When your movie, “UHF”, came out in 1989, did you ever imagine 25 years later you’d be attending sold out screenings?
The one thing that I was certain of 25 years ago was that I would be here with you right now. That’s one thing I was positive about. Everything else, I was a little fuzzy about. You know, it’s hard to say, obviously when you do a movie you hope for the best. Nobody ever does a movie thinking it’s going to be a flop. You always give your best shot. You hope people are going to respond to it. People didn’t respond to it so much when it first came out. People didn’t care about it and the mass population stayed away, but it’s gone on to become a cult favorite and here I am today celebrating it.
What’s a question you get asked all of the time?
When is “UHF 2” coming out? The answer is, I’m guessing never. You know, I just don’t see how that could possibly be satisfying for anybody no matter what, but the fans want to see it happen. I would love to do another movie. I’m pretty vocal about that. I think I could do a movie that has the same kind of comedic sensibility, but just something else. What’s the point of doing a sequel to a movie that bombed at the box office in 1989?
At what point in your career did you feel like you had made it?
It’s hard to pinpoint. I’ll tell you when I quit my day job. I was signed to a 10-album record contract– and that doesn’t mean they guarantee that you’re going to get 10 albums. It means on the extremely off chance that you’re successful… we’ve got you! We’ve got you for 10 albums. So it’s protecting them, not me. But anyway, I signed this deal. I think the advance was zero. I was working at a minimum wage job in a mailroom and I thought signing a record contract was better than not signing a record contract. I recorded my album and I’m still in the mailroom because I’ve got to pay for the macaroni and cheese. I remember one day as part of my job I went to the post office and got the mail bag and Billboard Magazine was sticking out of the top. I thought, “Well, let me check this out,” and I open it up and I’m there on the Top 100 chart and I thought, “I should probably give notice at work. I should probably get serious about this Weird Al thing.“
What has been your biggest pinch me moment?
I’ve had a lot in my life and a lot of them were just in this last year alone. The number one album, [“Mandatory Fun”], was a huge one. A comedy album has never debuted at the top of the charts, so that was never something that I ever, ever anticipated. Recently, right now, I’m on the cover of Mad Magazine. That is something I wish I could go back and tell my 12-year-old self about because I was so obsessed with Mad. So, being on the cover of Mad was just mind-blowing.
What was your parents’ response when you shifted from pursuing a career in architecture to music?
If they were concerned they didn’t let on. They knew I was a very rational, mature and an adult-minded kid. At my high school I was valedictorian; I was always very steady. I was never one of those kids that was like, “I’m going to go to Hollywood and become a rock star.” I was not like that at all. In fact, I don’t know that I ever made any proclamation that, “Now I’m doing this.” It was more like I graduated with my degree and kind of went, “I don’t know if this is going to work out for me, let me try a few things.” So if they were concerned I didn’t really feel that kind of pressure. My dad, especially, was always of the mind that I had to find what made me happy. It was kind of cool because he was not a career guy. He was a very blue-collar guy. He worked at a number of jobs: steel manufacturing plant, security guard, street crossing guard, whatever struck his fancy. He never pushed me in any direction, he always said, “We want you to be happy in whatever that is.” My mom did say, “Stay out of Hollywood, whatever you do.” [Laughs] Oopsies! She’s like, “There’s evil people there.” She wasn’t wrong. Once things started going my way and I became successful, they couldn’t have been more proud. They were so sweet.
Is there anything that makes you nervous today?
Going on stage still makes me nervous to some extent, and it depends on the situation. The first few shows of any tour I get nervous because I know something is going to go wrong, I’m going to forget a word, the computer server is going to fall apart, something is going to happen and it always does. You just have to acknowledge that and be prepared as much as you can, but I still get nervous about it. I still consider myself socially awkward, so meeting new people I still get a little nervous sometimes. I kind of feel like I got lucky that I got famous because otherwise I’d always be the guy at the party just sitting by himself in the corner … I’ve seen interviews where performers say, “I only feel alive when I’m on the stage. I never feel so comfortable as when I’m on the stage,” and I can’t identify with that at all. I’m like, “Who are you? What is wrong with you?” They have the whole opposite gene that I have. I mean, it’s good to be a little nervous because it keeps you on your toes, but to say that you’re even less nervous… I’m not buying that.
Your humor is all in good fun. Have you ever felt that you crossed the line?
I’m sure I have at some point, but it’s a pretty fuzzy line and my line is obviously not where a lot of people’s lines are. I try to keep my comedy under the general “family friendly.” Having said that, my stuff gets pretty dark and pretty twisted, but I tend to stay away from profanity and anything that’s exceedingly vulgar. There are just certain guidelines – more internal guidelines than anything else – and directions I choose not to go in.
What has been your craziest fan encounter?
I’ve had so many! The ones that kind of stick out in my mind for some reason are the tattoos. I’ve met several – and this is not an exaggeration– several dozen people who have Weird Al-related tattoos, whether it’s my autograph, my image or visual representation of my song lyrics. I’m thinking, “That’s permanent, you know! That’s not going to wash off.” They do it out of fandom, I guess. It’s very sweet, but wow.
What artist or celebrity would you geek out over?
The people that I get starstruck around now are mostly people that I was starstruck around when I was a kid. I’ve met Paul McCartney a couple of times and it’s hard for me to be normal. I’m sure he’d appreciate just having a normal conversation and being real people. I try so hard, but the inside of my brain is going, “Ahhh it’s Paul McCartney!”
Does your 12-year-old daughter realize her dad is a pop culture icon? Did you ever have to have a talk about your fame?
Oh yeah, sure, she knows. I never had that conversation with her because that was always her reality. The thing is, she’s not awestruck by it. She’s not jaded by it either. She thinks it’s cool, but you know, she’s a super mature kid. She’s always accepted what her dad does for a living and thinks it’s fun, but just doesn’t get bent out of shape about it.
Your first comedy song aired in 1976. What do you miss most about the music industry back then?
I liked that people were actually buying albums then – that was a big plus. I don’t miss analog recording. I like the fact that there’s an undo button. That’s a big thing for me– to be in the studio and be able to try stuff without worrying about erasing the perfect take. I like that whole digital process. Even though there are pros and cons, I think it’s very healthy that places like YouTube leveled the playing field. The industry is much different. My biggest pet peeve is that people just aren’t buying music so much anymore. Obviously I’m still making a living and I can’t complain, but I just had a number one album and I sold less copies of my number one album than I did on most copies of my middling albums in the ’80s and ’90s. That’s just because of the nature of the industry right now. My last album is still my most popular and successful album, but everything’s relative now because the industry has tanked.
Even though you don’t encourage suggestions for parodies, when Madonna asked about one of her songs you did it. Where did that conversation take place?
Well, you know, Madonna just has this way about her. She’s hard to say, “No,” to. She was in New York with a friend of hers and happened to wonder aloud when I was going to do “Like a Surgeon.” I don’t know exactly where or when that was, specifically, but my manager told me that anecdote and I thought, “Man, not a bad idea.” So yeah, I normally make a point of not taking someone else’s suggestions, but I figured, Madonna? Yeah, throw her a bone.
When did you know your wife was the one?
You know, about a week ago. We’ve been married for 14 years but I just recently thought, “Yeah, this is going to work.” [Laughs] There wasn’t a specific moment. I can’t say it was on Thursday when she said this, but I kinda had a glimmer of hope because I thought I might marry her before I even actually met her in person, which was really kind of sweet. It was kind of meet-cute. We were set up by Billy Mumy who was the child actor in “Lost in Space,” little Will Robinson. I knew him from “The Dr. Demento Show” because he did “Fish Heads.” He was half of the comedy team Barnes & Barnes. He set us both up on this blind date. At the time I was getting ready to do a tour and Suzanne was a vice president at 20th Century Fox and had a lot of other things going on. We couldn’t figure out an evening where both of us were free, but late at night we both had some time so we’d call each other up on the phone and just chat. We’d have long conversations, and I didn’t even have a picture of her. I had no idea what she even looked like.
Dating today is so different now that you can look someone up online.
I know. We weren’t doing social media. It was all really over the phone. I was kind of just falling in love with her based on her personality. When I opened the door for our first date she just happened to be gorgeous as well.
Love at first sight?
It was love even before first sight, which was kind of cool.
Do you cook?
I can open a can! And stir… over a low flame. I can follow directions, so if there’s a recipe I can do that. I rarely do [cook].
How do you stay fit?
My show. It’s my two-hour aerobic exercise every night. Prior to going on tour I walk. I don’t like going to the gym. I don’t feel comfortable there. It’s just not my scene, but I like walking so I’ll walk from my house in the Hollywood Hills five miles down the hill and back. I enjoy that. I get to see the outside and get some exercise.
Is there a TV show that your fans would be surprised to know you enjoy?
They wouldn’t be surprised that I like comedies, but I like some darker stuff. I was a big “Breaking Bad” fan– I mean that had funny moments, but that got very dark.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
In all of history? I’d go with my wife. Maybe in our living room, in the fuzzy chair.
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