The massive "Weird Al" Yankovic cult knew it was only a matter of time until the rest of the world joined their ranks, but few people could have foreseen what happened this past week when his new album Mandatory Fun became the first Number One comedy album on the Billboard charts since 1963's My Son, the Nut by Allan Sherman. That was back when JFK was president and few people in America had heard of a new Liverpool band called the Beatles. There were still new episodes of The Twilight Zone on television. It was a long, long, long time ago.
We happened to be visiting Yankovic at his house in the Hollywood hills for an upcoming story for Rolling Stone when his longtime manager Jay Levey told him the album was likely to debut on top of the charts. Tears welled up in Yankovic's eyes and his wife Suzanne comforted him. "Sweetie," she said. "It's just people loving you like they always have."
Over the course of four hours, we spoke to "Weird Al" about his long career and took a tour of his entire house, down to his impressive collection of Hawaiian shirts in the basement. Here are 16 things we learned that day.
8. A large downstairs closet houses what deserves to be a "Weird Al" museum.
Not only are there what seems like 300 Hawaiian shirts in there, but everything from the multi-colored pants he wore on the Tom Snyder Show in 1981 and most of his early concerts to a stack of maybe 50 pairs of Vans sneakers to box after box of amazing artifacts. We pop open one labelled "High School" and see a book he made for his father in elementary school, songs he painstakingly transcribed for the accordion around the same time and the program for the 1976 Lynwood High School commencement ceremony. The valedictorian was none other than "Alfred Yankovic" and his speech was labeled "The Future: Its Price." He freaked out the room by explaining that the ice caps were going to melt and threaten the human race.
9. He's a stunningly methodical songwriter.
Each and every one of his lyrics go through countless stages before they reach their final form. He punches up a one of his final drafts of "Handy" — a spoof on Iggy Azelia's "Fancy" about a cocky handyman — on his laptop. For every line he went with he has at least four other suggestions for himself. For example, he ultimately went with the line "When you window is busted," but he also considered "Check my competitive prices" or "Got my own contractor's license" in that same slot.
10. There's amazing nerd artifacts all over his house.
Behind the bar, there's a life-size Darth Vader mask sitting on the floor. We counted at least four books about Mad magazine as well as a recent issue with Duck Dynasty on the cover. Gold records for Bad Hair Day Off The Deep End and Even Worse are on the walls, along with an incredible fan-created painting of Al in his Big Edna uniform from UHF.
11. He's a voracious reader.
Here are just some of the books we noticed: Brain Droppings by George Carlin, Kink by Dave Davies, America Bizarro by Nelson Taylor, Rolling Stone: The Complete Covers, My Brother Was An Only Child by Jack Douglas, The Pythons Autobiography by the Pythons, The Complete Paintings and Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Selected Poems by Walt Whitman, SoulPancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions by Rainn Wilson, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Positive Energy by Judith Orloff, Physiognomy: The Mark Seliger Photographs by Mark Seliger and The Sensual Home by Ilse Crawford.
12. He's a vegan, mostly.
"Occasionally I cheat and eat dairy," he says. "So I probably have to give up my hardcore vegan card. It began in 1992 when a friend gave me a book called Diet for a New America, which makes a very strong argument for vegetarianism for ethical, health and socio-political reasons. After I finished the book it was hard for me to rationalize eating meat anymore, so I stopped. At first, I couldn't imagine not eating turkey at Thanksgiving, but it became pretty easy. I didn't miss it."
the inevitable what's your fave weird al song question here