Weird Al: 8 videos in 8 days had 'Pavlovian Effect'

There’s no denying: Weird Al Yankovic has dominated the internet.

The release of “Mandatory Fun,” his 14th studio album, and its unique accompanying viral video campaign, complete with its own catchy hashtag, #8videos8days, has unleashed a wave of comedic glee upon eye-rollers and newfound fans alike.

And Yankovic feels pretty good about it.

In an interview with The E.W. Scripps Company’s National Desk, Yankovic discussed the surprise success of his latest album (which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts this week, becoming the first comedy album to top the chart in 50 years). He also talked about the #8songs8days video campaign, what’s on his plate next and why it is important to floss.

First of all, congratulations on “Mandatory Fun” being No. 1 on the Billboard chart. How does it feel to be higher on the chart than the songs you’re parodying?

It’s just amazing. I never thought that this was something that was a possibility. Being number one on the charts seemed like a ludicrous thing to even wish for. There hasn’t been a comedy album on the Billboard charts since 1963.

I just thought it was not in the realm of possibility -- this whole thing is quite mind-boggling to me.

What is the difference between asking for permission from artists to parody their songs now, and back in the day when you got started?

It’s much easier now -- when I first started, it was very difficult for my manager to even get a phone call returned. Nobody knew who this Weird Al guy was, a lot of people didn’t figure I was worth their time.

Nowadays, I’m told that getting a Weird Al parody is considered a badge of honor among some recording artists. Some artists such as Kurt Cobain said they didn’t realize they had made it until they got their Weird Al parody.
It’s made my manager’s job a whole lot easier.

Are artists generally flattered or upset by the result? Do some people not get that it’s really in the spirit of fun?

Nobody gets upset with these parodies -- first of all every single artist approves them.

My comedy is not mean-spirited, I’m not here to make them look bad, it’s all done in the spirit of fun and the artists realize that. It’s not like it’s a surprise when they hear the song on the radio, and it’s not like they’d get offended by it anyway because it’s a joke.

Is there anyone who said no that you’d really like to parody?

Famously, Prince said no a number of times in the ’80s -- but that’s a long time ago. I haven’t contacted him in 20 years at least. If he were to have another major hit, and I could come up with a funny enough idea for it, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Who would you like to parody next that is not Beyonce?

I’ll have to wait and see. There are new artists coming up all the time.

I wouldn’t have said 3 months ago that I wanted to parody Iggy Azalea, because she wasn’t so much on my radar. But, you know, people have major hits and that’s what I gravitate toward. It’s impossible for me to predict where my next target could come from.

How often do fans send you parody suggestions they just “know” would be a hit? (My cousin Tate wanted me to mention that he sent you lyrics 20 years ago for “Butter Man,” as a play on Pearl Jam’s song “Betterman” -- he’s still convinced it’d be a hit.)

That’s sort of the bane of my existence -- everybody’s got their own song parodies, and they hold on to them thinking, “Oh, if I ever run into Weird Al, I’ll have to share my idea with him.”

I think maybe since YouTube came out, that’s diffused it a little bit, because now people can put it out themselves on Youtube and not have to wait until they run into me on the street.

Would you be up for playing a little game?

I suppose…

If I give you a lyric, can you give me a quick parody? This song is included in “Now that’s what I call Polka!” on your new album, but it’s verbatim. Could you give me a lyric twist on Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call me Maybe”?

I don’t freestyle. I craft my stuff very carefully and I don’t write on the spot. If you give me a lyric I can come back in two or three weeks and have something for you that’s amazing.

One of the reasons I put Carly Rae Jepsen in the polka medley is because -- I couldn’t think of an idea that I thought was clever enough to make a parody out of.

The polka medleys are littered with the bones of songs that I tried to do a parody for, and it didn’t come out well enough. Everything sounds better polka-style, I think.

What’s next on your plate? I heard mention of Broadway as a possibility?

I don’t want to talk too much about it, I’ve learned my lesson about talking about things in development -- things that are being whispered about.

That’s one of the many projects that I’m considering. I have quite a few irons in the fire. After I get back from my upcoming vacation and the dust has settled a bit, I’ll look at all the opportunities before me and try to figure out which direction I wanna go.

Are you surprised by the social media explosion that has ensued after the #8days8videos campaign for “Mandatory Fun?”

I am very surprised. I thought it would work well, and I was very proud of the videos, I thought my marketing plan made sense. But it worked SO WELL, it not only surprised me, it surprised pretty much everybody in the industry.
It went SUPER viral. I thought maybe by the third day people would say “Oh, OK. We get it, enough Weird Al already, we’re sick of you!”

But the opposite was true -- it had a kind of snowball effect. People got more and more and more into it. By the time eight days were over, it was sort of a Pavlovian Effect. On the ninth day, people were like “Where’s the new Weird Al video?! Why should I even wake up in the morning if there’s not even a Weird Al video?!”

That’s exactly how I felt.
How do you plan to tackle your music going forward -- I feel like you might be on to something with this recent viral video campaign. Will that color your future work?

I like the idea of working with other internet portals -- I think that’s an idea I’ve latched onto this time that has worked extremely well.

My record label didn’t have to go out of pocket, I didn’t have to go out of pocket to pay for the videos, but I partnered up with places like Funny or Die and College Humor and Nerdist and Yahoo and they funded the expense of the video, in return for having exclusive rights to the video for the first couple weeks. So they get the traffic, they get the advertising revenue, and I basically get free promotion for my album.

So that’s something that worked out really really well that I’d definitely like to continue doing, even in my independent post-album career. I don’t plan on doing any more conventional albums after this one, but I certainly anticipate that I’ll be releasing singles and possibly EPs and figuring out other ways to get my music out in the world.

Do you think other artists might follow your lead and start releasing music in this way?

I think a lot of people are paying attention to what I’ve done this last week, and have seen the success. It would not surprise me at all to see other people also trying that system.

How many takes did it take to shoot the video for “Tacky,” since it appeared to be shot in one continuous camera move?

It was shot in one continuous camera move. That’s why all the celebrities had to be there at the same time, there was a bit of juggling schedules to make that happen.

It went so well and so smoothly, I kind of wished we had a few more takes because I was having such a great time, but we did six completed takes, and we used the sixth one. We could’ve used the fifth one very easily, I mean, there were several takes that were great.

It was like a wealth of riches. They’re all so good -- Jack Black nailed it in every single take, he’s amazing. Everybody was so funny. That was by far the most fun I’ve ever had on a shoot.

Do you think it’s a good idea to print a resume in Comic Sans? (Ed note: Watch “Tacky” video below for reference)

Probably not. That probably says a lot about your personality.

Anything else to add?

I think dental hygiene is very important, so you should try to floss as often as you can.
 

For more music videos from Weird Al's latest album "Mandatory Fun," check out his official YouTube channel.

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