August 29, 2019 9:00 pm

Friday, Dive Into Geek Culture and Parody with “Weird Al” Yankovic

On this week’s episode of StarTalk Radio, you’ll hear from one of the best in the business – “Weird Al” Yankovic. Al is a singer/songwriter/comedian known for his smash hit parody songs that have steadily blessed the airwaves over the last few decades.

Brandon Royal’s photo of Weird Al Yankovic and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Weird Al Yankovic and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Photo Credit: Brandon Royal.

If you’re unfamiliar with Al’s work, I would recommend starting with “The Saga Begins,” his Star Wars parody to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie,” “Eat It,” his food-centric parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and “White and Nerdy,” his ode to geekdom based of Chamillionare’s 2009 smash hit “Ridin.” And this is just a small sample of the “Weird Al” mega-catalogue of hits.

Neil is joined in studio by comic co-host Maysoon Zayid, astrophysicist and StarTalk geek-in-chief Prof. Charles Liu, PhD, and astrophysicist and StarTalk All-Stars host Prof. Emily Rice, PhD, to dive into geek culture and Al’s impact on society. You’ll learn about Al’s early upbringing and why he easily classified himself as a nerd. Maysoon leads us in a game of “Nerd Bingo” to see who is the biggest nerd on the panel, Charles or Neil. We explore the rise of geek culture into the zeitgeist. Is it good? Is it bad?

Go behind-the-process for one of Al’s songs. You’ll learn how he comes up with an idea, if he has permission to use the songs he parodies, and why the song must work both audibly and visually. We investigate if visual humor works differently than audio humor. Maysoon explains why copying someone else’s joke in the comedy world is unforgivable. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Charles and Emily tell us why scientists want their work to be copied as much as possible.

Find out more about Al’s song “White and Nerdy.” You’ll hear how that song convinced Emily that she was a full-blown nerd. Al shares why he likes to keep his humor clean. We ponder how comedians deal with the ever-shifting comedy landscape. Rapper Ellect stops in to perform his track “Flat to Fact” to set the Flat-Earthers straight. Learn more about Al’s time playing Isaac Newton in a rap battle against Bill Nye and…Neil? All that, plus, Al gets to ask Neil his thoughts on a very tantalizing question: how will the universe end?

Please join us tomorrow night for Parody and Geek Culture, with “Weird Al” Yankovic at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron or an All-Access subscriber, you can listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
-Ian Mullen