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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.