Weird Al Comes to Northampton: An Exclusive One-on-One Interview With The Sophian

Jackie Leahy ’14
Staff Writer

“Weird Al” Yankovic is coming to the Calvin Theater this Sunday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. The author of two children’s books and numerous song parodies, including “Amish Paradise,” “Perform this Way” and “White and Nerdy,” spoke to the Sophian from his New York City hotel room.

JL: What is your favorite song?

WAY: It’s [a song from] my next album, which hasn’t come out yet.

JL: What leads you to write a parody?

WAY: Like every other kid in the universe, I turned the words around in songs that I heard on the radio to amuse my friends. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and that I hope to continue doing into the future.

JL: What’s important about absurdity?

WAY: Well, absurdity kind of puts everything in perspective. It’s hard to appreciate life without absurdity in the mix.

JL: What is the most fun part of your job?

WAY: Live performance. I love being onstage and interacting with fans and being in the moment.

JL: Who are your idols?

WAY: Comedically, I would say people like Spike Jonze, Tom Lehrer – people like that.

JL: What’s your advice to college students?

WAY: Try to floss regularly.

JL: What did you study in college?

WAY: I got my degree in architecture. I can still print pretty neatly. I’m still legible.

JL: How have you seen nerd culture evolve?

WAY: Well, it’s become, oddly enough, kind of hip to be a nerd. When I was going to school, you didn’t want to be called a nerd; it was considered offensive. Now people are trying to establish their nerd cred: “I was a nerd before you were a nerd.” Now it’s hip to be a nerd.

JL: Have you been to Northampton before?

WAY: I think I was [there] a long time ago.

JL: What do you like about performing in college towns?

WAY: The deli trays backstage tend to be a bit better. The crudité is nicer, the celery sticks are a little bit fresher.

JL: Advice to performers?

WAY: Keep flossing.

JL: What is your advice to people – musicians, comedians, writers – just starting out?

WAY: Well, if I were just starting out I would hit the Internet. I would put the best version of myself out there on different portals. If you make the challenge available and you’re good enough, hopefully people will pay attention.

JL: What led to you writing your first children’s book?

WAY: I was approached by an editor who was a fan of my songwriting. She said it was charming and that [since] I had such a rapport with kids […] I should write one. I agreed. She said they’d be happy to put one out, so a few years later I called her and it did quite well. It was a New York Times bestseller.

JL: How did your career end up spanning so many genres comedy, writing, music?

WAY: I started out with music and it just kind of branched out from there. I like branching out creatively. I enjoy things I haven’t done before and I jump at the opportunity to do something new.

JL: I just watched your Face to Face interview with Denzel Washington on YouTube. What’s the most difficult part of interviewing someone else?

WAY: Deciding what shirt to wear, because that’s really going to have an effect upon you and the interviewee. So you need to match shirt and situation.

JL: What’s the importance of pop culture?

WAY: It’s one of the things that makes life worth living. It’s disposable and silly a lot of the time, but in this moment entertainment is a valuable commodity.

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