I think that being on The Simpsons is my career highlight because I think that's my one real stab at immortality. The Simpsons will be around long after people have forgotten who I am, because they'll be in syndication for the next thousand generations probably." He has a small, uncredited role as a waiter in the 4-D short film Haunted Lighthouse, which screens at theme and amusement parks in the U.S. and England and, between 2003 and 2005, he has a recurring role as "Squid"/"The Squid Hat" on the Cartoon Network show, Grim & Evil and plays "The Announcer" in the related video game, The Grim Adventures of Bill & Mandy, which comes out in 2006. Poodle Hat is released in May, 2003 and debuts at #17 on Billboard. Yankovic's grand plans for a "Couch Potato" video are dashed during pre-production, when Eminem denies permission for the clip after hearing a final mix of the song. No reason is ever given so the song still appears on the album, but Poodle Hat is the first "Weird Al" release without a corresponding new video or single as Yankovic can't find time in his schedule to conceive and produce another, at least until "eBay" oddly ends up as a single three years later. Eventually, a short video for the Bob Dylan-aping "Bob" is shot for an Al-TV special, mimicking the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" sequence from D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, with Yankovic adopting a Dylan twang and singing nothing but palindromes.
"Close to ten years ago, it almost made sense for me not to make videos any more," Yankovic admits. "MTV had pretty much stopped playing them and YouTube really didn't exist yet, so there was no outlet and they're really expensive to make. So, when Eminem turned me down for that video, I wasn't that devastated actually. But nowadays, it makes as much sense as it ever did because it's video-on-demand and you can Google it and watch it whenever you want. People are making videos again and it's become a very important way of promoting your work and, for the first time, I'm making a music video for every single song on my new record."
Poodle Hat wins a Grammy for Best Comedy Album and Yankovic tours overseas for the first time ever, playing 11 shows in Australia. Yankovic plays a singing minstrel on an episode of Disney's animated show, Lilo & Stitch: The Series; the episode is entitled "Tank: Experiment 526." Tragedy strikes on April 9, 2004: Yankovic's parents, Nick, 86, and Mary, 81, are found dead in their Fallbrook, California, home, victims of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from their fireplace. Yankovic is notified by his wife while he's on tour and hours away from playing a show in Mankato, Minnesota. Despite the news, he opts to carry on with the shows. "I had to do a concert that night and it was one of those things where, it was mostly just denial. I had to kind of pretend that 'This is not happening, this is not happening.' So, for a couple of hours every night, I was in this ultimate reality where I was on-stage and everything was okay because I'd put it out of my mind. I cancelled all the 'meet and greets' and everything else and, for a couple of hours every night, we kept doing the show, as we'd promised. It was very difficult obviously. but in a way it was great and helpful to have that kind of distraction at that point in my life. Otherwise, I'd have been a mess. I mean, I was a mess anyway, but it would've been worse."
2005 to 2011
Ben Folds recruits Yankovic to contribute back-up vocals on the Songs for Silverman track "Time," which is released in April, 2005. In July 2005, Yankovic begins work on his next album and has six songs complete by October. That same month, on his web site's "Ask Al" section, Yankovic responds to a concerned, purportedly young listener about his more "explicit" material. Over the years, many horrible, often purposefully offensive song parodies are falsely attributed to "Weird Al" online, in file-sharing networks.
"All of my material is really pretty family friendly," Yankovic writes. "Of course, you would know this if you actually bought my CDs instead of trying to illegally download them off the internet like the amoral-yet-self-righteous hooligan you obviously are! You disgust me!! Ah, the delicious irony of it all." The discussion does raise an interesting point in that, as cutting as genuine "Weird Al" parodies can be, they are often relatively family-oriented. "It's not calculated but it's an extension of my personality," Yankovic explains. "I don't use harsh profanity in every day life, so there's no reason I would do it in my song lyrics. I certainly appreciate humour and songs that do, but it's a personal choice for me to do stuff that's considered more family friendly. And a nice by-product of that is I get a lot of family audiences at my shows. It's not squeaky-clean, G-rated Disney stuff, but it's not something that might traumatize your kids for life."
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