‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, the parodic polka performer, brings his epic Mandatory World Tour to the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday, June 18. TCB Sports Columnist Anthony Harrison spoke with him over the phone on Tuesday, June 7.
Triad City Beat: How do you keep your youthful glow?
“Weird Al” Yankovic: [laughs] Oh, I don’t know. I try to get a fair amount of sleep. I like to eat healthy. And I just stay in my hyperbaric chamber for 23 hours a day.
TCB: Oh, yes, that’s good. Do you only come out for shows, then?
WAY: Pretty much, yeah.
TCB: Well, it’s a living. How’s it feel to be a thriving cult figure after 30-odd years?
WAY: It’s a nice feeling, you know? I’m blessed. I’m very fortunate that I’ve had a career for as long as I have, and I get to continue to do what I love doing for a living.
Beyond that, it’s a bit surrealistic for me to be ostensibly peaking at this point in my life. You know, I’ve been doing this for such a long time, and my last album [2014’s Mandatory Fun] debuted at No. 1, which still kinda blows my mind, and I’m in the middle of the biggest tour I’ve ever had in my life. It’s crazy. [laughs] Not only do I get to do this for a living, but things are going better than ever.
TCB: You were part of the mainstreaming of nerdiness in the ’80s — you arrived around the time of Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science, WarGames, all that kind of stuff. But did you ever experience any hardships from being a nerd? Did you ever get your ass kicked or anything?
WAY: Well, I was bullied a lot, certainly. I wasn’t actually involved in any fights, but I got, you know, poked and prodded and verbally assaulted a lot.
I have to stress that being a nerd is not what it was in the ’80s. It was very different in the ’70s and ’80s than it is now, because now, being a nerd is kind of cool. About 10 years ago, there was a kind of tipping point where, all of a sudden, everybody realized, “Hey, nerds make all the cool stuff! They make all the fun, shiny toys! They kind of rule the world!” And people were bragging about their “nerd cred.”
And, oh, [laughs] it wasn’t like that when I was in high school. A nerd was nothing that you’d aspire to be. You ate by yourself or with other nerds at a sad little lunch table [giggles], you were ostracized, you were not among the popular kids and you were treated like freaks.
I’m glad that being a nerd now has been more commonly accepted and is, in fact, celebrated these days.
TCB: In the same vein as being bullied — I’m sure you know about HB2. Why did you decide to keep North Carolina on your tour?
WAY: We did a lotta heavy thinking about it. It was not a decision we took lightly. We thought about it for a long time and asked a lot of people’s opinions and got a lot of input.
Ultimately, I felt like I didn’t want to punish the fans, because I think that, ah — or at least, I like to believe — that a lot of my fans also have a problem with this legislation. So I felt like it would make the most sense to continue playing the date and donate my proceeds from the Greensboro show to a human rights organization, like the [Human Rights Campaign].
I don’t think there’s any necessary, one “right answer,” but it’s the one that I picked. [laughs]
TCB: You’ve had a couple opponents to your parodies of artists’ songs, but Prince was one of the biggest opponents. You went so far as to slip “We’re gonna party like it’s 1699” in “Amish Paradise.”
TCB: Did you know Prince at all, and do you have any thoughts on his passing?
WAY: I never actually met Prince. We’ve been in the same building many times — same awards shows, same parties — but I never met him face to face. And I was very saddened by his passing. I’ve always been a huge Prince fan, I’ve always loved his music and I thought he was a genius. I’m sad that I never got a chance to do a parody of one of his songs and that now, obviously, that ship has passed. But I think it was a huge shock and a loss for the music world.
TCB: Has the ship passed on a UHF sequel [the 1989 comedy written by and starring Yankovic]?
WAY: Well, I’ve never been awful interested in doing a sequel to that movie. It certainly was not a blockbuster [laughs] when it was released initially. It’s become a cult classic; it’s become a fan favorite. But if I was given the opportunity to do another movie, I would much rather do an original movie with my same kind of comic sensibility.
I don’t want to trade on people’s love and nostalgia for UHF by making a sequel. I think that most comedy-movie sequels have a pretty bad track record [laughs], and I don’t wanna be part of that.
TCB: Are there any other songs that you feel like you should’ve parodied that you never did?
WAY: Oh, I’m sure there’ve been a few that have slipped between the cracks. That’s kind of one of the problems with doing albums, because you have to wait until you have 12 songs, then release them all at once. And if I come up with a song idea near the beginning of that process, then I realize, “Well, it’ll be a year, year and a half before the album comes out,” and that idea is timely, then you can’t really use it because it’s gonna be too dated by the time the album comes out.
Which is one of the reasons why I’m excited about taking advantage of digital distribution going forward. I don’t think I’m going to be doing any more conventional albums. I think I’d like to release music basically as soon as I write it and record it. That way, I’m not sitting on something that’s getting older day by day without people hearing it.
TCB: Do you have any songs that you’ve got your eye trained on?
WAY: I haven’t really been focusing too much on it right now, because for the same reason — I’m gonna be on the road for the next four months. Anything that I came up with now may or may not be still timely by the time I get off the road, because I’m not gonna be jumping into a recording studio at any time over the next four months. We’re doing six venues a week; there’s not much time in the middle to crank out some new tunes.
TCB: Sure. What are you listening to right now?
WAY: Ah, nothing! [laughs] I do my show every night, and the rest of the time, I let my ears relax.
TCB: I hear you. Do you have any comments or messages to your fans in North Carolina?
WAY: Yeah, I have a very important message to my fans in North Carolina: I’d like to remind them that it’s very important to floss regularly, because dental hygiene is very important. I want to make sure that you floss several times a day — if possible.
TCB: Of course, yes, of course. After every meal, right?
WAY: And during.