Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Listen to an extended version of the interview with 'Weird Al' Yankovic.
There's no mistaking a "Weird Al" Yankovic hit. It sounds exactly like somebody else's song, only funnier. Just ask Michael Jackson.
NPR's Steve Inskeep recently sat down with the nation's foremost purveyor of pop parodies — a man who describes himself as never having grown out of "pre-adolescence" and who jokes that his parents wanted him to be "at the forefront of the American polka rock movement."
He got his first break as an accordion-playing teenager in the 1970s, when he mailed early tunes to Dr. Demento, an L.A. deejay whose national radio show specialized in odd and outrageous music. By the time Yankovic graduated from college he had drawn national attention with spoofs of The Knack ("My Bologna") and Queen ("Another One Rides the Bus.")
Poodle Hat, the 11th album from "Weird Al," features parodies of songs by Eminem, The White Stripes, Nelly, Avril Lavigne and other current pop favorites. Yankovic recorded the CD with his long-time bandmates, guitarist Jim West, bassist Steve Jay and drummer Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz.
Yankovic says the artists he skewers rarely take it personally, and he generally gets permission beforehand. "At this point I've got a bit of a track record," he says. "So people realize that when 'Weird Al' wants to go parody, it's not meant to make them look bad... it's meant to be a tribute."