“Weird Al” Yankovic is having a moment. With the recent release of his fourteen studio album, Mandadory Fun, the iconic comedian/musician/satirist has once again displayed his incredible chops as a spoof songwriter with his finger on what people find funny. We got the chance to speak with Al very briefly just days before Mandatory Fun would hit #1 on the Billboard music charts. A feat that Yankovic had never done in his 30+ years of performing and no comedy album had done in 51. We spoke about the new album, his marketing plan to release eight singles/videos in eight days, and how he’s he felt about the success of the release.
First off, thanks so much for taking the time. I’m a huge fan. This is really awesome.
It’s my pleasure, thank you.
Second, the reception for this album has been fantastic. The album is great and everyone loves it. What’s it like? How do you feel right now?
I feel like I’m hallucinating. I feel like this is not quite reality. I mean I love this album and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but I’m not used to people agreeing with me so readily. The response has been almost more than I can handle. It’s such an outpouring of love from the fans and with the chart success and the sales, it’s truly beyond my wildest dreams.
Has anyone commented on their own parody yet? Have they heard it? Have they said anything?
Robin Thicke did tweet something. He quotes some lines from my “Word Crimes” song and said, “Words of wisdom, Al.” That’s actually the only response I’ve gotten. I know the guys in Imagine Dragons were fans to begin with so I would assume they enjoyed the parody but I haven’t gotten any type of official response from them, or anyone else yet.
To promote the album, you made the decision to release eight consecutive videos rather than a lead single. How did that idea come to be?
Well it started from not really knowing what to release as a single, because I felt that all the tracks on the album were strong. There were a lot of really good parodies and I didn’t really feel that one was so obviously better than another, so I thought why not let the fans decide? I decided it would be nice to be able to showcase as much of the album as possible and just get it all out there and out the empowerment in the hands of the fans to decide what the single was. On top of that, I knew I would really have to promote this through the internet because MTV really isn’t music television anymore. I wanted to focus on doing a campaign online. I know from experience that people ingest things very quickly on the internet. They get excited about things and things go viral very quickly, but then 24 hours later, they are on to the next thing. So I figured that if I want to be relevant and have people talking about this album all during release week, I really need to come at them with a video every day, a world premiere every day. So that’s what I did. It could have gone either way. It could have been three days into it and people could have been saying, “Ok Al, we’ve had enough. Thank you very much.” But instead, it had a snowball effect. The first video, “Tacky” was a huge hit and then the very next day we had another big hit with “Word Crimes” and then “Foil” was the next day. It felt like with every video, people got more and more excited, they started really looking forward to the next day. This is something that I didn’t know if it would work, I just tried it, and it’s worked far better than anyone’s expectation.
I read that you were worried that some of the material was going to be dated before it was released. That didn’t happen at all, how did you manage that?
It’s fairly recent. “Blurred Lines” is almost a year old now so it’s not an ‘of the moment’ parody, but what helped is that I picked a topic that a strikes a responsive chord with people, grammar. There were a lot of parodies made of “Blurred Lines” but I don’t think that any of those parodies dealt with the proper usage of grammar. It was a song that was still current enough, that was initially very controversial because it was deemed to be misogynistic and I kinda flipped it and made it a song that was educational to the point where it could probably be used in a school’s curriculum.
My personal favorite, “Now That’s What I Call Polka”, is one of the best things I’ve ever heard in my life.
Well thank you.
How do you put your polka medleys together?
Well, I’ve been doing polka medleys since the beginning of my career. I don’t know what number this is but I’ve probably done around a dozen polka medleys so far. I’ve got fourteen albums and I’ve done one on almost every album. I’ve always enjoyed doing rock songs polka style because I grew up playing the accordion and every time I tried to join my friend’s rock band or play a rock n roll song on the accordion, it wound up sounding like a polka, or at least that’s what my friends told me. I learned early on that there was humor to be mined there because of the juxtaposition of the two disparate art forms.
You tour quite a bit, what’s the Mandatory Fun tour going to be like with these new songs? Is there anything you can tease fans planning to see a show?
The tour, which is going to be next year, is going to be very much like my previous tours, except bigger and better. It’s still going to be a multimedia show, a lot of costumes and film clips and a lot of production. We are going to rearrange the set list, still keeping the greatest hits, of course, but now adding a nice sampling of tunes from Mandatory Fun. We will probably throw in a few deep cuts and a few more obscure tracks for the hardcore fans because they like hearing things they weren’t expecting to hear.
I saw you speak one time at a book signing. You took photos with every person that wanted one and were super nice to everybody, giving everybody their moment. You’v been doing this for many years, create this great music, write books, you’re on TV. Where do you get all this energy to be nice to everybody and do great work?
I get it from the fans. I feed off their energy, because if they are excited to meet me, I’m excited to meet them. That kind of thing doesn’t get old to me. I’m not jaded at all. I’m amazed that people are that excited to hang out with me.
Finally, besides the release of Mandatory Fun and the tour happening in a year, what else can we look for from “Weird Al”?
There aren’t really a whole lot of set plans. With the tour, we know that we are going to be touring, but we don’t have any confirmed dates or anything like that yet. Mostly I’ve been running crazy around town doing interviews and promotion for the current album. Then, I’m going to take a month off and just collapse for a while. After that, we’ll wait and see. I’m already getting a lot of offers to do things, there is a lot of potential for other projects in the works, but I don’t want to talk about those until they become reality because a lot of things just go away. I think my dance card is probably going to be pretty full for the next couple of years. This new album, the success of it, has reminded a lot of people that I’m still around and because of that, I’m getting a lot of opportunities.
Thanks so much again. This was a huge pleasure and congratulations on everything.
I appreciate it. Thanks so much.