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Interview:
The fun never stops for Weird Al Yankovic
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Having fun with other people's music has been serious -- and successful -- business for Weird Al Yankovic.

Some 32 years after Dr. Demento first aired "My Bologna," Yankovic's parody of the Knack's "My Sharona," on his radio show, the accordion-playing California native's act is still going strong. In fact, Yankovic's 2011 album "Alpocalypse" scored the best chart showing of his career -- No. 1 Comedy and No. 9 on the Billboard 200 -- and scored a pair of Grammy Award nominations. That's on top of sales of more than 12 million albums and hit alterations of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" ("Eat It") and Bad ("Fat"), Madonna's "Like a Virgin" ("Like a Surgeon"), Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone's "Ridin' " ("White & Nerdy") and, last year, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" ("Perform This Way").

"In general, I'm thrilled with it all," says Yankovic, 52. "It's nice to have the bragging rights, to be able to say my most recent album is my highest-charting album. I could complain about record sales, but that's a problem that affects everybody.

"I'm just very pleased with the success that 'Alpocalypse' has had. I was not expecting two Grammy nominations, and the critical response has been extremely positive. So I'm certainly happy with the way things are going."

Another recent surprise: an online fan petition drive to encourage the National Football League to sign up Yankovic as the halftime act for Super Bowl XLVII next February in New Orleans.

"I certainly couldn't turn that down, but I'm not going to hold my breath," Yankovic, 52, says wit a laugh. "I'm extremely flattered by the attention and the fact fans want to make it happen. I don't think in reality it ever will, but I'm loving the fact that fans are making such an effort to make it happen."

Though not a particularly ardent football fan -- "I'm sure the NFL would LOVE to hear that!" -- Yankovic says he has allowed the odd image of what he'd do with the slot "to float through my mind." But mostly he says that "I try not to think about it. If I ever thought it would happen for real I would immediately have a diarrhea attack. It'd be the scariest thing I'd ever do in my life. I can't imagine anything more terrifying."

Fortunately Yankovic has plenty of other endeavors to keep himself distracted during the interim. While he's still touring to support "Alpocalypse," he's also joined the Nerdist Channel on YouTube for a 10-episode run of "Face To Face," a show that features the kind of faux celebrity interviews that have been favorites at his concerts.

"I love doing these interviews," Yankovic says. "It's fun for me, and the fans enjoy them. It gives me more material I can use in the live concert, too." But unlike his parody songs, which Yankovic always does with the blessing of the original artists, "when I do these interviews I'm hoping for their forgiveness.

"I've been doing this since '84, and I've never received a single complaint from a celebrity, even the few times I've gone over the edge, in my estimation -- like I went pretty hard on Kevin Federline, 'cause he was such a target at the time. I feel kind of bad about that in retrospect. But for the most part, everybody's enjoyed the joke."

But "Face To Face" has "derailed" Yankovic's work on his follow-up to "Alpocalypse." "I had session set up for next month and had to put those on old 'cause I've not had time to write any new material," he explains. "But I have some ideas, so the idea is at some point this year I will be back in the studio, recording the first material for a new album."

Meanwhile, Yankovic -- who has a nine-year-old daughter, Nina, with wife Suzanne -- has turned his second children's book, the follow-up to his 2011 New York Times best-seller "When I Grow Up," into his editor for a fall of 2013 publication. He's being circumspect about the details of the plot but confirms that it features Billy, the protagonist from "When I Grow Up."

"It's another book of Billy's adventures in the classroom," Yankovic says. "It looks like possibly the beginning of a new franchise, although I don't know if it will get quite as dark" as "The Hunger Games."

The cloud to all this silver lining -- and it's a slight one, Yankovic says -- is a $5 million lawsuit against his record company, Sony Music Entertainment, over unpaid digital royalties owed from his share of settlements against peer-to-peer sites such as Napster and Kazaa. But it's not causing him to lose any sleep or any creative focus for his various projects.

"I'm not mad at Sony," Yankovic says. "I'd like to think they're not mad at me. It's just business; my attorneys and their attorneys have a fundamental disagreement about how much money I'm owed, so they have to work it out in court.

"Probably the less I say about this, the happier my manager and lawyer will be. If I'm going to be needed (to testify), they will let me know. In the meantime, I'll just do what I do."

Weird Al Yankovic performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $19-$49. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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