Before YouTube came along and allowed everyone and their slightly off-kilter 13-year-old cousin to spoof all those fluffy radio hits, pop culturists largely looked to one mustachioed madman to skewer the Madonnas of the world: "Weird Al" Yankovic. • Times might have changed (and his 'stache might be gone), but 50-year-old Alfred Matthew Yankovic is still out there, satirizing the chart-toppers. On Sunday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, the Weird One — with his trusty accordion all juiced up — will go live with such classics as Eat It and Smells Like Nirvana. Will he also take a p-p-poke at Lady Gaga? • In a recent podcast interview, Stuck in the '80s boys Sean Daly and Steve Spears just had to know which current artists are in Al's crosshairs, whether the '80s were better for mocking people and if he ever met the King of Pop:
Did Michael Jackson ever give you any feedback on your skewering of Beat It and Bad?
I actually met Michael a couple times. Very sweet man. Very soft-spoken. We didn't talk very long, but he expressed that he enjoyed the parodies. Obviously, I'm grateful to Michael for a huge vote of confidence very early in my career. If he hadn't given me his permission and blessing for Eat It, I may not be talking to you right now.
Is it hard to perform a parody of an artist after they die?
It kind of depends on the timing. … The Kurt Cobain thing was a little bit trickier because I went on the road pretty quickly after Kurt's death, and Smells Like Nirvana was still my biggest hit at that time. That was a little more uncomfortable. I still did the song because everyone was expecting me to play it.
Even in Seattle?
I was really wondering whether I should do it at all in Seattle. Kurt obviously had a lot of friends and family in Seattle. It almost seemed like that might be going a little bit too far. I asked a lot of people in Seattle, disc jockeys and people in media, whether it was appropriate, and everyone seemed to think that it was. We went ahead and did it, and it got a huge, positive reaction.
It seems as if '80s songs would be easier to parody. Everyone seemed larger than life, so many characters.
I don't know about the songs themselves being easier, but it was a lot easier to really define what the hits were then. MTV, if you can remember that far back, actually played music videos. It's not really easy to tell what the hits are anymore. … I don't know if we'll ever find someone now who's on the level of what Michael Jackson was then.
In the era of YouTube, is your job harder? Everyone's in the "Weird Al" business now!
It's a challenge. Never again will I be the first person or only person to parody a pop hit. I liked being unique, but that's never going to be the case again. The only thing I can do is keep my chin up, step up my game and try to be the best at what I do.
So we read that you're doing a Lady Gaga parody next.
This kind of cracks me up. I did an interview much like this one a week or two ago, and they asked me, "Are you considering doing a Lady Gaga parody?" And I said, "Well, Lady Gaga is a very popular artist, so I would certainly consider doing a parody of her the same way I'd consider doing a parody of any popular artist." And then a week later, there's a hundred newspapers, including Billboard.com, saying "Weird Al's considering doing a Lady Gaga parody!"
Facial hair is very important to us. Neither of us can grow a respectable beard. And yet, you almost mock us by shaving off your signature 'stache. Any chance you'll grow it back? For us, maybe?
You know, my facial hair comes and goes, and I know that the stock market is directly proportional to the length of my facial hair. I'm just trying to grow my facial hair in a way that will be best for our economy.
To hear the full "Weird Al" Yankovic interview, go to tampabay.com/blogs/80s.