He’s been a comedy hero of mine for ages. I had seen him twice in concert before, and met him once. But this was the first time he was slightly aware of who I was before meeting him. That’s the sort of thing that melts a fanboy’s brain.
On Wednesday, October 5, 2011, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Alpocalypse Tour led him to the hallowed halls of Hard Rock at Universal City Walk, right here in Orlando, Florida. Naturally, I was bound by the laws of geekery to attend. Really, it was out of my hands.
I still have fond memories from the two times I’ve seen him previously–first at a dumpy state fair in Woodstock, CT in 2003, and then at a classy theater in the dumpy part of Waterbury, CT in 2007. It was at the latter that my brother and I loitered outside the buses with the other Very Devoted Fans in order to obtain Autographs From, as well as Photographs With, the man himself. Not only did Al provide us with AF and PW, but his guitarist, Jim West, was also kind enough to do the same.
So, flash forward to a few weeks ago. The Weird Al concert was fast approaching. While I knew the show will be fun no matter what, I started wondering if there was any way to make it top the experience of getting to meet him.
You may have noticed that in the past year, I’ve started using this blog as an excuse to chat with geek culture celebrities I admire, and I thought it would be the crowning achievement of my amateur interview career if I could sit down with Al and ask when he was going to follow in the footsteps of Mel Brooks and Eric Idle by taking “UHF” to Broadway. I figured it was a VERY long shot, but it wouldn’t hurt to try, right? So I sent an email to the most official-sounding address I could find on Al’s website, and asked if a 5-10 minute interview after the concert would be possible. About a week later, I received a reply from Al’s manager, and he said…no, I couldn’t do an interview.
BUT, he told me there would be an aftershow backstage pass waiting for me, so I could come back and say hi.
So I didn’t get as much as I hoped for, but I got WAY more than I realistically expected. It’s just like the old adage, “Shoot for the moon, so if you fail you’ll at least be among the stars, because apparently whoever wrote this adage is stupid enough to think that stars are closer to the earth than the moon.”
The day of the show arrived. I left work, threw my hopefully-soon-to-be-autographed copy of “Alpocalypse” into my backpack, and headed straight for Universal. I picked up my ticket, and…realized the show didn’t start for another two and a half hours.
So I killed some time walking around Islands of Adventure, where I ran into Kenny Mittleider, podcaster and behind-the-scenes guy from “The Guild”. He was on vacation checking out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He was on his way out, so we only got to chat briefly, but it was good to see a familiar face from jobs past, particularly such a geeky job. Seemed like the right foot to start the evening with.
After about an hour and a half of warping through time and space between Hogsmeade, Isla Nublar, Mulberry Street, and the part of New York City that has the Daily Bugle, I headed back to Hard Rock and tried to enter…until I was informed that no backpacks were allowed inside. Apparently, security at Hard Rock is tighter than most government buildings. So I ran over to the lockers outside Universal Studios and put my backpack away, and returned to infiltrate the heavily-guarded entrance.
Of course, it wasn’t until I was well inside the theater that I realized I forgot to take the CD out of the backpack, leaving me with no autograph receptacle other than my own body–and I wouldn’t want to steal Dave Rossi’s thunder. So I decided to purchase an “Alpocalypse” poster (not to be confused with the “Alpocalypse” lithograph that I received with my preorder), and I threw in the tour T-shirt since I was already spending money. Then I sat down at my seat, and waited for the show to begin.
I won’t go into too much detail on the entire set list of songs and videos, since (A) that information is easy enough to find elsewhere on the internet, and (B) mere descriptions don’t do justice and you really need to see a show in person, or at the VERY least on DVD. Instead, I listed some highlights here, and will now skip ahead to the backstage part.
After the show, I approached the entrance to the backstage area, wearing my badge proudly. The other backstagers and I were ushered onto an elevator, going down to the Secret Underground Hard Rock Lair. There was one stop between the main floor and our final destination, a stop where Al’s keyboardist Ruben Valtierra boarded the elevator.
That’s right, the “minging-with-the-band” phase had officially BEGUN.
We reached our final destination, and were ushered into a green room. (Not necessarily THE green room, but one of them.) The rest of the band was there–Guitarist Jim West, Bassist Steve Jay, Drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz–all chatting with friends of theirs from town. Ruben joined the mingling, having Real Conversations with Real Friends he Really Knows.
That’s when I started to feel like I didn’t quite belong. Partially in an awkward way, but mostly in an exciting way.
I mingled with some of the other backstage passholders, who ran the gamut from real-life friends of the band, Very Devoted Fans of Al, and people who just happened to have a free night and were curious about seeing the “Eat It” guy.
Eventually, Al entered the room, and the people lined up for Autographs From and Photographs With. I got to the front of the line and shook his hand. Even though I wasn’t getting an interview, I just had to thank him.
“Back in July, I did a video review of the album, which you were kind enough to retweet…” After a second, Al’s face lit up as he suddenly recognized me.
“Weird Al” Yankovic recognized me.
Sure, it took a tiny bit of memory jogging, but how many of YOUR biggest comedic influences recognized YOU this month?
“So, I wanted to thank you,” I said. “It meant a lot to me.”
“Well, I liked the review!” Al said.
At this point, the crew member who was assisting with the autograph line piped in. “Oh, yeah, I remember that video! It was long!”
I laughed. If there was any lingering doubt that they might have me confused with a different reviewer, the declaration of length certainly cleared it up.
I asked Al to sign my poster, and got a picture of him with my cell phone…which turned out like crap since the green room lighting was bad and my phone doesn’t have a flash, so the crew member very kindly took one with his iPhone and texted it to me. Who knew backstage was such a friendly place?
I then went around to get the poster autographed by the band. (Well, most of the band. Bermuda had sadly left by this point.) I was cautious about approaching band members while they were in, you know, Real Conversations with Real Friends, but I managed to catch Jim at a quiet moment. Neither of us had a sharpie, so he ran upstairs to get one. (Funny enough, a very similar scenario happened when I got his autograph in 2007. History repeats itself!) I then got the poster signed by Steve and Ruben.
Oh, and Ruben also signed the shirt on my back, because why not? Good times.
I decided not to get pictures with the band members on account of the previously mentioned Real Conversations and bad lighting, but, as the patriarch who took his family to the Biggest Ball of Twine once said, at least we have our memories.
No matter what, I would have had a fun night at the concert. But if I hadn’t reached beyond any reasonable goal by asking for an interview, I wouldn’t have had the awesome backstage experience. The moral here, kids? If you aim WAY TOO HIGH, even failure can be a success! Just like those famous words of wisdom from Justin Timberlake!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to buy the DVD so I can relive the concert over and over, albeit without all the fun copyrighted clips or the freaking awesome backstage part.