The cover art for Straight Outta Lynwood, the comic music album by Weird Al Yankovic.

The cover art for Straight Outta Lynwood, the comic music album by "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Image: Way Moby / Volcano.

Mike Durrett: My understanding is half of the songs on Straight Outta Lynwood are original compositions. Are there any differences to you in the creative process between originals and parodies, or are the demands and satisfactions about equal?

"Weird Al" Yankovic: The originals are the most satisfying creatively, since it's obviously my music as well as my lyrics. It's also a whole lot more work. The parodies are much easier to write (although not always easy to get permission for) ... however, the pressure and potential reward is much greater, since those are the songs that historically have gotten the most exposure and attention.

There appears to be a misprint on my calendar. Just when exactly is Weasel Stomping Day?

June 31.

A fine video on "Weasel Stomping Day," by the way. Robot Chicken's vivid animation earns you "instant classic" status on that one. In fact, all of the five cartoons, plus the surreal stock footage video, included on the DVD are excellent enhancements to your songs. How involved were you in the visualizations?

I took a couple step backs and just let the animators do their thing. It was difficult for me, because I tend to micromanage everything I'm involved with. But I know that artists appreciate having some space, and I respected their genius enough to just sit back and allow them to come up with their own interpretations of my music. Because of our budget limitations, I did the animatic for the John Kricfalusi video myself… and I had a bit of creative input into the Robot Chicken and Dave Lovelace pieces ... but other than that, I just gave the animators the broadest of notes.

My favorite of the tunes on the album is "Close But No Cigar," so I was doubly pleased to see the video animated in the wild, rubbery style of Ren & Stimpy's creator, John Kricfalusi. How did you chose him to direct the project and did he surprise you with the results?

I can't say that I was surprised with the results, because I think John K. is a genius and I would really expect nothing less than genius work from him. I'm so thrilled that he agreed to do this project. He and Katie Rice did all the layouts, and as you can see, it looks amazing. If I was surprised at anything, it was at how good the actual animation is. We sent the animatic and the original cels to Copernicus Studios in Halifax, and they did the video in flash animation. I'm not a huge fan of flash animation in general, but this was by far the best flash that John or I had ever seen - they really blew us away.

I was up for your album the moment I saw the list of song titles. From an early age, I've observed that one of the secret weapons of comedy is the word "pancreas." Its use is always a crowd pleaser. I feel a common bond with you, Al, and your "Pancreas." Thank you.

My pleasure. Yes, that’s an idea that’s been sitting in my notebook for many years - I knew that some day it would be my destiny to write the definitive ode to the pancreas.

And congratulations are in order for creating what must be the first romantic ditty ever to incorporate the phrase "Islets of Langerhans." It's long overdue and a lovely addition to The Great American Songbook.

Thanks for noticing.

Your commitment to a comedic bit is admirable, whether the humor is immediately apparent or not. For example, "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" (formerly "Trapped in the Closet" by R. Kelly) is 11 minutes of verbal minutia and angst with some guy enduring a fast food restaurant's many ordeals. While moments are gulping funny, somehow the whole of the piece, the mere fact you've put all of this thought, expense, and effort into a sweeping rendition of mounting insignificance is hilarious. That's the great payoff. I enjoyed that.

Thanks. It was a real challenge to be that insignificant for that long.

Who makes you laugh?

Emo Philips. Judy Tenuta. Gilbert Gottfried. Norm MacDonald. My wife. A million other people.

Are you satisfied with what has become the Weird Al brand of entertainment or do you have hidden aspirations?

I’m happy with my “brand,” as it were, but it would be nice to branch out into other things. I’d love to do more directing, be involved in more TV and feature films, maybe even live theatre if the right opportunity presents itself. But if I wind up doing nothing beyond recording and touring, that’s fine too - I’m still living the dream.

When you're far from the "Weird Al" spotlight, is there an unseen alter ego we'd be surprised to meet -- possibly a "Wistful Al," a "Malibu Al," a "Pancake House Al," or some such mysterious Al, Al?

Well, I’m not bouncing off the walls all the time. If you meet me in a quiet restaurant and expect me to be the same person I am on the concert stage, you might be disappointed. Like most humans, I adapt my personality to suit my environment.

Thank you for sharing.

My pleasure, thanks for listening.

Mike Durrett has produced and written About Humor since 1998. His original humor appears on MikeDurrett.com.
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