Weird Al Yankovic: I don't think I have any true enemies
For more than three decades, Weird Al Yankovic has turned pop music parody into high art. Always ready to turn a song into a witty commentary on the excesses of society and its stars, he has skewered everyone from Nirvana to Michael Jackson to Coolio to Miley Cyrus over the years.
While Yankovic isn't as prolific in releasing records as he once was, he remains a relevant figure both in an out of comedy. In recent years, he has penned two children's books and appeared on the Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
Gimme Noise caught up with Yankovic ahead of Saturday's show at Mystic Lake to discuss his daughter, and some of the ways his life has changed over the years. And hand-fart noises.
Gimme Noise: You're playing at Mystic Lake Casino on Saturday. On the topic of casinos, what was the last thing you gambled on?
Weird Al Yankovic: Heh. I've played at a lot of casinos over the years but I generally don't gamble too much. I mean, if I gamble it's really low stakes. If they have any dollar blackjack I'll do that, or maybe some quarter blackjack machines, but I'm not a good gambler. If I win 20 bucks, I say, "Big deal, I won 20 bucks, who cares, it's not going to change my life," but if I lose I say, "What an idiot, I just lost 20 dollars!"
You have a new children's book that just came out in June called My New Teacher and Me. Has your daughter Nina been a big influence on your writing?
Sure, she's an influence on everything that I do. When I first decided to start writing children's books, part of me was like, "Oh good, I'll have something to read to her at bedtime," not realizing that the process of actually publishing a children's book can take years. By the time my first children's book came out she was old enough that she was reading it to me for my bedtime story.
She's 10 years old now, right? What does she want to be when she grows up?
She's talked about a bunch of different things, as was the subject of my first book. She's not in any hurry to really decide. She's got a lot of interests and is talented in a lot of areas. She can do anything she wants to, really. There are a lot of options open for her and there's no rush, obviously.
Is she still really into dinosaurs?
She likes dinosaurs. She's a big animal lover, particularly birds. At one point she was saying she wants to be a bird trainer. She's a great artist and has shown a lot of skill in a lot of things. There's no shortage of things she can do if she puts her mind to it.
I read a quote in a recent interview about the industriousness you had in the '80s -- "If I stop, it will all go away." You said as you've gotten older, that phrase has stopped repeating in your head. What do you think changed? Having a family and a different point of reference, or are you just at a point where you are satisfied with your accomplishments?
Both of those things. My family is my priority now. In the '80s, I was really all about my career. And also, I am satisfied with my track record, and partly because of it I've realized that I have a bona-fide fan base that will stick with me. If I go a few years between albums, I'm not as concerned about people falling by the wayside. I realize that there are people that will gladly welcome me back whenever I do come back, hopefully.
You're a brilliant vocalist and it's one of the most incredible things about what you do. Has that always come naturally to you or are there times that you really struggle to perfect that tone?
Well, I'm not an impressionist like Rich Little or Fred Travalena. I give it my best shot and I try to change the timbre of my voice to approximate the original artist but I never contend that I sound just like them. I just give it my best shot. The simple fact that I've been doing it for as long as I have counts for something. Malcolm Gladwell had a theory that if you do anything for 10,000 hours that you become an expert at it. I never was a trained singer, I just have always been an amateur doing as best as I could. But I've been doing it for 30 years so I must've acquired a skill during that time.