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

Parody and Geek Culture, with “Weird Al” Yankovic

Photo Credit: Brandon Royal
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About This Episode

On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson explores geek culture and parody with the king of parody himself – “Weird Al” Yankovic. Al is known for his mega-catalogue of hits including “White and Nerdy,” “The Saga Begins,” “Yoda,” “Eat It,” and “Amish Paradise.” 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. 

Discover more about Al’s upbringing and why he knew he was a proud nerd from early on in school. We investigate the difference between being a nerd and being a geek. Maysoon leads us in a game of “Nerd Bingo” to see who’s the bigger nerd, Charles or Neil. Neil tells us about being a “nerd protector” during his time in school. 

Go inside the musical process as Al shows us what it takes to create a new song. You’ll learn how he comes up with ideas, how he gets permission from the biggest musicians to parody their songs, and why it’s so important for the songs to work audibly and visually. Maysoon tells us why it’s unforgivable to steal another comedian’s joke. On the other hand, Charles and Emily explain why scientists want their work used by others as much as possible.

Find out why there’s more truth in Al’s song “White and Nerdy” than you might think. Emily explains how that song convinced her to fully embrace her nerdiness in graduate school. Rapper Ellect drops in to perform his song “Flat to Fact” live in-studio to set the record straight for Flat-Earthers. Al reminisces on playing Isaac Newton in a rap battle against Bill Nye and…Neil? You’ll hear how comedians must navigate the ever-shifting comedy landscape. Maysoon talks about her barrier-shattering performance in Palestine. All that, plus, Al gets to ask Neil a tantalizing question – how will the universe end?

Thanks to this week’s Patrons for supporting us:

Frank Kane, Ryan Morrison, James Wicker, Jeff Prime, Jennifer Shin, Richard Shirley

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons and All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

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