Weird Al Yankovic is the undisputed king of the song parody. He has famously parodied music legends like Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain. Weird Al has been around for over three decades now but his popularity may currently be stronger than ever. Weird Al is currently touring on his Mandatory World Tour and also just received a line of action figures from NECA.
We spoke to Weird Al Yankovic about his Mandatory World Tour and you can learn more about catching the comedy rock star live at weirdal.com.
How do you choose which artists and songs to parody?
It’s hard to articulate. Popularity is of course at the top of the list. It makes more sense to lampoon a song people are familiar with than one nobody has heard of. It has gotten more difficult. We don’t live in a monoculture so much any more. Pop culture is very fragmented and defining the main stream today is very difficult. But, the simplest thing to do is to look at the top of the Billboard charts and that is a pretty good indicator. Beyond that I look for songs that have a strong lyrical or musical hook to them. It helps if the artist has some idiosyncrasies that are easy to caricature. Personal taste doesn’t play into it too much but I do pick songs I tend to like because I have to live with these songs for the rest of my life.
Have you ever wanted to parody a song or an artist but for whatever reason it just didn’t quite work out?
There are a lot of songs that I thought were great candidates for parody and great targets but I can’t think of a good enough idea. I can always think of ideas…I can think of a thousand bad ideas. But, finding an idea where I go, ‘That’s funny, I can work with that,’ that can be elusive. A lot of deserving songs have fallen through the cracks over the years because I haven’t come up with an idea that I am happy with.
You have been around for a long time now and you have parodied a lot of different artists from many diferent genres. Is your fanbase pretty diverse at this point because of the length of your career and it’s diversity?
It is one of the most diverse fanbases you are likely to see…certainly demographically. It is one of the most diverse groups you are going to find at any rock show. I look out at the audience and I see toddlers and geriatrics. I don’t target any demographic and I don’t try and speak to any one particular group. I just do what I think is fun, and entertaining, and other people seem to really enjoy it as well. People who were fans in the 80s are grown up now and they are still fans. They bring their kids to the shows now and in some cases their grandkids—which is crazy to say but it is true. It is amazing to see.
Has the way fans look at you and your music changed over the years in your mind?
The big change from when I started out and now is of course the nostalgia factor. Now, there are a lot of people that grew up with my music. For a lot of people my music brings back a lot of fond memories and memories of their childhood. There is all of that in addition to what they may feel for the music itself. My tenacity has allowed me to earn a lot of points because it is now harder for my detractors to write me off. When I started out people thought I was a novelty and that I would be gone in 6 months. The fact that I am here 30 plus years later—people can’t really use that argument anymore.
One definite sign of your current relevance being so strong is that NECA gave you a line of action figures. How did that happen?
It started when they made a line of Simpson’s action figures and they did a Weird Al Simpsons figure and it sold so well they couldn’t keep it in stores. As people in marketing are likely to do, they thought, ‘We should do more stuff with Al.’
Did you ever imagine when you were starting out that after 30 years you would have a line of action figures and going on a world tour? Did you think you would still be so popular at this stage of your career?
Nobody thought that. If you asked me 30 years ago if I would still have a career doing this I would say—‘Probably not.’ I do comedy music, what is the future in that? I always followed my passion. I have been able to last longer than a lot of the people I have made fun of over the years with my muic. Being able to still make a living doing this is mind blowing to me.
You can catch Weird Al Yankovic on the Mandatory World Tour now!