Keep Columbus Weird
Let’s cut to the chase. Everyone already knows who Weird Al Yankovic is. His music has been omnipresent over the past four decades, so there’s really no explanation necessary as to who he is and what he does.
In fact, the biggest mystery about the musician-slash-actor-slash-director-slash-lotsofotherthings is why he’s never hosted or been the musical guest on Saturday Night Live.
“That’s a question for Lorne Michaels I guess,” stated Yankovic during a phone interview with Columbus Underground last week. “I’ve never been asked, so I’ve never been on the show. That may happen one of these days, but that’s hard to say, because it’s certainly not up to me.”
While your opportunity to watch Al on SNL might not come anytime soon, you’ll be able to see him here in Columbus next week when he lands at the Palace Theatre during this summer’s “Mandatory World Tour.” Yankovic has hit the road for a second year straight in support of 2014’s Grammy-winning “Mandatory Fun” album that broke the internet with with tracks (and videos) that include “Word Crimes”, “Tacky” and “Foil”.
“It took us a show or two to shake off the cobwebs, but I think we’re back in the groove,” said Yankovic about this year’s tour, which has already stopped in Miami, Nashville, Atlanta and over a dozen other cities. “It feels like last year’s tour never stopped. It is, in fact, the same tour… we just took a half a year break in between.”
If you happened to catch last year’s Mandatory World Tour at the Midland Theatre in Newark, you’ll be treated to a pretty similar experience here in Columbus.
“It’s the same setlist, so we’re not doing different songs,” explained Yankovic. “I’ve freshened up a couple of the film segments we use interstitially in the show. So if you saw it last year, and you see it this year, it’s not going to be dramatically different.”
At 56 years old, Yankovic shows no signs of slowing down. While his album releases have become a bit more sporadic (he released nine albums between 1983 and 1993 but only three albums between 2006 and 2016), his touring schedule is bigger than ever. The Mandatory World Tour hit 87 cities in five months in 2015 with another 78 stops in four months this summer, which doesn’t seem to exhaust Yankovic one bit.
“I don’t do a lot of sightseeing when I go to any any given city… I basically try to save my energy and save my voice,” he stated. “I give it all I’ve got for those two hours, and then I go back into a coma for the rest of the time.”
In addition to his music, hardcore Weird Al fans have enjoyed his acting and cameo performances in obscure television shows and films over the years, including Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Adventure Time, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, as well as the surreal talk show Comedy Bang! Bang! where Yankovic currently serves as the show’s bandleader. Most recently, Yankovic also had a cameo appearance in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
“I’m such a big fan of the Lonely Island,” said Yankovic. “Those guys are just the best.”
If there’s one film performance that defines Werid Al, it’s his role as George Newman in the 1989 cult classic UHF, which Yankovic also co-wrote. The film flopped at the box office, but fans have often begged and petitioned for a sequel. Some fans even proposed Kickstarter campaigns to help crowdsource the funding to make a sequel happen. But in today’s world that barely remembers what a UHF (ultra high frequency) signal even means, could a sequel based on viral video culture work as well as the original?
“I guess that’s kind of the direction it would go,” said Yankovic when asked if George Newman has what it takes to become a YouTube celebrity. “Some people have written think pieces about the movie saying that UHF was a precursor to the YouTube phenomenon, and that a lot of the shows on U-62 were not too dissimilar from the things you’d find on various odd YouTube channels today. I guess if you were to do a modern version, it would all be about the internet.”
Back in the realm of music, some would say that reinvention is often the key to longevity. Artists like Madonna or the late David Bowie have changed their personal and musical style too many times to count, and have had very long careers that ebb and flow with contemporary trends. Yankovic on the other hand has maintained a pretty consistent musical formula with his standard album format, and has only changed up his signature look just one time.
With the release of 1999’s Running With Scissors, Yankovic revealed that he had shed the glasses in favor of corrective eye surgery, shaved his iconic mustache, and grown his hair out a bit longer. When asked about the change, Yankovic stated in an interview that “If Madonna’s allowed to reinvent herself every 15 minutes, I figure I should be good for a change at least once every 20 years.”
Well, that 20 year cycle is coming to a close in just a few more years. With 2019 on the horizon, Yankovic revealed that he’s still contemplating what exactly his next look will be.
“I think I might tattoo a giant tarantula on my face,” he deadpanned. “I’m not sure about that yet, but it’s something I’m toying with.”
This interviewer jokingly suggested that Al could simply bring the mustache back, since hipsters are into mustaches these days, and it would increase his Millennial appeal.
“Well, I’ve never been one to try to be in fashion,” he stated.