Phone Tag

"That's why I don't like the term
novelty music in relation to me,
because novelty implies
one hit wonder."
— Weird Al


Weird Al is Creepy

When we were face to face with Weird Al,
it was like a dream come true. A dream that
should have been funny, but wasn't at all.

Story by Davoud Kermaninejad and Neal Rodgers
Photo by Jonathan Hay

I don't think that we knew what we were getting into. When first hearing about the prospects of interviewing musician/parody artist/clown Weird Al Yankovic, we laughed. We laughed hard. Then we laughed again when we realized that in moments, we were going to be face to face with this 'celebrity,' and we tried to imagine what kind of questions we would ask, but could only come up with things like, "Al, why are you so weird?" Somehow, shallow questions like that weren't going to cut it with a real live rock star.

As we walked to the club to meet this self proclaimed clown prince of rock n' roll known for his satirical parodies of pop songs and concerts which are more like G rated Gwar shows, we were surprised to see that an unusually long line was beginning to form out front. In fact, two hours before the first of Weird Al's two shows that night, people were waiting to see their hero, buzzing with excitement and jubilation. A crowd of nerdysomething adults who almost seemed too old to be into Weird Al had staked out the front of the line, anxiously awaiting with their tickets in hand. One woman was wearing a bright yellow homemade t-shirt with the names of all of her favorite Weird Al songs emblazened in nauseatingly vibrant neon pinks and greens. While we were under the impression that Weird Al's sytle of entertainment was aimed at the pre-teen set, it had now become apparent that this God called Weird Al transcends all age groups and all intelligence levels. Or maybe those people were stupid, too. But whatever the case, the arrival of Weird Al that day sure had brought those hardcore Al-Heads out of the closet.

But the fans were nowhere near as strange and creepy as Weird Al himself. We walked in for the interview, and found Weird Al sitting at a table near the stage, staring into his plate of food with a despondent and depressed look, the polar opposite of his 'onstage' cheery and comic personality. Weird Al is definitely not a whacky guy. In fact, he isn't even funny.

"Would you like to go up to the bar and do the interview," Neal asked, for he had been looking forward to chatting with Al over a pitcher or three.

Before he could answer, his publicist rudely interjected, "No! Then his fans will see him. And that can't happen!" We would just have to tough it out and be thirsty. It was going to be hard taking this guy seriously without alcohol, the social lubricant. We soon found out that Weird Al isn't the stoney guy that we were hoping for. When we asked him if we could take some pictures for the interview, he quietly agreed, and then proceeded to pose in some very contrived and ackward positions, apparently showing us how much of a spontaneous and silly man he is. It looked like he had done this many times before and now was just going through the motions. I guess, I'd be depressed too, if my job was to pose for photos in wacky positions on dirty couches in strange towns night after night.

So after the photo shoot, Weird Al led us backstage, which was packed chock full of props for the evening. He had everything, from a fake styrofoam muscle man chest and long haired wigs to flannels and punk guitars for his Nirvana rip off song. He even had a chainsaw. As Neal started talking to him, the idea of this curly haired lunatic playing around with a chainsaw got me paraniod, and I started thinking that he was going to go psycho on us and slice us up for one of his skits and throw our limbs to the raving crowd.

"What's the chainsaw for?," I timidly interrupted.

"Oh, that's for my song, 'Like a Surgeon'," he answered dryly. Any trace of humor or levity was now absent, as Weird Al stared at me straight faced, and it almost looked like he was ashamed to have divulged such a guarded secret. Or maybe he was just reading my mind and knew that I was thinking. There was no laugh track here.

"I've got to know," Neal asked with a red eyed grin, "Is being Weird Al financially great, or what?"

"Well, it beats working for a living. I'm not what I call rich, but I live comfortably and I do what I love to do.," Al responded.

"The first time I heard you was when you parodied Michael Jackson's 'Beat It.' And I thought it was pretty funny then, but I never expected to hear from you again," I said.

"Well that's why I don't like the term 'novelty' music in relation to me, because novelty implies one hit wonder. Anybody can write a stupid 'Disco Duck' or whatever, and they'll have a big hit and then you'll never hear from then ever again. And somehow, I don't know how, but I've managed to have a career that's lasted eight albums and fifteen years," Al boasted.

"Well people keep writing good pop songs and you just cover them," I said, laughing. But Weird Al was not laughing. Frustrated by this hard hitting critique, Weird Al tried to redeem his 'cred' by telling us that he writes all of his lyrics himself and his new album even has some original songs. Okay, Al., whatever.

The interview had taken a turn for the worse as our questions continued to offend Al. It didn't help any when Neal bumbled and accidentally called Al's album "Jurassic Park" (it's really called Alapalooza, but hey, the fucking Jurassic Park logo is plastered on the cover of the album. It was an honest mistake!) Another classic moment was when we enthusiasticly suggested he parody a Black Sabbath song, to which he cautiously replied, "Uh, yeah." We went on to learn that he has little control over his albums after he has recorded them, and he blames his record label for releasing some album concepts that he was against. However, the tension finally broke when I compared his dilemma to a particular Brady Bunch episode where Greg became a rock star named "Johnny Bravo" and had no control over his musical career.

By the end of the interview, Weird Al was upbeat and told us to "enjoy the show." However, we didn't have any intention on continuing our evening in the presence of, or anywhere near Mr. Yankovic. A half an hour, face to face with the "Al-ster," we felt, was more than enough to saturate our bloodstreams with "wackiness" and we ran screaming into the night, looking for the nearest public drinking establishment.

Returning home several hours later, we accidentally ended up behind the venue where Al was performing, and happened to catch the encore of his show. To our surprise, Al had the place rockin'! It was almost like being there, and for a fleeting moment we regretted bailing on the show. And as we turned our backs and slowly headed for home, we could hear the crowd enthusiastically singing along with Al: "La-La, La La Yoda. Y-O-D-A, Yoda!....." That's right. Weird Al had stolen The Kinks' classic about cross dressing, and turned it into a Star Wars sing-along. And I'll be damned if we weren't singing along too, as we stumbled into the night.

Phone Tag

© 1997 Tweak