Trading quips with “Weird Al” Yankovic

All those awards. All those willin’ polka groupies. All that money. And what was the high point of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s career as of Feb. 15, 2000? Why, getting interviewed by me, of course! He totally told me so, and I quote: “You know, it’s hard to pick a high [point], but I would have to say this interview. This interview has pulled it all together for me.”

So you detect a little irony, eh? Well, listen: In preparing questions to put to him, I tried to come up with what I thought was a good mix of the solicitous and the thought-provoking. What I was really hoping for was to catch something of the “Real Al” Yankovic, the off-the-clock Grammy-winning rock parodist.

And guess what? If there is such a person, he wasn’t letting on. “Weird Al,” supposedly a joy to interview, seemed barely interested in any question that couldn’t be answered with a polished stock response or dog-eared anecdote. Any opportunity for a lame pun or an easy out and he was on it like a duck on a junebug. What’s the highest compliment that someone could pay to you as an artist? “My, you have nice shoes.” What do you think is the greatest problem facing America today? “That the Earth is going to crash into the sun.” Gimme a break! I don’t blame the guy for being a wind-up toy—he’s done thousands of interviews. What did I expect him to do, start crying for me?

Happily, I did manage to ask him at least one question he’d never gotten before. At the time, I had begun amassing a small collection of Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame-style relics weighing three ounces or less (an uneaten green onion garnish from Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, a tuft of pubic hair from the Melvins’ King Buzzo—ask me how I acquired that one sometime!) and asked “Weird Al” how he thought his legacy might best be represented.

“Maybe one of my wisdom teeth,” he said. “I had both my wisdom teeth removed and I donated them to Alcon, which is like an Al convention they have in Illinois biennially. They auctioned off my wisdom tooth and somebody paid $500 for it. So I’m never throwing anything away ever again.”

“Wow,” I said. “Do you still have your appendix? You could probably buy another house.”

That actually made him laugh. I might still have the tape to prove it.

“Weird Al” Yankovic plays the UM University Theatre at 7:30 PM Tuesday, Sept. 21. Tickets cost $40.

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