“UHF On DVD” references the cult classic film starring Weird Al Yankovic. What is your favorite Weird Al song and album?
My favorite song is off of Off The Deep End called “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.” It’s a tender acoustic ballad in the style of “More Than Words,” but it’s about this completely clueless guy who is singing this song to his beloved and describing all of these terrible things she does to him, like plucking his eyebrows while he sleeps, putting venomous cobras in his underwear drawer and pushing him down elevator shafts. When it gets to the chorus, the hook is, “I got a funny feeling you don’t love me anymore.” I actually recorded a cover of it; I don’t know if anyone will ever hear it. As far as albums, Bad Hair Day is the first one I really dug into, and it hit me in 1996 when I was just getting into Green Day. I was just starting to discover the alternative wave that I’m still trying to ride. The “Basket Case” section in the polka medley reminded me why I loved that song. The video was like cotton candy for the eyes. I started requesting “Basket Case” at every school dance, and finally the DJ told me to bring a blank cassette, and that’s how I got Dookie for the first time.
Your song “Booger” takes a deep stance by normalizing picking your nose. When is the best time to do it? Should you try to hide it?
Since I wrote that song, I became more self-aware of the times I pick my nose — and I do it a lot. I don’t know if I’m doing it more lately, or if I didn’t realize that I did it this frequently, but I do it in my car a lot. I think of a dozen times someone at a stoplight is in their car picking their nose, and everyone in the car starts laughing and freaking out. I think about all of the times I’ve been on the other side of the scenario. I guess the best place to do it is alone in the dark where no one can see you. There’s really no shame in it.
In “Wish Man,” you very literally ask a wish man to turn you into a dog. Which dog would you turn into?
I think wiener dogs are cool. I don’t have any dogs, but I have one cat. I thought it would be cool to have a dog, but I’m not in any position to care for a dog and be touring. I don’t want to get a dog, hand it to my girlfriend and be like, “I have to go. Here’s the new dog I wanted so badly!” I just romanticized the idea of having a dog with a bandana on my lap while I drive, hanging his head out the window.
The popular gas station/convenience store Sheetz is referenced in “Blow It.” Do you prefer Sheetz or its competitor Wawa?
Sheetz. Look, I don’t think it should be a competition. I think they both do what they do really well. I just happen to live next to a Sheetz, and it feels really familiar with me. Wawa is great, and I’ll go there when I’m in Philly, but my heart belongs to Sheetz for sure.
“Gameball” paints a very clear picture of playing baseball as a kid. Did you play?
It’s pretty autobiographical. It was Little League, to be specific. I never made it to big-boy baseball, but I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t meant for baseball, and it’s not my bag. I would drag my bat to the plate like Charlie Brown. You know that scene in Arrested Development when they’re walking around with their heads down and the Charlie Brown music starts playing? That was me.
The album’s closer “Michael Keaton” is a love letter to the actor. What inspired you to write the song?
Writing the song was inspired by two things: The part about looking him up in the phone book and not finding his number? I literally did that as a kid. I couldn’t figure out how to use the phone book in preschool. I probably called him “Mike” in my head. I just wanted to say, “You did such a good job in Batman.” Then I realized it’s not how people said it would work, and I couldn’t fathom it. I should be able to look in the phone book and see him there. It was probably Batman Returns when I was like, “I have to do this.” This is the oldest music on the record. We tried a slightly different version of this song on “Too Shabby,” but I couldn’t come up with any lyrics in the studio. We bailed on it originally, and when I listened to it over the last two years, I wanted to flesh it out and do something with it. I had an idea for a screenplay called Keatseekers, which was a Stand By Me period piece in ’88 where they see Batman in middle school. For one reason or another, they’re all unhappy with their home lives but bond over their love of Batman. Then one of them hatches a plan to run away and hitchhike across the country to meet Michael Keaton and tell him how awesome he is. I don’t really know anything about writing screenplays, though, so I just wrote a song.