One on One with “Weird Al” Yankovic
But seriously, folks…three-time Grammy winner “Weird Al” Yankovic is the biggest-selling comedy recording artist of all time, with 31 Gold and Platinum records to his credit. An equal-opportunity offender, Yankovic parodies pop stars as diverse as Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga on his 13th studio album, Alpocalypse. Yankovic embraced a vegetarian diet in 1992, after reading John Robbins’s Diet for a New America.
Q You published a bestselling children’s book, When I Grow Up, in February. Has your 8-year-old daughter, Nina, let you know how she wants to eat when she grows up?
A She is definitely leaning toward being vegetarian. My wife and I discussed this even before Nina was born. We didn’t want to impose any kind of strict vegetarian lifestyle on her; we wanted her to make her own choices and not feel limited. We know people who were forced to eat a certain way as children, then rebelled against it. But on her own, she’s decided to stop eating meat. We didn’t push her; she’s an animal lover.
Q Thanks to YouTube, anyone can be a parodist these days. Has that affected you?
A It hasn’t affected my work or my process. But I know I’m not unique anymore. So I try to be the best at what I do. Sometimes I just have to put blinders on and pretend I’m not the 10,000th person doing a Miley Cyrus parody.
Q You’ve outlasted many of the artists you’ve spoofed. What do you think accounts for the enduring popularity of your song parodies?
A I’ve certainly bucked the odds there. But people appreciate irreverence in pop culture. Sometimes musical artists take themselves a bit too seriously, so it’s always nice to have people like me who sort of pop the bubble of pretentiousness.
Q We vegetarians can take ourselves pretty seriously too. Are we due for lampooning?
A Back in 1983, I actually did a song on my first album ["Weird Al" Yankovic] called “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead,” and one of the lineswhich gets thrown in my face all the timeis “I don’t want no part of that vegetarian scene.” This is nearly a decade before I became vegetarian myself. I was poking fun at the whole laid-back Southern California lifestyle, and I guess vegetarianism was part of that.
Q Along with song parodies, you’ve recorded hundreds of original songs, such as “Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me” from your new album. Which type of song is more challenging for you as a writer?
A They each have their own sets of challenges. Originals are more work, because obviously I’m writing the music for them as well. But because a lot of my parodies get made into singles and videos and receive more attention, there’s more pressure inherent in that. It’s extra-important those songs really click.
Q Have you been tempted to use your songs as a platform to talk about issues that matter to you?
A Not really. I’ve never wanted to be pedantic. Sometimes, people draw messages from my songs that weren’t intended. They’re free to do that, but I don’t really look at my music as a way to preach to people, more to entertain them.October 2011 p.84