“Weird Al” Yankovic: “Mandatory Fun” | Talks at Google

“Weird Al” Yankovic: “Mandatory Fun” | Talks at Google

[APPLAUSE] FEMALE SPEAKER: Check. [APPLAUSE] All right, everyone. We’re thrilled to
have our special guest with us at the Google
LA office today. He is the biggest selling comedy
recording artist in history, with over 12
million albums sold. Now in his fourth career
decade, he has won three Grammys and as of Tuesday
released his 14th studio album, “Mandatory Fun.” Please join me in welcoming to
Google, “Weird Al” Yankovic. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
[? Yeah. ?] Thank you. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] FEMALE SPEAKER: So Al,
you’ve had a busy week. You’re releasing eight videos in
eight days, the first of which was “Tacky.” And with all those cameos and
shot in one continuous shot and having Jack Black twerk,
that had to have been chaotic. So can you walk us through
how everything came together? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, I knew that I wanted to do one of
those one-take continuous-take videos, like Pharrell had done
for his “24 Hours of Happy.” And I thought it
would be kind of fun to include some of my own
celebrity friends in it. And Jack Black was the first
person I thought about. I thought, he would kill it. FEMALE SPEAKER: Absolutely. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: His
energy is just insane. So I contacted him. And he was shooting a movie
in Atlanta, but he said, I can come in for one day. I can do June 14. So I was like, OK, that’s the
day we’re doing the video. And everybody else if they
weren’t available on June 14 they couldn’t do it. So I went through and I also
got Aisha Tyler, Margaret Cho, Eric Stonestreet from “Modern
Family,” Kristen Schaal. I got them all together at the
Palace Theater in downtown LA. And I just kind of
figured it out so that we could use
the whole building. It’s a beautiful old
building with an old elevator and beautiful windows. Logistically, it
was tough because I start the video on the
fifth floor fire escape, and I end the video
on street level in completely different clothes. FEMALE SPEAKER: It’s impressive. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
There’s no edits. It’s all in one continuous take. So basically every
shot, every take, as soon as the
camera was off me, I had to run as fast as I can
down five flights of stairs while changing my clothes. FEMALE SPEAKER: Oh my gosh. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Just so I can hit my mark and be ready for the
end of the video. FEMALE SPEAKER: Wow. So you got your workout in. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I did. Absolutely. FEMALE SPEAKER: Needless to say. Why eight videos in eight days? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I
wanted it to be like Hanukkah in July. [INAUDIBLE] [LAUGHTER] I just thought that
that was the best way to advertise the album
because I wanted release week to be an event. I wanted people talking
about the video everyday for the entire week. And things burn quickly
on the internet. People consume, they
gobble up things. And then tomorrow, like
oh that’s old news. My friend saw that yesterday. Everything’s so immediate. I wanted things to
go viral for a day and have each video
have its moment. FEMALE SPEAKER: And the
latest one, “Sports Song,” came out today. So everyone needs to make sure
to check that out as well. The second video, “Word
Crimes,” was a take on Robin Thicke’s now
infamous “Blurred Lines.” And between the video along
with the famous Miley Cyrus VMA performance, it garnered
a lot of media attention. When writing the
song did you consider drawing from all
that controversy? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, I specifically did not want to draw
from that controversy because “Blurred Lines”
was almost a year old by the time
this album came out. And I was aware that
there were already 10,000 parodies of
the song on YouTube. And a lot of them had to
do with how misogynistic and/or rapey the
original song was. So I didn’t want to tread
that ground because it had been covered over
and over and over again. And that’s one of the
things with YouTube. I’m not going to be the
only person doing parodies. So I have to not take
the most obvious tact. I have to do something
a little left of center. And I figured,
well, I bet nobody’s done a parody of that song based
on the proper usage of grammar. FEMALE SPEAKER:
It’s very true, yes. Well, that brings
up a good point because with the
advent of YouTube you mentioned that it’s forced
you to become more creative. Are there other ways that
the evolution of the web has caused you to really
challenge yourself in your career? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, the web has just become the way
that I market my music now. I mean, I don’t market
through MTV anymore. That’s not even a factor. I don’t think of them, and
they don’t think of me. [LAUGHTER] Well, MTV used to stand
for Music Television. And now it’s not so much. FEMALE SPEAKER: Yeah,
very different programming these days. Yeah. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: So for
all intents and purposes the internet for me at least
has become the new MTV. So everything that I do
is geared toward that. And now for this album I
was able to do my videos with internet partners,
like Nerdist, and College Humor, and Funny
or Die, and places that were looking for
content the same way that I was looking for
a free music video. So we– [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: It’s
a win-win situation. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: We
kind of partnered up. FEMALE SPEAKER: Everyone
comes out on top. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Yeah. Right. FEMALE SPEAKER: Was
there a song that you wanted to use on the album but
felt that it was too overdone on YouTube or in other
people’s parodies? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, “Blurred Lines” was certainly overdone. And there are a few videos that
I was not treading new ground, but I figured that if
I didn’t do those songs it would be a glaring omission. People would be
like, why didn’t you do a “Blurred Lines” parody? So I just try to do what I do. And even though I know
a lot of other people are doing it as well, I try
to give it my best shot, and hopefully I’ll rise above. FEMALE SPEAKER: And it’s
always such a unique take. I mean, it’s a completely
different topic from the original song. So how does that
process work for you? What is the process
of picking a song and then writing the lyrics? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, I pick songs usually based on how big
of a hit they are. Hopefully, my parodies are
funny even if you’re not familiar with the
original source material, but it’s all obviously
funnier if you are. So I’ll pick songs that are
number one on the Billboard chart, getting a lot of online
attention and radio play. And I’ll make a list, a target
list of songs that I think are good candidates,
good targets for parody. And then for each
of those songs, I will come up with as many
ideas as I possibly can. Just generate puns
and variations on a theme and
different directions I can go with the parody. And most of those
are really bad ideas. [LAUGHTER] I mean, it’s really horrible– FEMALE SPEAKER: You have to
get them all out and then– “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Yeah,
but it’s part of the process. You got to just let your
brain seep out onto the laptop and just list everything
you can think of. And afterwards I’ll go
down the list and go, no. Stupid. No. Bad. No. No. And hopefully there’s one
idea there [INAUDIBLE] I go, yeah, I can do
something with that. FEMALE SPEAKER: Maybe
something’s there. A lot of people always
ask you about your choice to get the artist’s
permission before you actually do the song. And I know when dealing
with a team of people it’s a little more difficult
than actually dealing with the artist himself usually. Is there something
really memorable from a time that you tried
to get somebody’s blessing? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Well,
there’s a number of occasions, and I’ve spoken of them a lot. But I mean, usually
it’s my manager talking to their manager. And it’s all done
behind the scenes. But on occasion my
manager will say, they’re not returning
my phone calls. And if you want to
get this approved you’ll have to do it yourself. So then I have to seek
out the original artist and contact them and hope they
have a good sense of humor. And that’s happened a
small handful of times. The most famous example
probably being Kurt Cobain. I called him on the set
of “Saturday Night Live” back when he was doing
it for the first time. And I said, hi, it’s
“Weird Al” Yankovic, and I would like to do a parody
of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And his immediate
response was, oh, is it going to be
a song about food? [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: Because a lot
of your songs are about food. Yeah. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Yeah. Right, right, right. And I had to explain,
well, no, it’s going to be a song
about how nobody can understand your lyrics. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: And
what was his reaction? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: He
said, yeah, OK, that’s funny. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: Now I
wanted to clarify something because I heard a story
one time about you and Prince at the
American Music Awards. And it was that you received
a letter from Prince’s lawyer saying you cannot make eye
contact with him at the Awards. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Yes. FEMALE SPEAKER: Is that true? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
That sounds like a joke, but that’s absolutely true. FEMALE SPEAKER: Oh my gosh. So did you oblige them? Or did you try to– “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Well,
first thing I’ll tell you, I immediately sent back a
telegram to them saying, yes, Prince can’t
look at me either. [LAUGHTER] It goes both ways. FEMALE SPEAKER: That was good. That was good. Yeah. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
And I’ll tell you I actually did sneak a few
peeks at him during the show. FEMALE SPEAKER: Good. Did you actually make
eye contact or no? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: No! FEMALE SPEAKER: No. Heaven forbid. You don’t want the
wrath of Prince. That’s for sure. This is a big month
because not only did you release your album,
but we’re also coming up on the 25th
anniversary of the cult classic that you wrote and
starred in “UHF.” And there were a lot of– [LAUGHTER] “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Oh, please, sit down. Sit down. Please. Please. FEMALE SPEAKER: There
were a lot of expectations around the success of
the film at the time. Is there anything
that you learned from that experience
that has stuck with you throughout your career? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Yeah, I learned don’t make a big flop movie. It didn’t do well at the
box office when it came out, and the critics didn’t really
champion it at the time, but it’s gone on to become
a nice little cult film. FEMALE SPEAKER: Absolutely. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I mean, the fans have become obsessive about it. I mean, it found its audience
on cable TV and VHS and DVD. And when it came
out on DVD, it was a top 10 best-selling
title, which blew away everybody’s
minds at the time because like, well,
this was a flop movie. Why is it selling so well? But it found its audience. FEMALE SPEAKER: That’s amazing. Would you ever revisit the
project in some capacity? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: People ask
if I’m going to do a “UHF 2.” And I don’t think that’s
really in the cards. But I could do another movie
with that kind of sensibility, but I just don’t think I’d
want to do a direct sequel. FEMALE SPEAKER: OK. Interesting. Good to know. Something to look
forward to maybe. You also wrote two
children’s books, which some people might be
surprised to hear about. What brought that project about? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I was approached by an editor from
HarperCollins, Anne Hoppe. She was a big fan of my music
and the wordplay in my lyrics. And she approached me
after one of my shows at the Beacon in New
York City and said, I work for HarperCollins,
and if you ever want to write a
children’s book, I think you’d be
pretty good at it. And she gave me her card. And I said, thank you very much. I’m kind of busy at the
moment, but I’ll let you know. And about a year and a half
later, I took out that card, and I emailed her
and I said, you know what, I think I
want to give this a shot. FEMALE SPEAKER: A year
and a half later, wow. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I pitched her a couple of ideas and the one
that she responded to was, “When I Grow Up.” So we worked together on that. And it worked out very well. It became a “New York
Times” Best Seller. So now I can say, the “New York
Times” best-selling author, Al Yankovic. FEMALE SPEAKER:
I’m going to have to write that into the
introduction next time. So speaking of growing up,
you played the accordion growing up, which it
seems like you’ve always been someone who has
stood out from the crowd. Was your originality
always encouraged, or were you ever
pressured to fit in when you were growing up? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Well,
when you play the accordion, you don’t fit in by definition. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: Exactly, right? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Right. I mean, I tried to join
my friend’s rock band. And they were like,
you play an accordion. So yeah, I found
out pretty early on that I had to follow
my own path in life. FEMALE SPEAKER: And was
it hard sticking to that? Was there ever pressure
to go another way? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, here’s the thing. If I did the
conventional thing, if I had taken guitar lessons
instead of accordion lessons, I probably wouldn’t have been
discovered by Dr. Demento because when I sent him tapes
that I recorded in my bedroom as a teenager, the thing
that really stood out to him was here’s a kid
playing the accordion and thinking he’s cool. [LAUGHTER] And that was the reason why he
played my stuff on the radio because he thought that
was such a novelty. If I was playing the
guitar, he wouldn’t have given it a second listen. And if I hadn’t gotten
the initial exposure from Dr. Demento,
chances are I would not have any kind of career
in the music business because that was my whole start. FEMALE SPEAKER: Did he
serve as a mentor to you? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
He was my de-mentor. Yes. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: Your de-mentor. Was there any piece of
knowledge that he gave you that you’ve really adhered to? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I don’t
remember anything specific, but he was certainly a
guiding force early on. I cut my teeth on the
Dr. Demento show with all my early– I mean, I had several
songs on the Dr. Demento show before anything actually made
it onto vinyl at the time. “My Bologna” was
the first big hit. But prior to that I had a
lot of parodies and originals that were of
substandard quality. But I was learning. It was a learning curve. And Dr. Demento guided
me through all that. FEMALE SPEAKER:
Your guiding force. Of all the artists
that you’ve covered, is there someone that you
were particularly close to and maintained a
relationship with? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I’ve become friends with a lot of the artists
that I’ve done parodies of. Chris Ballew from the The
Presidents of the United States of America. I did “Gump” to his “Lump.” And we’ve been friends
over the years. And I’m still friends
with the guys in Hanson. I’m friends with Ben Folds. So every now and then
an actual relationship will come out of
this parody thing. FEMALE SPEAKER: Oh,
wow, that’s perfect. And I read before
that Madonna actually suggested “Like A Surgeon.” Is that true? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
That is true. Madonna was talking
to a friend of hers when she was walking down
the street in New York City and just offhandedly
said, I wonder when “Weird Al” is going
to do “Like A Surgeon.” And her friend knew a
friend of my manager and it got back to
me, and I thought, well, good idea, Madonna. I think I will. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: Thanks, Madonna. All right. And I remember hearing that
after “White and Nerdy” came out that Chamillionaire,
the rapper from his original song “Ridin’,” came up to you
at the Grammys and credited you for his success of that song. So is there an artist on the
radio today that has actively requested you to do a
parody of their song? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Well, I
run into people all the time at parties and awards shows
that they say, when are you going to do one of my songs? And I think they’re just trying
to make conversation and be nice. But I mean, a lot
of artists really look forward to the
“Weird Al” parody. FEMALE SPEAKER: Yeah. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: There’s
a song on the new album called “Mission Statement,” which is
a pastiche of Crosby, Stills and Nash using
corporate buzzwords and jargon but in
their ’60s vibe. And I just finished
recording it. And I was doing a
radio tour in New York. And Graham Nash was
in the next room. And I thought,
oh, this is great. I’ll play him the song. And I walk over to the next
room and before he can even say hi, he says, so
when are you going to do a parody of
one of my songs? [LAUGHTER] So I got my phone and
said, oh, here you go. FEMALE SPEAKER: It
just so happens. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Instant request. FEMALE SPEAKER: Very nice. I wanted to ask too
is there anything that really is a total
faux pas in your opinion on social media? Because “Tacky” and
“Word Crime” both allude to a lot of
things that just can be so annoying in
Twitter and everyone’s posts. Is there anything that really
bugs you about social media? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I’m
making some of my own faux pas. I’m trying not to over tweet. I’m trying not to retweet people
that are complimenting me. That’s a little tacky. I do a little bit of that. And I want to promote the album. But there’s so many people
saying wonderful things about the album, I just
want to retweet everybody. But then it’s like, oh, stop. Just stop. FEMALE SPEAKER: Now
reflecting back, we were talking a
little bit about this. MTV. You had your show
“Al TV” back then. What do you think of
the programming on MTV and other shows with reality
television and everything? What is your take on
[? it ?] these days? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I have
not watched MTV in years. I have no idea what
they’re doing right now. Last I checked it was basically
a reality show channel. I’m not into reality shows. FEMALE SPEAKER:
Not into reality. Is there anything on TV
that you’re on top of right now that you’re
just in love with? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: There’s
a lot of shows that I like. I was a big fan
of “Breaking Bad.” I love “Mad Men.”
“Comedy Bang Bang” was one of my favorite shows. “Key & Peele.” I love “The Daily Show”
and “Saturday Night Live.” And there’s some
event programming that I definitely have to watch. But it’s a fairly
small group of shows. FEMALE SPEAKER: And it was funny
you mentioned “Key & Peele” because Reddit did
an AMA with you. And somebody brought up that
Key and Peele were actually in the “White & Nerdy” video. Is that right? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Right. Yeah, they’re the gangsters
at the beginning of the video. They’re cruising
along, and they see me. And I’m mowing my lawn
and waving to them. FEMALE SPEAKER: And
you had no idea though. That user actually jogged
your memory of that? Or did you know that
they were in the video? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Oh, no, I was well aware they
were in my video. FEMALE SPEAKER: You
were well aware? It seemed like you
were surprised. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
They’d been on “Mad TV,” but they didn’t have their
Comedy Central show, which is really funny because
every now and then I’ll still get people tweeting me
going, Key and Peele were in your video. Like, yeah, I know. I know. FEMALE SPEAKER: Another thing
that’s really interesting is your shows draw in an
audience with a huge age range. And even in this room we
have kids and Googlers and– [LAUGHTER] Do you feel like you have
to ever censor yourself because you have
such a wide audience? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I’m aware of the multi-generational
nature of my audience. And I know that a lot of
young kids listen to it. And so there’s a fine line. I mean, my music is an
extension of my personality. And I don’t use profanity
in everyday life, so I don’t use it in the music. Some of my stuff gets a
little bit sick and twisted. I wouldn’t say that
all of my music is suitable for a six-year-old. I’m not like Raffi
or the Wiggles. There’s a little
bit of edge to it. But I think it falls under
the general umbrella of family friendly. So I like to think of
myself like “The Simpsons” in that way. There’s a bit of an edge
to it, but your grandma’s not going to soil
her panties over it. FEMALE SPEAKER:
Well, at this time I want to invite anyone that
has a question for Al to go ahead and line up at the mic. And we’ll just ask a few more
questions in the meantime before we turn to
the audience here. But I want to ask you
about what’s next. So your record contract
is coming to a close, and there has been a
lot of speculation on if this will be your last
traditional album or not. Obviously there’s
a lot of benefits towards digital
distribution with relevancy. But is there anything that you
learned from this week around how excited people were and
the buildup of the release that has weighed on that
decision at all? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I have to
wait for the dust to settle. I mean, this has been
an extraordinary week. And the album’s
doing extremely well. But having said that,
I still hold firm to the idea that
digital distribution and maybe releasing
singles instead of albums is the way to go moving forward. I hate to make any big decisions
or draw a line in the sand because things change. And they do. But it’s still looking that way
for me that going forward I’m probably going to
be more focused on being a singles artist. FEMALE SPEAKER: Interesting. And then what about
“Mandatory Fun” tour? Do we have that to
look forward to? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
There will be a “Mandatory” tour by all means. FEMALE SPEAKER: OK. Do we have any other– “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Next year. FEMALE SPEAKER: Next year. OK. Something to look forward to. Awesome. Well, we have some questions. We’ll go ahead and
turn to the audience. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: OK. AUDIENCE: Hi. A big fan of yours from the
early days of Dr. Demento. I’m a child of the ’80s. Congratulations on your success. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. AUDIENCE: And I
was just wondering when you do these parodies
are you re-recording the music behind it? Or are you doing the vocals
over the existing music because for some songs it
sounds dead on and I can’t tell. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. Well, that comes from working
with extremely talented people. I’ve had the same band,
the exact same guys, since the early ’80s. They’re the same guys
on all the records. They’re the same guys that
are with me out on tour. And they’re just
amazing musicians. They do everything from
gangsta rap to polka music. They’re phenomenal. And thank you for that. I sometimes don’t
feel like they get the credit they deserve
because they do comedy music. And some people
think because it’s comedy it can’t necessarily
have that much craft behind it, but they are some of
the best musicians that you’re likely to find. AUDIENCE: That’s truly amazing. Thank you. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Hi. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Hello. AUDIENCE: I just
want to tell you I’m literally a lifelong fan. My mom was– when I was– yeah. A lot of “Weird Al” at my house. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Got it. AUDIENCE: A lot of “Weird Al.” My question was, you
did talk a little bit about the multi-generational
audience you have which is phenomenal
because now I’m a mom and my son now only loves your
book but loves your music. “Yoda” is his favorite song. It’s like a whole
thing at our house. But I was wondering
about the educational– you have a lot of educational
value to a lot of your music. And, in fact, you’ve taught
me that the corpus callosum is totally awesome–
things that I didn’t even know about the human body. But I was wondering
if that’s something that you intended to
do from the beginning, or just because you’re this
really brilliant smart guy, it just comes out in your music? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: It’s not
part of my mission statement to make my songs educational. They’re meant to just be
funny and entertaining. But every now and then you
get a little bit of a lesson in there. “Word
Crimes” is full a lot of things for people that
need to be tutored on grammar. And my song “Foil” talks about
the many uses of aluminum foil. FEMALE SPEAKER:
And the Illuminati. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Yes, yes, so it’s more of a byproduct
than something I’m directly going for,
but I always appreciate it when people can glean
something from my lyrics. AUDIENCE: Yup. A lot of educational value. But thank you so much. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Hi. Big fan. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. AUDIENCE: I just
want to know out of all the albums you’ve
released, what song was the most fun to
write and record? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Oh gosh. It’s hard to say. I mean, my default answer
is “White and Nerdy” just because that’s the
most autobiographical. [LAUGHTER] I didn’t have to do a whole
lot of research for that one. I lived the life. AUDIENCE: And, by the way,
Shatner’s better than Picard. AUDIENCE: Hey, how’s it going? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Hey. AUDIENCE: So I like to read a
lot of rock autobiographies. And especially one
from the ’80s involving backstage hijinks and whatnot. I noticed there’s no “Weird Al”
autobiography to my knowledge. There isn’t, right? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, there’s a book that came out a couple
years ago called, “Weird Al: The Book.” It was written by Nathan Rabin. So it’s not really
an autobiography. But he interviewed me for it. I didn’t really want to write an
autobiography because I pretty much told every anecdote and
story about myself that I ever wanted to. There’s no hidden secrets
or skeletons in the closet. And I just wanted him
to do the heavy lifting. So that’s basically the
definitive life story to date. But Nathan actually wrote it. AUDIENCE: Yeah. The reason I was asking
is because I just want to know is there like one
story that could really get you in trouble. Some backstage like crazy story. [LAUGHTER] Do you want to share it with– “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
All the people that know about that
story are dead now. So I think– sorry. AUDIENCE: Yeah. We’re just a bunch of kids
that control the world’s information, so
you could tell us. [LAUGHTER] No? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thanks. AUDIENCE: All right. MALE SPEAKER: So we have
some questions coming in from the live stream as well. From Google offices and
the internets worldwide. So Tom Russ is wondering, what
is the secret to sustaining an entertainment career
over such a long time? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, I attribute it to working with very
talented people. I surround myself with
people that are very skilled and know what they’re doing. And I mentioned my band. I’ve been with them
since the beginning. I work with talented engineers. I’ve got talented management. I’ve got people that
make me look good. On top of that I like
to think that I’ve got a pretty strong work ethic. I put a lot of attention to
detail in everything that I do. A lot of sheer tenacity. And a whole lot of luck as well. MALE SPEAKER: Cool. And do you still have
100 gigabytes of RAM? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Oh. Yes. Yeah, sure I do. MALE SPEAKER: All right. [LAUGHTER] Thanks. AUDIENCE: Hey. Just a quick question. I was curious what you thought
of some of the other parody bands that are popular
recently today. Like Lonely Island. Tenacious D. Bands like that. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I love those guys. I mean, I’m good
friends with both. I’d add to that list. Lonely Island, Tenacious
D, Flight of the Conchords, Garfunkel and Oates, Bo Burnham,
Reggie Watts, Tim Minchin, Hard ‘n Phirm. I mean, there’s a lot of people
doing great, great comedy music out there. And I don’t look at
them as competition. I look at them as my friends. And we’re all carrying the
banner for comedy music. FEMALE SPEAKER: Would you
ever do a big collaboration with all of them you think? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Sure. Yeah. We can do a big “We
Are The World”– FEMALE SPEAKER: Let’s start it. Let’s start it. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: Thank you. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Hey, I’m back. FEMALE SPEAKER: Round two. OK. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Oh. AUDIENCE: So I’m just a
very curious guy about you. So you talked about
“UHF” earlier. I mean do you ever take
credit for discovering Michael Richards? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Nope. AUDIENCE: No? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, I mean, that he was already
on the show “Fridays.” It was ABC’s version of
“Saturday Night Live.” And he was popular
from that show. And he was a very
popular entertainer on the LA stand-up scene. So it wasn’t like that
was his first exposure. He was definitely a rising star. And I couldn’t
imagine anybody else pulling off the Stanley
Spadowski character. I mean, he had a great
sense of physical comedy. He was Stanley Spadowski. AUDIENCE: He was. All right. Good stuff. AUDIENCE: Hi, I’m also
a very long time fan. “The Food Album” was one of the
first albums I was ever given. And a number of the songs on
that I had no idea there was a non-“Weird Al”
version for years. [LAUGHTER] Like the first time I heard
“My Sharona” on the radio, I’m like, this sounds
like “Weird Al.” That’s weird. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I want to stop you. I know you got a
question, but I got to stop you just
because I’ve heard that story from a lot of people. And it tickles me because I
had a parody of “American Pie” about “Star Wars” which was
a big hit on Radio Disney. And all the kids on
Radio Disney didn’t realize it was a parody of
a 1970s song by Don McLean. They thought it was just a funny
“Star Wars” song by “Weird Al.” So the year after my parody
came out, for some reason Madonna decides to do a disco
version of “American Pie.” And all these kids
are going, how come Madonna’s doing an unfunny
version of a “Weird Al” song? [LAUGHTER] “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I’m sorry. Go ahead. AUDIENCE: No, that’s fantastic. So my question is, you’ve been
doing this for so long now. And a lot of the people that
you parody are coming up– Lorde is like 17. Do you ever run into or
you go to talk to somebody about a parody, and they’re
like, “Weird Al,” who’s that? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Not my knowledge. I mean– [LAUGHTER] I did meet Iggy Azalea to
get her permission in person. And in fact, DMZ
documented that. AUDIENCE: I saw that actually. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
And people were wondering like, well, did
she know who you were? And I was like,
well, I don’t know. I don’t start off with
the conversation with, do you know who I am? [LAUGHTER] So I mean, it was all
very cordial and polite. And she approved it. I don’t assume anything. But I think probably most
people in the music business have some working
knowledge of what I do. AUDIENCE: Yeah. Thank you. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. FEMALE SPEAKER: And when
you went to see Iggy you actually flew to
Denver to her show. Is that right? Is that the longest
length that you’ve gone to get somebody’s
blessing or? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
It might be. Yeah. The reason I did
that was because I had 11 songs in the can. And I was waiting
for the twelfth one to be a parody of whatever
the song of the summer was. And when I heard “Fancy” and
saw it going up the charts, I thought, OK, this is it. So I wrote the song. I arranged for the recording
dates and the mastering date. And we had the whole release
planned for the album. But then we weren’t hearing
back from her manager. And the calls weren’t
getting returned. And the clock was ticking. And finally I said, well,
I gotta just talk to Iggy. So I got on a plane, and I
flew to Denver on Friday. And we were scheduled to record
the song the next morning in Los Angeles. So it was like if I
didn’t get her permission the whole album would have
been put on indefinite hold. And thankfully it worked out. I mean, I got her as she
was walking offstage. And I said, oh, Iggy, hi. I’m “Weird Al” Yankovic. And I would love to do a
parody of your song “Fancy.” And are you OK with that? And she said, well, I
need to have a little bit more information. I said, I happen to have
the lyrics right here. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: And
she looked at me and she’s like,
yeah, looks fine. And that was it. [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: I always liked
your song “Jurassic Park.” And the video was so
great with the claymation. And I’ve had a fascination all
my life with the original song, Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park.” And I wondered if while you were
working on that if you came up with interpretations about
what the original meant. The cake and the
rain and all of that. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: I didn’t
think too much about that. I mean, I’m sure Jimmy Webb
had his– I mean, people have theorized about
that for decades. And I became friends
with Jimmy Webb. In fact, he gave me a dinosaur
head to commemorate the parody. And I got to perform–
oh, yeah, I remember that. Jimmy Webb had a
show at The Roxy. And at the end of
the show he started playing “MacArthur Park.” And he played the
first couple lines then he pretended like
he forgot the words. He does, can anybody else
sing the song for me? And I come out from the wings
and I do “Jurassic Park.” [LAUGHTER] But Jimmy was a great fan. But he never sat
me down and told me what “MacArthur
Park” was all about. AUDIENCE: Mystery. OK. AUDIENCE: I have a
second question here. Going back to the stair climbing
and the costume changing, what’s the “Weird
Al” exercise routine? How do you stay in shape
and make that happen? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Well,
I had my skeleton removed, so I can just flop
all over the place. My exercise is basically when
I’m on the road it’s the show. That’s my aerobic workout. And when I try to lose
weight or try to get in shape or get my cardio up– I’m not a gym guy. I just can’t go to the gym. It’s not fun or appealing to me. But I like walking. So I’ll walk from my house
in the hills five miles down to Wilshire Boulevard and back
up again with my headphones on and just rocking
out down the street. So that’s my favorite
kind of exercise. AUDIENCE: Thanks. AUDIENCE: Hey. First, I just
wanted to thank you for basically being the
soundtrack to my teenage years. [LAUGHTER] “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
My pleasure. AUDIENCE: I remember
buying “Alapalooza” back when they still worried
about selling CDs in stores. And there was the sticker on
it reminding people no, this is not in fact the “Jurassic
Park” soundtrack for– “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Right. It was an afterthought
from the legal department, like, there are a
lot of stupid people. You better put that on there. [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: But my
questions is just, you’ve been doing
this for so long. What’s the biggest
difference between doing it now and when you were
getting started in the ’80s? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Mostly
it’s all about distribution. I mean, you pointed out
or alluded to the fact that record stores by and
large don’t exist anymore. There’s just a few remaining
people keeping the faith. But it’s all done
online, whether it’s Amazon or other digital
portals like iTunes. So it’s just a matter of the
way that music is marketed and the way that
it’s distributed. But music is music. And that changes
as well, of course. Pop culture is always changing. But I think the most
radical changes have just been in the way that the
music itself is consumed. AUDIENCE: So the difference
is in how people consume it, not necessarily
how you produce it. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Well, a little of both. I mean, when I started out–
I grew up in the analog days. So I used to record stuff
on a 24 track analog tape. And nowadays it’s all digital. So I can play around
with things indefinitely, like moving waveforms around and
making things a little bit more perfect than I would
have been able to do back when I was starting out. So I spend the
same amount of time working on things as I used to. But now I get into the
really nitty-gritty details. I’m pretty OCD that way. So I can spend a lot of
time working on things. AUDIENCE: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Hi. Like everybody else, I grew
up listening to your music. Listened to Dr.
Demento over and over. Just had one tape
that my friend had. Bootlegged. Listened to it over and over. But I recently went
to Maui with my wife. And we took the
bus tour to Hana. And we heard a story about
you and the pedestrian crossing signs. [LAUGHTER] Is it not true? So all the pedestrian crossing
signs, or a bunch of them, had little hula hoops, like
stickered on top of it. And the guide said
that was your doing. Was that really you? “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: No. No. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: Imposter. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: No. My vacation home is in Maui. But I was not responsible
for those stickers. Maybe the story’s
getting confused. I had a YouTube video
where I drove around Maui changing the road signs. There was a sign that
says, drive slow. And I stopped the car and I
get a little LY and put slowly. But I’m not responsible
for the hula hoops. AUDIENCE: OK. FEMALE SPEAKER: Was that
the original “Word Crime”? That whole incident? Yeah. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Well, yeah. My grammar nerd cred is
firmly established already. AUDIENCE: I have a short
anecdote rather than a question. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: OK. AUDIENCE: So last
year I got married. And when we were
trying to figure out what music I cared about having
at the wedding, of course, I wanted to have “Weird Al.” So in talking with
the DJ the directive we gave was, OK any song
that has a “Weird Al” parody, play that instead of
the original version. And one of the
highlights of the wedding was people realizing
halfway through “Eat It” that it was “Weird Al”
instead of Michael Jackson. [LAUGHTER] “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Nice. Very nice. AUDIENCE: Thank you. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Hi again. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Hello. AUDIENCE: So we were just
talking about the media distribution and how that’s
changed over the past 20 something– five– years. So I noticed that
with your videos this week you’ve been picking
different sites to host them on. Can you explain a little
bit behind that decision? And I guess a second
part of that question is are the videos eventually
going to be all on YouTube? Because that’s where
we go for videos. [LAUGHTER] “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Yeah. First of all, I put them
all on different portals because I wanted
to spread the love. I wanted everybody to
feel ownership in it. And they would each have their
own video that they would promote and hopefully promote
all the other partners’ videos as well. And they will all
eventually be on YouTube. They will revert
back to the label. And the label’s VEVO
channel will host them at that point as well as
the original partners. But the original partners
have an exclusivity window. So that was part of
the deal that the label made when we first
agreed to do it. But yeah, that’s the
answer to your question. Probably within two weeks
they’ll all revert to YouTube. AUDIENCE: OK. Thanks. AUDIENCE: Well,
first you made me really jealous of my brother. See, I thought I had it cool
coming to work for Google while my brother was stuck down
here in Los Angeles working for College Humor as
a producer on “Foil.” “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Is
your brother Jon Wolf? AUDIENCE: Jon Wolf. Yes. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Oh, excellent. And he’s in the video, too. He’s the guy going, ahh. AUDIENCE: Yeah,
I recognized him. [LAUGHTER] My question is what was
it like the first time you saw your face on
someone else’s shirt? [LAUGHTER] “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Pretty odd. The first time you see your
face on somebody’s else’s body it’s always weird. What’s even weirder
than that was the first I saw my face on
somebody’s leg as a tattoo. That’s even weirder
when you realize that’s permanent, right? [LAUGHTER] That doesn’t wash off. AUDIENCE: Thank you. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thanks. AUDIENCE: Hello. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Hello. AUDIENCE: I’ve been
a long time admirer of your beautiful,
beautiful locks. I was wondering what
hair products you use. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: I
asked the same thing. Yeah, naturally curly hair. It’s beautiful. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
I wish I knew. I mean, I do throw stuff on
my hair when I’m washing it. But I couldn’t even tell–
it’s in the purple bottle in the shower. Whatever my wife puts in there. So I don’t have a
brand name for you. Sorry. FEMALE SPEAKER: You might
have to brand something. I think there’s a lot
of requests for that. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: OK. [LAUGHTER] FEMALE SPEAKER: Well, I
think that was it then. Thank you so much for coming. This has been amazing. And we’re going to
look forward to seeing the rest of the videos
and definitely information on the Mandatory Fun tour. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:
Thanks so much. Appreciate that. Thanks, guys. FEMALE SPEAKER: Al
Yankovic, everyone. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much. [INAUDIBLE] AUDIENCE: Thank you. [INTERPOSING VOICES] AUDIENCE: Ready? [INTERPOSING VOICES] AUDIENCE: Thanks.
[? We appreciate it. ?] Take care. FEMALE SPEAKER: OK. You’re next, buddy. [INTERPOSING VOICES]

99 thoughts on ““Weird Al” Yankovic: “Mandatory Fun” | Talks at Google

  1. Can't say enough about this guy he's such a badass in his own way, super smart, and he seems so grounded and just a great ambassador for comedy and music in general. 

  2. I'm noticing how when he's listening to an audience question, Al transforms into a 17th century Dutch astronomer.

  3. The audio sucks on this and while I found it easier to use headphones to make out much of it, the closed captions were a great supplement, so if you do not have headphones or still can't understand portions, turn Closed Captioning on.

  4. Great interview! Weird Al is an amazing person. I really sorry that i haven't know his music before. Thanks Google for putting this up, even though the bad audio.

  5. He made 'Jurassic Park' decades after 'Macarthur Park' because Weird Al always knew when the timing was right.

    Comedy is based on timing, in more than 1 way.

  6. For a talk at google, putting this blond bimbo (seriously ? Can't she remembers the information on the paper ? Please put someone who can remember stuff…), and having bad video and audio recording…
    This shouldn't be a Google thing at all..

  7. I hate how everyone tries getting him on their show and asks him the same questions everyone else is asking, really just to get "their" interview with him

  8. Nothing to do with the topic. but coming from Google, I'm surprised at the bad video encoding, audio and lights. As a video, it's bad.

  9. Yeah, whoever they got for their sound guy, clearly didn't do a good job. I've had no training at all, and I still manage better at my own church.

  10. 'First World Problems' is the best Weird Al Song. Ahh, I can relate to it so much. Second best? Albuquerque or Hardware Store. Argh! I can't decide, because it's all good!

  11. I love the parodies, but why doesn't Weird Al get enough credit for his ORIGINAL compositions? Bob, Albuquerque, One More Minute, Why Does This Always Happen to Me? Etc. He's not just a one-trick pony!

  12. The best: Weird Al, Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, Robin Williams. But Al has a great band, and puts it to Music.

  13. So she gets to talk directly into an sm58 microphone, but the number one selling parody artist of all time has to yell out to be heard? Real classy google. Friggin douches

  14. This girl is an atrocious interviewer. Just painful to listen to. I am truly embarrassed for her being thrown into this without any appreciable skills to do this.

  15. He's such a lovely, genuine man. I just adore him as a person. I can't really get into his songs but that's the only thing. Everything else about him, I'm a great fan.

  16. they shouldv placed al's clip mic on his left since he was gonna turn left to talk to the girl and you can tell from his head turns

  17. I met Al after a concert in MN a couple years back and he is so genuine and giving! Absolutely love the man! 🙂

  18. United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121…Here's their number so Call your USA SENATOR .

  19. One time I went to an American-style diner and they were playing music and at one point I thought they were playing 'Beat it' but then I listened closer and they were playing 'Eat it' and I was like "Woah, Weird Al"

  20. I can NOT believe that Weird Al hasn't been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!!!! We need to start a petition!! Yankovic's 12 million albums sold, seven Platinum albums and four Grammy wins are more impressive than some of the figures of artists already in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps the biggest feather in his cap is that he is one of only three artists to earn Top 40 hits every decade since the '80s, along with Madonna and Michael Jackson!! "Rock & Roll" is a genre, but it's also an attitude… and nobody exemplifies it more than Weird Al!!! Let's make it happen!!!

  21. I like the interview BUT I must say that I am amazed that one of – if not THE – forefront tech companies can't handle proper mic and sound technology…

  22. being a bit of an al yankovic fan I google his interviews he is funny and interesting off the cuff.  but what I hate so much is that these annoying interviewers ask him the same fcking question, like about Madonna suggesting like a surgeon.  everybody heard that already 1000 times already you brainless idiot why can't you ask him something new, just look at dan rather's interview, he tried to ask him different questions not the questions he has already answered 100o freaking times.  annoying.  bullshit annoying.  crap interviewer

  23. I would love to see al work with lonely island but i cant seem him doing it cause their music is pretty dirty compared to him lol

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