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Q&A with Del Mar Racetrack performer ‘Weird Al’: ‘It never gets boring’

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Mandatory Fun” album debuted at No. 1 at the top of the Billboard Album charts — a first for a comedy record. Photo by Robert Trachtenberg
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Mandatory Fun” album debuted at No. 1 at the top of the Billboard Album charts — a first for a comedy record. Photo by Robert Trachtenberg

“Weird Al” Yankovic has been a force in music since bursting onto the scene in 1983. Known for parodying popular music and lambasting culture, the satirist has enjoyed a steady career that reached a high last summer when his 14th studio album, “Mandatory Fun,” became a surprise hit by winning a Grammy and landing at the top of the Billboard album charts — a first for a comedy record. On Aug. 28, Weird Al takes his tour to the Del Mar Racetrack as part of their popular concert series.

While on the road in Florida, Weird Al spoke to us about his long-ranging career, his recent success, and his personal connection to San Diego.

Everyone’s excited that you’re coming to the Del Mar Racetrack; it’s a highly anticipated show.

That’s great to hear!

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It seems like you have a wide audience and cater to all demographics- you’re not rap, you’re not rock, you’re everything.

Yeah, it’s nice. What I do is comedy, but within that umbrella I get to do pretty much every genre imaginable. It’s really fun for me and the band to do a lot of different kinds of music. It never gets boring for us.

What part of the process do you enjoy more: touring and seeing the audience react, or the creative process and nitty-gritty of the writing and production work?

Well, I love it all. I definitely have a personality where I can spend months in the studio working on something and really fine-tuning things. But there’s nothing that beats the adrenaline rush of the immediate gratification of having a live audience reacting to what you’re doing. So the most fun for me is performing live.

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When you’re on tour, are you writing and brainstorming future material? Do you bring your recording equipment along?

I don’t. I certainly could, but when I go on the road I like to shut my brain off and focus all of my time into trying to make the show as good as it could be — without working on new material. If I need to be multi-tasking I have the capacity to do that, but I like to focus all of my energy on the live performance.

You have such an immense discography with songs spanning the decades. How do you pick and choose which songs to perform during a two-hour show?

Well, it gets more difficult from tour to tour. We keep a community of songs everybody wants to hear, and at the same time we need to ostensibly focus on the latest album. Right now we’re playing songs from “Mandatory Fun,” but at the same time we’re going to be playing all of the greatest hits. We also try to play some surprises and deep cuts for the hardcore fans. It’s a tall order to cram that into a two-hour show, but we give it our best shot.

Were you surprised by the viral success of the album last year? You received so much admiration afterwards; what was that like after 30 years in the business?

It was mind-blowing. I was hoping and sort of suspecting that people would enjoy the album and hoping that it would do well, but it’s so beyond my wildest expectations. I never in a million years thought I’d have a No. 1 album. It’s literally unprecedented, since it was the first time a comedy album debuted at the top of the Billboard charts. It continues to blow my mind and it will always be something I’m amazed by.

Well, when can we expect the next album?

I’m not on any kind of schedule or timetable. I’m totally free and indie and can do what I want to do and not feel beholden to anybody. After this leg of the tour, I’ll take a look at the pop landscape and see what needs to be given the Weird Al treatment.

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Do you have any personal connection to San Diego?

My parents used to live in San Diego County for 27 years, and I still have a house and relatives there who will be coming to the Del Mar show, so I definitely have some ties to the area. I spend most of my time in LA. I do demos at home, and then when we go out to record, we’ll go to a local studio.


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