Maybe the secret to eternal youth is embracing an accordion.
Weird Al Yankovic looks kind of like he did when his first single (“My Bologna,” a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona”) debuted in 1979. Meanwhile, just about everybody else looks 40 years older.
Yankovic said it’s very sweet that someone would make this type of comment about his appearance, but he confirmed he is, in fact, aging.
“I just stay in my hyperbaric chamber for 22 hours a day and it all works out,” he said during a phone interview.
You can inspect Yankovic for yourself when he appears on an Oklahoma stage. He will perform June 21 at the Zoo Amphitheatre in Oklahoma City, and even if you’ve seen him before, you’ve never seen him with a backing band quite like this.
Yankovic is in the midst of a Strings Attached tour. He is performing with a full symphony orchestra. He said the inspiration came when he performed at the Hollywood Bowl a couple of years ago and was offered the use of an orchestra.
The experience was incredible, according to Yankovic. He said he almost got teary-eyed during a sound check.
“Usually, when we start the ‘Star Wars’ encore, my keyboard player ... plays the ‘Star Wars’ theme on his keyboard and it sounds fine,” he said. “But when the orchestra kicked in and played it, it was like I was in the middle of ‘Star Wars.’ It was overwhelming.”
Just like “Star Wars,” the Weird Al-plus-symphony partnership merited sequels. Here comes the tour.
“So obviously, I am very excited about having that experience again,” Yankovic said. “And obviously, we’re not traveling with an orchestra. We don’t have like 30 buses on the road with us. We have basically a different orchestra in every different city. We are working with local musicians. That’s going to be exciting, too, because every single show I am performing with different people. It will be fresh and fun every single time.”
Of course, it’s going to be fun. Yankovic has been delivering fun to the masses ever since he went to the bathroom 40 years ago. Really.
In need of quality acoustics, he used a restroom as a makeshift recording studio to record “My Bologna.” The song got airplay on the Dr. Demento radio show and was followed by “Another One Rides the Bus,” “Ricky,” “I Love Rocky Road” and “Eat It,” which transformed Yankovic into an MTV-era superstar.
Let’s not say anything to tarnish Yankovic’s nerd cred, but Weird Al is actually Winner Al. A four-time Grammy recipient, he is the biggest-selling comedy recording artist in history.
What would “young Al” have thought if someone had told him this was his destiny?
“You know, it would have blown his mind, and it still blows my mind to this day because it’s not something I thought would happen with my life,” he said.
“I went to college, and I got a degree in architecture. I was always very serious about my life, thinking that I would be an adult and have a real, respectable job and I never really thought that I would ever have a career in show business. I thought it was fun, and I enjoyed doing it for a hobby. But I didn’t ever believe that the trajectory of my life would take me where I am today. It’s still amazing to me that I get to do what I do for a living.”
Yankovic’s tour date in Oklahoma City is one month shy of the 30-year anniversary of the release date of “UHF.”
“UHF” is a 1989 movie starring Yankovic. Considered a cult classic, the movie was filmed in Tulsa and the cast included a pre-“Seinfeld” Michael Richards. Curious? It’s a story topic for another day. In the meanwhile, enjoy the symphony, keep your UHF antenna up for more Yankovic news and read his responses to the following questions:
If Dr. Demento never had a radio show, or if he was the kind of fellow who threw submitted tapes into the garbage without listening to them, would Weird Al be an architect now?
You know, I think about that every now and then. If it weren’t for Dr. Demento, I really have no idea what I would be doing with my life. There was no YouTube back then. There was no conduit to me getting my material out to the world other than the Dr. Demento Show. Nobody else would have dared play recordings from some idiot kid with an accordion, so he did change my life in a very real and tangible way. I honestly don’t know what I would be doing now. I did graduate. I got my degree in architecture. But I was pretty burnt out on it by the time I graduated from college, so I don’t know if that’s what I would have done with my life. I really don’t have a good answer for you, because the couple of years between graduating college and getting a record deal were a little bit scary in retrospect. I really kind of didn’t know what was going to be going on with my life. Thankfully everything kind of fell into place.
Best compliment Weird Al ever received?
That’s a good question. It’s hard to say. I think when I met Paul McCartney in 1984, and the fact that he even knew who I was was pretty mind-blowing to me. I guess it’s always nice to hear from people I have done parodies of. I always want to make sure they are OK with the joke and they are not offended or anything like that. And whenever I hear back that they actually enjoyed it and they compliment me on how accurately my band and I are able to emulate their sound, that’s always really wonderful to hear.
Is there a song you hold in such high regard that you would never parody the song?
I wouldn’t say so. I have parodied some of my all-time favorite shows during the course of my career. I guess if I really have a lot of respect or reverence for an artist or a particular piece of music, I just work extra hard to make sure it’s as good as it can be. But when I tackle something like “American Pie” by Don McLean, that’s like sacred ground there, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess it up. My personal feeling for a song would never prevent me from having some fun with it as long as I thought that I could do a good job with it.
Bigger honor: Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Mad magazine guest editor?
Boy, those are two things I never would have dreamed would happen. I really can’t pick one or the other. They are both pretty amazing. I was so obsessed with Mad magazine as a kid, and that’s not something that had ever happened before. I was the first guest editor in Mad magazine’s history. That was quite an honor, but I don’t want to take anything away from the Walk of Fame because that was pretty amazing too.”