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'Weird Al' Yankovic On Parody In The Age Of YouTube

Weird Al Yankovic On Parody In The Age Of YouTube NPR


Weird Al has been the king of parody for 30 years, outlasting and, in some cases, outselling the artists he's sent up. He also mastered the genre pastiche — original songs that nail a famous artist's style — long before Jimmy Fallon made the practice a viral phenomenon.

Yankovic is about to release his fourteenth album, Mandatory Fun, and he's taking that title seriously: Starting Monday, he will release eight new music videos in eight days. He spoke with NPR's Tamara Keith about testing song ideas on his teenaged daughter, how YouTube has forced him to focus his craft, and why Mandatory Fun is likely his last proper album. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read more of their conversation below.

Stashed in: Awesome, YouTube!, @alyankovic, Grammar!, @nerdist, hilarious, @iggyazalea

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And yet he has not put his Tacky video on YouTube yet:

dude, that video is FANTASTIC!

and it's all one shot!

Yes! And now there's Word Crimes.

omg WORD CRIMES is so good i can hardly stand it!  that was like a love song written just for me.  :)

Wait, I just realized...

How does Weird Al get from the roof to the ground floor with the video all in one shot?!

this is like a riddle!

he takes the stairs while kristen schaal and the camera take the elevator.

AND changes clothes! In 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Down 20 flights of stairs?!

At 58 seconds: "Weird Al Yankovic is on the plane."

Reddit comments:

hahaha!  great scene.  great movie.  gotta love the old weird al, too!

He's been doing his thing for a very long time. What a professional!

and he's a straight edge, which i admire.  he seems like a happy dude on a mission to make people laugh!

He's never mean and he does not use bad language. He's a rarity.

maybe that's why, deep down, everyone loves him.  :)

Because his humor unites us all. Weird Al for the Nobel Peace Prize!

Can we ever expect an album of all originals from you?

I don't think that's really necessary. If fans want to make their own all-original albums based on what I've put out already, they can burn their own. I love doing the parodies as well as the originals, so it's not like I'd ever give up one in favor of the other. And in fact, I don't know that I'm going to be doing any more traditional albums after this point, now that my record label deal is over. I think that digital distribution is more the way for me to go: putting out a single at a time, possibly two or three tracks or an EP. I don't know that putting out 12 songs at once in this day and age is the best way for me to get my music out there, because if I'm waiting that long, chances are a lot of the material is going to be somewhat dated by the time it comes out.

Wow, so this is the last "Weird Al" album?

Well, I have to be careful about that, because a lot of people listen to that and say "Oh, Al's retiring!" I am not retiring, I intend to keep making music like I have in the past. All I'm saying is, there's a pretty good chance this is the last conventional album.

So now his parodies can follow the originals quickly instead of having to wait for enough material to make a full album. Cool.

Reddit comment about the "Tacky" video:

Of all the things I thought I'd see when I woke up today, Jack Black twerking in a Weird Al music video was not one of them.

1800 Reddit comments:

More from the interview:

What's your process like? Are there songs where you're like 'I just have to do that one'? Is it ever a struggle?

Well, I start with a list of possible candidates. I go through the Billboard charts, I listen to the radio, I keep my finger on the pulse of what's happening online and I make a master list of songs that I think would be reasonable targets. Then I'll go down that list and do variations on a theme. I'll think, 'What are all the possible ways I could go with this song to make if funny? What are the puns based on the title? What are the directions I can go?'

I'll generate ideas, and 99 percent of those ideas are horrible. I have no problem coming up with ideas, but good ideas are hard to come by. When I do find a good idea, then I'll start riffing on concepts based on that idea, and come up with pages and pages of notes based on that. When I came up with the idea for "Word Crimes" I thought, "That's great, because I'm pretty obsessed with grammar anyway." I'm always correcting peoples' grammar. In fact I've done some videos for YouTube where I'm correcting road signs and making the grammar better, on the highway and in the supermarket. "Twelve items or fewer," that kind of thing.

That must make you popular at parties.

It makes me a hero among a small subset of the population.

Do you run these by anybody? Test them on a small audience?

My daughter is going into sixth grade, so she is sort of my ears to the ground. A couple months ago I said, "Are they talking about Iggy Azalea at school?" And she says, "Well, not so much." I asked the same thing two weeks later and she said, 'Oh yeah, that's all they're talking about now! They won't shut up about Iggy Azalea!' So, that was the tipping point. That's when I knew it was okay to do it.

I love this story:

There have been so many. One of my favorites was Chamillionaire, who of course did "Ridin','" which I did the parody "White and Nerdy" off of. He ran into me at the Grammys a couple years ago, right after he'd won the Grammy for Best Rap Song. He approached me on the red carpet and said, "Thank you for this. I think your parody is a big reason why I won this Grammy, because you made it undeniable that my song was the rap song of the year."

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