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‘Al’s Brain’ is declared a success, and OC Fair will produce more ‘feature exhibits’

August 11th, 2009, 6:00 am · 28 Comments · posted by Teri Sforza, Register staff writer


First, we throw you this gossipy bone (and then we’ll tell you about the science applied to “Al’s Brain,” and results of $12,000-worth of polling, and the fair’s big visions for the future):

It was spring. The script for Weird Al Yankovic’s somewhat controversial 3-D movie contained the crucial line, But Al, how does the brain work? It would be delivered by “a celebrity,” the script said.

But who? The $2.5 million project’s premiere at the Orange County Fair was just three months away.  And Weird Al wanted none other than Paul McCartney to deliver the line. (McCartney, reportedly a Weird Al fan, had nonetheless declined to grant Al permission to turn “Live and Let Die” into “Chicken Pot Pie.”) 

In April, McCartney was headlining the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. So Weird Al rushed to the desert with camera and crew, barged into the former Beatle’s dressing room, and finally captured McCartney delivering the critical line.

A celebrity, indeed. “My career is complete,” Weird Al reportedly said. “I have directed Paul McCartney.”


This story was told to us by Fair CEO Steve Beazley (below right), who was relishing that feeling of taking a chance and emerging mostly intact, despite all the naysayers nipping at his heels (yours truly included).  We wondered aloud last week if the Orange County Fair took any scientific measurements of its somewhat controversial $2.5 million foray into film production - and the answer is yes, of course. (Beazley is that rare fair exec with a doctorate in clinical psychology and a background in theater, so, what else did you expect?)

Clickers counted attendees at the 3-D “Al’s Brain” - and  the fair spent $12,000 on polling to see what people thought of it, and measure what they managed to learn. According to a draft report:

  • There were about 45 showings of “Al’s Brain” each day.
  • About 250,000 people saw the film - roughly one of every four fair-goers.
  • That’s about 11,000 people per day, or 244 per show.
  • They were disproportionately female - about 60 percent.
  • 63.2 percent of  those polled said that the “Al’s Brain” attraction had influenced their decision to attend the fair that day.
  • They liked it! On a scale of one (bad) to five (awesome), the movie got a 4.4, and the exhibits surrounding it  got a 4.1.
  • 70 percent said they’d probably see it again next year, if it was offered.
  • And they learned something!

That all makes Beazley very excited. About 90 percent of them said they didn’t even mind cleaning their own 3-D staff_beazleybglasses.


To figure out whether people actually learned anything, the pollsters asked questions before people entered the exhibit, and after they left.

What type of cells make up the human brain?

  • Before the movie, 76.4 percent knew the correct answer was “neurons” (though 8.6 percent of these boneheads said “muscles,” and another 4.9 percent said “tendons”).
  • After the movie, 97.2 percent knew the answer was neurons (and we’ll assume that the 2.7 percent who continued to say fibers, tendons and muscles visited the beer garden immediately preceding the film).

About how much does a developed human brain weigh?

  • Before the movie, only 26 percent knew the correct answer was three pounds (while 23 percent said less than one pound - insert joke about your most despised politician here - and 44 percent said four pounds or more).
  • After the movie, 96 percent knew it was three pounds.

What color is the human brain?

  • Before the movie, only 35 percent knew “pink” was the correct answer (while 44 percent said grey, 6.1 percent said red, and 3.1 percent said dark purple).
  • After the movie, 88 percent of people knew it was pink.

Now, you choose the correct answer to this one:als-brain

Brain plasticity refers to the fact that:

  • A. The brain is not hard-wired, it can adapt to situations
  • B. The brain has a smooth and shiny finish like plastic
  • C. The brain is made of the same chemicals as plastic
  • D. The brain is hard like plastic and cannot be broken
  • E. Unsure

Before the movie, 58 percent knew that A was the correct answer (though 19 percent picked B, for goodness sakes).

After the movie, 82 percent knew it was A - but 11 percent persisted in thinking it was smooth and shiny like plastic.

One could argue about the educational importance of knowing how much the brain weighs, or what color it is - but if it sparks kids’ imaginations and makes them want to learn more, it’s a job well done, Beazley says.


Some purists objected to the fair’s foray into film production when it was canceling tweird_alhe cattle drive, but to Beazley, these results are a vindication. “We knew this would be uncomfortable to some people because it is different,” he said. “Some people are going to love it, some people are going to hate it. That’s why I wanted to take really great metrics of the exhibit.”

The survey of 326 people was done the first weekend of the fair. About 85 percent of folks said they would recommend the exhibit to others.

Will there be more big special projects like this? “I don’t know about movies,” Beazley said, “but I can almost guarantee we will do more feature exhibits. It’s the wave of the future for fairs.”

The fair’s board took a leap of faith on this one, he said. It took four years to put the exhibit together - but the next one won’t take that long. Expect to see it in 2011 or 2012. “What is the next possibility to educate while entertaining?” he said. “We’re waiting for the muses.”


Now, the fair begins selling “Al’s Brain” to other fairs. Part of the pitch is that people can attend a concert once, at one set time - but people could see “Al’s Brain” all day long, at their convenience. Prices haven’t been set yet, but it will rent for some $20,000 a day. “I think we can make back our investment,” Beazley said.

Will “Al’s Brain” become a profit center? That remains to be seen, but “it’s not designed to do that,” he said.

Now, indulge us by enduring a joke:

So a brain walks into a bar and orders a shot of tequila. The bartender frowns and says, “Sorry. Can’t serve you.” “Why not?” the indignant brain asks. ”Because you’re clearly out of your head,” the bartender says. 

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  • lido balboa says:

    Stand alone attractions have been presented at fairs since the two headed snake which is what beasley is.. feathering his own nest as a phoney poseur who couldn’t produce the opening of a door.. too little too late for the fat cats who are paid big bucks to produce what IS a joke.

  • Hey Now says:

    So, lido balboa, Beazley is a poseur because he believed people would want to see a Weird Al movie? Interesting.

  • Harley says:

    Lido: Just how is Beazley feathering his own nest with this production?

  • Dartanian says:

    One has to wonder what has Lido so angry?? Surely their response to the article on the Weird Al exhibit has little to do with the exhibit itself. The show, whether one likes it or not, does not warrant such an extreme response and character assasination against Beazley. One thing is for certain ~ unlike WEIRD AL’S BRAIN exhibit which gets a “thumbs-up” ~ LIDO’S unfair attack upon Beazley classifies as SUPER-WEIRD and gets a big “thumbs-down.” Beazley deserves a pat on the back for the quality of the exhibit and for “pressing through” with such unfair opposition. GO BEAZLEY! GO FAIR!

  • TheHappyEmo says:

    Only saw it 8 times before flying back to the east coast. Hope to see it again some day! I still can’t get the song out of my head… I’m actually smart(ish) now! Hooray!


    Hey This is GREAT news to me! I was an avid supporter of Mr Beazley’s decision, and I flew from England to prove it!

    I went to the OC Fair three times and paid the full entrance each time, (so $30) plus I was always in the company of LOTS of other Weird Al fans from ALL OVER the USA and elsewhere. I bought plenty of food and fair merchandise and other things and stayed in a local hotel, again with MANY other Weird Al Fans

    Al’s Brain was FANTASTIC! I watched it about 20 times and the staff and other OC Fair people were so friendly and nice to all of us loony Al fans., some, like myself, having flown in from other continents to see it. I managed to memorise the whole thing!

    It was an ocean of cool AC heaven at the hot sunny Fair and Im sure plenty of people who werent Al fans noticed and appreciated that also.

    Well done Al! (of course) I LOVED messing with your Brain, and thanks so much to Steve Beazley and all his lovely staff members, including Robin Cynthia and Joan that made it feel like a home from home and a great rallying and meeting point. Thanks to the lovely people actually working there on Al’s Brain, both inside, and in the merchandise booth too for their patience and courtesy and general friendliness. (and for taking photos of all us die-hard AlFans lapping it all up). It was a wonderful experience for me. Thank you ALL so much and thanks to the sand sculpture people.. That was AMAZING!

    I Fell in love with Orange County and its Fair and I hope there is a way it can continue in the future

    Thanks again to all

    Louise Hunter

  • I go to fair, I see als brain, I have very good time, it cool in there

  • Flat Broke says:

    I’m just amazed at the cost of everything at the fair, it’s not too far behind Disneyland!

  • lido balboa says:

    i don’t care if you’re paying two cents for something! if it doesn’t pay a return.. than who needs it? And there was NO measurable increase in attendance.. from what? a two hundred grand payment for this mess? ONE little old lady from england! that’s FUNNIER than weird Al.. Another gross mismanagement from incompetent managers who could screw up a two car funeral!

    • LOUISE HUNTER says:

      Haha! I admire your tenacity. There was THIS “little old lady from England” (haha) PLUS a whole family of adults from Argentina, PLUS a whole bunch of people flown in from just about every state you can mention, and all having fun and spending money in OC and all having a good laugh and enjoying the generous hospitality and friendliness of the vast majority of people they encountered.. We had fun.. did you? I love OC and I adored the Fair

      • Chefgal says:

        You have friends in every state? Impressive. Or were you exagerating a wee bit?

        • Fair-y says:

          She didn’t say she friends in every state — she stated that people flew from across the country to see Weird Al’s Brain. I am guessing she is part of a fan club or something. Why so negative?

        • LOUISE HUNTER says:

          Because of Al’s Brain being at OC Fair, yes, a fan convention was held in OC on Aug 1, so yes there were people from everywhere there are keen Weird Al fans…and yes I like to think I’m close friends with a fair few of those, but even all those people at the fan convention only represent a small number of fans who turned out to see Al’s Brain.
          Al’s a popular guy, you only need to look at the numbers following him on Twitter (should hit one million this evening), on MySpace, Facebook etc He is popular with all ages and types of people.

    • Hey Now says:

      Lido, by your measure, the Fair should eliminate everything but the carnival and concessions. I don’t believe the photo exhibits or the quilts “pay a return” either but people see value in them and enjoy them.

      Al’s Brain was an exhibit that people could enjoy for the price of admission. What is wrong with that?

      And what is a “two car funeral”?

  • Chefgal says:

    I enjoyed it but honestly I doubt if they actually did a quiz in that 12k they spent surveying people would flunk it even after watching Al’s Brain. The show was mainly nothing but a lot of fluff. The most I learned was actually in the queue up area where they had the brain teasers and quizes.

  • itsme says:

    I really wish I would have seen it when I was at the fair.
    ALmost everyone I talked to that saw it said it wasn’t worth seeing, so I didn’t. I even asked people as they were walking out if it was any good and they said it was all right and some said they wasted precious fair time????
    Hopefully next year it will be around so I can see it.

  • porkchopbun says:

    I think you have to be a Weird Al fan to appreciate this….I didn’t care for it for myself and I could not recommend it to my friend or co-worker. I thought the other shows at the fair were more interesting.

  • Holar says:

    I have never had a better time in my life ! I could hardly wait to get home and rub one out !

  • Dorie Bernstein says:

    The comments here are proof positive that you can’t please everybody. I’m unable to travel for health reasons, so there was no way I could enjoy the exhibit myself. Hopefully Al (or his people even) will see my tweets recommending they bring it into Second Life as well.

    (yeah, yeah, I know…Second Life isn’t for everyone. Live with it.)

  • Sam says:

    I like Al’s brain. It’s warm and comfy like those few seconds after passing out from alcohol poisoning. You lose bladder control and everything is warm and happy. Then some creep with a defibrillator brings you back and you’re all cold and hung over.

    He must’ve been an Al hater.

  • It was fun! says:

    I’m not a Weird Al fan, but I thought the 3D was really cool and there were some funny moments. I was glad it was free with admission – I felt like I was getting my money’s worth – and the video at the end had me tapping my feet. Yeah, I enjoyed it!

  • Hiroshi Mishima says:

    While I’m not surprised by Lido’s reaction (I saw his among others during the last article on this thing declaring for the world they shouted it would be awful and ruin the fair), I am quite pleased to know that it was by and large a rousing success. Due to monetary issues, I could not make it myself even though I live in Oceanside (North County, I believe it’s in).

    I’m happy that Louise, who was so looking forwards to it last time I saw her comment about the fair, enjoyed it, as did many of the other Al fans, and non-Al fans.

    Lido, I can only say you have misplaced priorities and do not understand how things function in this day and age. You remind me a lot of the people who advocate that the current copyright laws are not, in fact, harming recording artists and others who enjoy the music (like YouTubers). In that respect, I pity you, but you will not win any fans, nor any arguments, by this biased hatred you are gushing forth.

    • LOUISE HUNTER says:

      Thanks Hiroshi! :-)
      Although it was Al’s Brain that brought myself and many friends to the Fair, there was so much else to enjoy, and I got to see a side of American Culture that perhaps not too many tourists would get to see. I had fun looking at (and purchasing) examples of local craftsmanship, heard a whole lot of amazing music& got to eat stuff I’d never tried before. I loved seeing all the animals and just soaking it all up. I was astonished by the happy atmosphere and remarkable good humour of everyone I saw. No crime, violence or anti-social behaviour at all..remarkable!.. even astonishing to me..
      Even little kids seemed cheerful, well behaved & well supervised.. even in the heat.. I got a really favourable impression all round
      Thanks Costa Mesa and Thank you OC Fair

  • Lisana says:

    Count my husband and I among those who, while we live in OC, do not often get ourselves out to the fair. Weird Al’s Brain was THE reason we went to the fair this year. We very much enjoyed the 15 or 20 minutes of exhibit and silliness, and also had a nice evening enjoying the fair food and carnival.

    I dare say we might have gone more than once, if we weren’t wiped out from attending Comic-Con earlier during the Fair’s run. I really hope to see more things like this, and even hope that Al’s Brain will come back to the fair next year.

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