“I knew nobody would want to see me in a meat dress,” said Weird Al Yankovic from his home in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The frock of meat is one of the many costumes (from bees to cheese) his weirdness dons in the kooky music video for Perform This Way, his popular parody of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. “So it’s a female body with my face surgically imposed,” explains Yankovic, who also directed the video that generated two million Youtube hits in two days.
Weird Al hits Montreal July 28 as part of the Just for Laughs Festival to host the musical comedy variety show A’MPD at Club Soda, which features Bo Burnham, Reggie Watts, Tim Minchin, Garfunkel & Oates and Tom Green with Organized Rhyme.
Perform This Way appears on the musical comedy and pop culture icon’s thirteenth album The Alpolcalypse, released last month. But it almost didn’t make it onto the album. As the story goes, Weird Al was told Lady Gaga had rejected the song so he posted it on YouTube and blogged about it. But three decades, 12 million albums, two Grammy awards and a children’s book into his career, Weird Al’s fans continue to support their kooky hero. They rallied online for the cause, somehow catching Gaga’s attention. (It turned out, apparently, that one of her managers had turned it down without showing it to her, and when she heard it, Al explains, gave it her blessing.)
This wasn’t some elaborate plan on Weird Al’s part – quite the opposite. “I just wanted to let my fans know,” he said. “I figured I put so much time and money into it already, I wanted people to hear it. People were really upset… my fans are really great. They really had my back with this.”
After all, it’s an honour to be parodied by Weird Al Yankovic. Who could forget his ’80s Michael Jackson parodies Fat and Eat It and these days he’s still got his finger on the pulse, knocking off the likes of Miley Cyrus, TI and The White Stripes. Despite his many successes, songwriting doesn’t come super easily to Weird Al. “I’d like to think I’m good at writing but it’s not my favourite part of the job,” he said. “I have to write to have material to perform. I don’t freestyle.. I’ve just got this warped brain.”
He generally whittles down his many ideas into those which “have most possibility comedically and which can translate into an entire song… Everything I’ve done has been strictly for grins. The overall message is that you shouldn’t take things to seriously. It always amuses me when people find hidden messages in my songs.”
His recent children’s book, When I Grow Up, made the New York Times best-seller list. “It’s a whimsical, fun book. Having a very young child really helps in the inspiration department,” says Yankovic, who as a kid wanted to write for Mad magazine, but at the advice of a guidance counselor, earned an architecture degree before pursuing musical comedy. As for what the book is about, he sums up, “There’s a world of possibilty out there. Follow your muse and do what makes you happy. I never thought when I was a kid that I’d have this extended adolescence.”
Guest Blogger Simona Rabinovitch is a Montreal native who lives Brooklyn, New York. She covers arts, culture, travel and entertainment-type stuff for the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, ELLE Canada, Lonely Planet, Zink, DazedDigital and more.