Weird Al – Comedy Bang Bang

Behind the Music

“Weird Al” Shares the Stories Behind “Eat It,” “Word Crimes” and More Hit Songs

Catch "Weird Al" on the 100th episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! Friday, July 1st starting at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades and one that encompasses music, film, television, live shows, and the occasional podcast, “Weird Al” Yankovic has the very definition of a storied history. The performer has 14 albums under his belt — four of which went gold, six went platinum — and has amassed four Grammy Awards and several generations of diehard fans. We were curious about some of the stories “Weird Al” had behind a few of his hit singles, so we asked for a tiny glimpse at the making of these beloved tunes.

In celebration of his triumphant first season as Comedy Bang! Bang!‘s new bandleader, here’s the story behind five “Weird Al” songs as told by the singer himself. (Click here to read Al’s thoughts on joining Comedy Bang! Bang!, his new tour and more.)

1. “My Bologna”

Weird Al: I did [“My Bologna”] when I was 19 years old. I was going into my senior year in college at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. I was doing a summer shift at the college campus radio station, and The Knack was huge that summer — “My Sharona” being by far the most requested song at the radio station. And I just had the most obvious, stupid idea for a parody: “My Bologna.” So I brought my accordion into the bathroom across the hall because the tiled walls gave off a nice reverb sound. And I recorded “My Bologna,” sent it to Dr. Demento, and he played it on his radio show in Los Angeles where it became a hit. In fact, I got a postcard from him saying “My Bologna” was number one on the “Funny Five” for two weeks in a row. And I couldn’t believe it. [Laughs] I thought to myself, “Well, it’s never gonna get any better than this.”

IFC: Did you shoot a music video for “My Bologna”?

Weird Al: Well, it’d be generous to call it a music video. A friend of mine Randy Kerdoon, who was also a DJ at the radio station, had to do a video as part of his senior project. We shot it at a nearby community college, and it was a no-budget shoot. It was me pretending to play the accordion and singing. But it was recorded! It exists! [Laughs] And it wound up being an Easter egg on one of my DVDs.


2. “Eat It”

Weird Al: “Eat It” was my first really big hit. I had a couple minor hits before then, “Another One Rides the Bus” and “Ricky,” but “Eat It” kinda turned me into a household name as a known character, I guess. Before that, nobody would’ve recognized me on the street. But after I did “Eat It,” it went into heavy rotation on MTV and got played six times a day. I became a literal overnight celebrity, and all of a sudden, my anonymity was gone. I’d be in line at a fast food restaurant and somebody would say, “Hey! There’s the ‘Eat It’ Guy!” So that was very dramatic and odd. [Laughs]

IFC: Did you use the original set from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video?

Weird Al: No, that didn’t really exist anymore. We tried to find out where they shot the original stuff, but those sets were gone and the locations looked completely different. So we basically did everything from scratch. We recreated the pool hall and the outdoor scenes on a soundstage in LA very, very quickly. I’m surprised we were able to finish the video. It was a very haphazard shoot. [Laughs] But it all came together. And that video, more than anything else in my career, had an enormous effect.


3. “Smells Like Nirvana”

Weird Al: I think we actually shot that on the same soundstage as Nirvana shot [“Smells Like Teen Spirit”]. It wasn’t an actual basketball court, of course. We got the same janitor, a bunch of the same cheerleaders, and some of the same audience members. We were driving more for authenticity on this one, so we got a lot of the same characters. I could be wrong, but I think it was all done in one day — one very long shoot — which is crazy. We didn’t know that we were going to get [Eight is Enough star] Dick Van Patten, but we knew we needed some random celebrity. So we went down the list to see who we could get, and somebody said, “Hey, I have a friend who knows Dick Van Patten.” We said, “Perfect!” And he showed up and he killed it.


4. “Amish Paradise”

Weird Al: Pretty sure that was a two-day shoot. That was a pretty complicated shoot because we wanted to shoot in Lancaster — again, for authenticity — but we found out very quickly that we couldn’t transport everybody across the country to go to Pennsylvania. So we had to shoot that in Southern California. And Lancaster’s very flat, and where we shot was very hilly. So we had to camouflage that there were hills everywhere. [Laughs] I got a lot of my family members in the video to play Amish people.

There’s a set piece at the end where we filmed an entire shot backwards, and I had to learn the chorus phonetically backwards, which was a real challenge. Of course, Florence Henderson’s there because, you know, when Michelle Pfeiffer can’t be in the video, Florence Henderson’s always available. [Laughs] She was amazing, and again it was a lot of fun. I think that was around the time that MTV stopped playing music videos. And it was a very popular video, but it was moot because MTV was just starting to say, “Yeah, we’re not so much a music video channel anymore.” [Laughs]


5. “Word Crimes”

Weird Al: That was basically a lyrics video done with kinetic typography, and I’m a big fan of that style of animation. And I was looking online to try to figure out who I wanted to actually do it, talent scouting on the Internet. [Laughs] And I saw a Jonathan Coulton video called “Shop Vac,” which was done by Jarrett Heather.

I saw in [Jarrett’s] work a sense of humor and a consummate level of skill, and I just liked his timing and the fact that he knew how to work with comedy. But I had checked all of his social media, and it was like he dropped off the face of the earth. His Twitter account had been inactive for a couple of years, and I thought, “Did this guy die?” [Laughs] So I emailed Jonathan Coulton and I tracked Jarrett down. He was working at his day job and just hadn’t been doing too much of that kind of work in his free time. And I said, “Hey, I really love the ‘Shop Vac’ video. Would you be interested in doing a video for my new album?” And he was thrilled and he did an amazing job. He spent over 500 hours working on the “Word Crimes” video, just basically him and his laptop. And he would go back and forth with me — I’d be giving him notes and he’d come back with these amazing ideas. And it was the song that ended up being the Top 40 single on the album, putting me in rare company of being one of three artists to have a Top 40 single in each of the last four decades.

Watch a clip of Weird Al’s diabolical twin from this week’s brand new Comedy Bang! Bang!.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.