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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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