‘Weird Al’ Talks Graphic Novel Inspired By His Music & Odds Of A Sequel To His Zany Roku Biopic


“Weird Al” Yankovic isn’t entirely of sure of what comes next.

The premiere expert on parody songs and maestro on the accordion just enjoyed a historic year — one punctuated by an international concert tour, a delightfully zany biopic on the Roku Channel (in which Daniel Radcliffe plays the curly-hailed musician), and the curation of a graphic novel inspired by his iconic musical ouvre.

“This year is more of a question mark,” Yankovic tells me over Zoom. “Things tend to drop into my lap. I may get pitched on something or approached for something. That’s kind of the way it happens, which is why I can’t plan two or three years in advance. Because I don’t know where my life is gonna take me.”

Our virtual catch-up concerns the publication of the graphic novel, which aptly bears the title of The Illustrated Al: The Songs of “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Now on sale from Z2 Comics, the toe-tapping tome features original artwork from the likes of Bill Plympton, Aaron Augenblick, Peter Bagge, Steve Chanks, Danny Hellman, Felipe Sobreiro, Gideon Kendall, Michael Kupperman, Wes Hargis, and others. As the title suggests, each artist was assigned a different song in the eclectic “Weird Al” catalogue — from the mainstream hits to the more obscure offerings.

“This is so cool because we really got to salute all of Al’s original music,” explains Z2 co-founder and the book’s editor, Josh Bernstein. “The real Al fans know that this is some of the really good stuff. The fair weather fans know the parodies, but the real fans know the deep-cuts and they really lend themselves, visually, to the medium.”

“We were able to get a couple dozen people involved in this, including some of the best illustrators and comic artists in the world,” adds Yankovic. “So I’m extremely happy with the people that signed on to this and the work that they did.”

Comedian Emo Phillips was kind enough to provide an uproarious foreword containing one of the most impressive run-on sentences you’ve ever seen.

“He was opening for me on the tour, so he would, he would always be bringing stuff back to the back lounge where I lived and and say, ‘Is this okay? Can I say this?’” Yankovic remembers. “[I was like] ‘Yeah, Emo. Whatever you wanna write, that’s fine!’ He was always fine-tuning it and he spent a lot of time and attention and wanted to make sure every every comment and semicolon was correct.”

“He’s very hands-on, so I would get multiple phone calls,” echoes Bernstein. “I would be with my friends and [then Emo would call] … it really kicks off the book with the right tone.”

You can check out a trio of exclusive pages below. Drawn by Garbage Pail Kids veteran Brent Engstrom, they deal with Yankovic’s 1984 track “Mr. Popeil” (a B-52’s-esque ode to late infomerical legend, Ron Popeil).

Looking ahead, Yankovic is about to embark on another world-spanning tour (click here for dates) that will take him and his band to Hawaii and Europe for the very first time. And like Bernstein alluded to above, the accordion demigod is currently focused on his original compositions.

“Parody songs have been off my radar for a while,” Yankovic explains. “Not that I’m done doing them or that I’ll never do them again. But it’s just sort of not my focus right now. I’m kind of taking taking a vacation from that and trying to do other things like the movie and like this book — just trying to find other ways to be funny and put my brand on things. Maybe I’ll come back to it. It’s certainly not off the table, but I’m not laser-focused on the Billboard charts like I was for most of my adult life.”

Longtime fans are probably aware of the spoof tracks never entered the cultural zeitgeist, including parodies of “Live and Let Die” (an avowed vegetarian, Paul McCartney did not approve of “Chicken Pot Pie”) and the songs of Prince. The latter artist in particular became Yankovic’s proverbial white whale. “I had a lot of ideas for Prince and he just never was into it. And now, sadly, it’s too late.”

Not surprisingly, our conversation eventually turns to the Roku biopic — which acts as more of a farce of the Oscar-baiting biopic genre than a genuinely factual account of Yankovic’s life — I can’t help but ask if a sequel (featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a zombie, of course) is in the cards.

“Eric Appel, the director, kind of pitched me on that during the the Critics’ Choice Awards,” the musician reveals. “So it might happen, you never know.”

Even if a follow-up never happens, audiences can still revel in the star-studded absurdity of an alternate timeline where Michael Jackson ripped off “Eat It” and Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) took over Pablo Escobar’s South American drug empire. When I ask how the celebrity-filled pool scene came together, Yankovic says he simply called a bunch of the friends on his annual Christmas card mailing list.

“We had the characters on one list and the celebrities on the other list and we kind of drew lines between the two and figured out who would play what,” he remembers of the casting process. “I emailed everybody and pretty much everybody said yes. The only time they said no was [because they were] going to be out of town.”

Life for “Weird Al” may not be an Amish Paradise, but it’s a paradise nonetheless.

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