Weird Al Yankovic is promoting his new falltelevision show, a Sunday morning kids' program to air on CBS:"I was a warped little boy, and now I'm out to warp the youth ofAmerica."
Yankovic sits in his chair like a kid, one legfolded up against his body and his shoe resting on the cushion.His hair is just as preternaturally curly as it is in his musicvideos, and he's wearing one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts. Heestimates that he has more than 500 of them, explaining thatonce, while doing a tour, he demanded that every concert promotergive him a new shirt for each show he did.
"Everybody in show business has to have anunreasonable demand," he explained. "I guess that was mine."
Yankovic got his show-biz start as an outsider,gaining recognition through his pop-music parodies. Poking fun atpop music was his hobby, but in college he was able to get hissongs on the nationally syndicated "Dr. Demento" radio show,and began to develop a cult following.
Unfortunately, a cult following isn't a recorddeal. Although he graduated from college with a degree inarchitecture, "I realized that I didn't want to do anything withit, other than use it to pick stuff out of my teeth."
He spent the next few years working in amailroom until he signed his first record deal. Since then, he'ssold more comedy albums than anyone else.
Now, after more than 10 successful yearsparodying others, Yankovic has set his sights on children'sentertainment.
It's an idea he's been noodling with since1984. "When we first pitched the show," he said, "it wasn'tnearly as focused as it is now. It was just a big mix ofunrelated sketches and bits."
Although somewhat more focused now, the showyou'll see in September hasn't lost its segmented feeling. Itfeatures animation (in the form of a superhero known as Fatman),as well as film and video clips.
"The show has many different looks - all aproduct of my schizoid personality," he said with a laugh.
"The Weird Al Show" will premiere at 7:30a.m. ET Sept. 14. In the show, Yankovic lives in a cave with hispet, Harvey the Wonder Hamster. It's being sold as an update of"Pee-wee's Playhouse," a description Yankovic isn't entirelycomfortable with.
"I can see how it might be compared to'Pee-wee's Playhouse,'" he admitted. "It was one of the onlylive-action, personality-driven Saturday morning shows out there... Our set designer is Wayne White, who also designed the setson 'Pee-wee's Playhouse,' so it has a very whimsical, surrealfeel. Still, we like to think that we're a unique, different sortof kids' show."
Although hardly your typical educational fare,Yankovic believes the show's primary purpose is to teach childrentolerance, respect and cooperation. "Of course, we want our kidsto be educated, but I still think that kids need to beentertained to let off steam," Yankovic said, citing his show'smusic bits and celebrity guest spots.
Would he have watched this show when he was akid? "I would have loved this show," he said enthusiastically.
The "Weird" nickname, which sounds as if itcould have been a product of Yankovic's grade school years,wasn't actually attached until college.
"I officially got the name from a campus radioshow I hosted, but I imagine that kids were calling me that inthe dorms even before," he said.
Yankovic didn't stick with radio because heheard "all these horror stories about the industry. You know,having to move every six months, not being able to hold arelationship because you're always on the road, being stuck withno social life."
This is aKnight-Ridderarticle from September 22, 1997.