Today, “Weird Al” Yankovic celebrates the release of Alpocalypse, his 13th proper album and his best, most consistent release in years. (And thanks to a day-long Internet dust-up with Lady Gaga over his “Born This Way” parody “Perform This Way,” also his best publicized.)
Always the underdog and, by his own admission, a trafficker in extra-disposable culture, Yankovic has made a career of not only making fun of specific songs and artists but also of topical trends and musical styles.
All of that (plus a massive mash-up of polka versions of pop songs) are on Alpocalypse, highlighted by the surprisingly dark “Skipper Dan,” a narrative about an out-of-work actor serving as the host of a jungle cruise ride at an amusement park. Yankovic discussed his new album, his long career and the secrets to a great parody when EW caught up with him recently.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are the secrets to a great parody?
WEIRD AL YANKOVIC: Timeliness, sustainability and independence. That third one is really important. It needs to be funny even if you’ve never heard the original song that’s being parodied. It needs to work just as a funny song without having any reference to the source material.
And I think the best example of this personally was when I did “American Pie” as “The Saga Begins.” It was about the Star Wars prequels, and it was a huge hit on Radio Disney. And the people that listened to Radio Disney, I would guess, were not intimately familiar with a Don McLean song from 1971. But they enjoyed the song even without really knowing it was a parody.
And what made that even funnier was that the year after I did my parody, Madonna did her techno-pop cover version of “American Pie,” and all these kids were going, “How come Madonna’s doing an unfunny version of a Weird Al song?” So that was odd.