SF Sketchfest Review: A Conversation With “Weird Al” Yankovic at Cobb’s Comedy Club 1/23/09

by Dakin Hardwick on January 23, 2010

This "tabloid" photo was actually approved by Al. Really. No photos were allowed inside, though. Courtesy Capt. Sodomy

The last time “Weird Al” Yankovic made a public appearance in San Francisco was a performance at The Fillmore in 1996. That’s 13 years of eagerly awaiting a return. He’s toured plenty in that time. In fact, he’s played Santa Cruz and Sacramento on numerous occasions, which I did, indeed make the road trip for on one glorious, rainy day. (There were moments on the trip, especially while driving through the rougher parts, where rain was coming from every direction and visibility was none that I thought only by the grace of God did we make it to the show alive.)

So, this is an appearance that has been greatly anticipated by the Al fans from the Bay. I was excited, at first, to read that “Weird Al” was booked to play Cobb’s Comedy Club! I was saddened when I found out that it was a conversation, not a performance of music. I didn’t quite know what to expect of this. He doesn’t have a reputation for being media shy. In fact, before this afternoon, I thought that I knew everything there was to know about Al. I was wrong.

Playing the role of interviewer was Chris Hardwick (no relation).  Al fans tend to be one of two different breeds: music nerds that watched too much MTV in their youth and overly intelligent geeks. Hardwick also has a similar breadth of fans. He was the host of Singled Out, MTV’s early 90’s dating show, and he is now the host of G4’s Web Soup, as well as the man that that tweets as @nerdist. He is intelligent and funny, and maybe one of the few people that understand Al.

I made my way to my seat, and I managed to find another great 90’s MTV icon sitting next to me, Mr. Thomas Lennon of The State. I pretended not to notice, because he represented all that I cared about in high school. I do know that being around celebrities makes me believe that I am at the best show. (Harry Shearer was supposedly in the crowd as well.) The lights went down a few moments later, and things went over very well.

Chris Hardwick came out and said a few words, and then played a short, very low quality video. I was amazed by how very VHS-tape the whole thing looked. Afterwards, Hardwick admitted that he created it from ripping things off YouTube before the show. This was the first and last moment where things felt amateurish.

Hardwick was very witty, and kept things flowing quite nicely. He and Yankovic had a great rapport. They fed off of each other like the best of friends! It did come out they discussed starting a band several months prior, just so they could be known as “Yank & Hard.” In true Yankovic fashion, this was the only dirty joke of the show.

They began the discussion talking about Yankovic’s early career. Everyone that paid the money to watch a “Weird Al” interview knows that he got his start working in college radio and sending tapes of parodies he recorded in the bathroom of the radio station to Dr. Demento, a man that hosted a radio show that specialized in novelty songs. What wasn’t part of Al-lore was the ride in between the radio show and “Eat It,” the song that made him a household name. He told tales of being courted by The Knack’s record label after his success with “My Bologna,” the absurdity of getting paid $500 to put out the single, then charged $1000 to include it on his first full length. He discussed touring with Dr. Demento, which included him performing solo accordion after Demento played some records. He told stories of bringing his band on tour, but being booked only at comedy clubs, which creates for a very uncomfortable situation. (Comedy Clubs pretty much can only hold a person and a mike. Not drums and amps.)

The discussion lasted for nearly two hours, and felt like 20 minutes. The stories came quickly, and he remained funny. Hardwick avoided darker topics like his parents’ deaths and his Coolio feud. Instead, he managed to dig deep within the happy. They talked about the evolution of Al TV, and why it will never see the light of day on DVD. (The reason: he can’t secure the rights to most of the fake interviews… Very Sad.) They spoke on great detail about the few artists that have said no. To further the Michael Jackson vs. Prince debate, Jackson was always the kindest musician to deal with, and Prince was, well, kind of a jerk. So much so that, in addition to never approving a parody, when Yankovic and Prince were both up for the same award one year, Prince sent Yankovic a letter requesting that they don’t even make eye contact. Yankovic, in return, sent Prince the same request. From what it seems, this was the only time in history that Weird Al had been mad at another person. Ever.

In whole, it was a very entertaining event. I could just sit and tell you all of the humorous stories he told, such as his condolence letters he received when Frankie Yankovic died, or the fact that nearly everyone thinks that his last name ends with the letter “H.” (Other than Prince, the only thing that upsets him is people calling him Yankovich.) But that would be everything he said. I am hoping that our kind town was warm enough for him to return this summer, when he embarks on a big tour. Until then, I have one final thing to share about the event, which was shown for the crowd, and, quite frankly, may be the best thing I have ever seen. I think it speaks for itself:

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