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“Weird Al” gives a crash course on his new cartoon role

"Weird Al" Yankovic and Milo Murphy (Photo: Disney XD/Rick Rowell; Illustration: Disney XD)

In 2016, Emmy-winning song-parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic took his first regular television gig since his short-lived mid-’90s Saturday-morning series, The Weird Al Show. And then he took another: Following his stint as Comedy Bang! Bang!’s final TV bandleader, Yankovic now voices the school-aged protagonist of Disney XD’s Milo Murphy’s Law. Created by the Phineas And Ferb duo of Jeff “Swampy” Marsh and Dan Povenmire, Milo Murphy’s Law concerns the modern-day descendant of that poor, unfortunate soul who first said “Anything that can go wrong, will.” And go wrong it does, as Milo’s bad-luck streak is the type that would drive Wile E. Coyote into retirement: an existence of peril and pitfalls for Milo, his friends Melissa (Sabrina Carpenter) and Zack (Mekai Curtis), and his dog Diogee (Dee Bradley Baker). Yet, Milo maintains an air of optimism—and a seemingly bottomless disaster-preparedness kit. Prior to the show’s October 3 premiere, The A.V. Club spoke with Yankovic about his increased TV activity, recording lines on the road, and his animation-friendly voice.

The A.V. Club: You’ve always had a TV presence during your career, but that’s expanded over the past decade. Is it a situation where more opportunities are presenting themselves to you, or is it something you’re more actively seeking?


“Weird Al” Yankovic: I decided that I wanted to be a voice on every animated cartoon in the history of the world—even shows that haven’t been on the air for a very long time, that’s going to be harder to pull off. I’ve always enjoyed animation and voiceover work. That’s something that I’ve been proactive about. I’m very excited about the opportunity to work on shows that I love—things like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls and Wander Over Yonder. I was a huge fan of Phineas And Ferb and I was really excited about the chance to work with Jeff “Swampy” Marsh and Dan Povenmire. The writing on the show is really funny and creative and whimsical and it was something that felt very natural for me.


AVC: What about Jeff and Dan’s work attracted you?

WAY: It’s humor that appeals to kids but also appeals to all age groups, which is my favorite kind of children’s programming: The kind of stuff that’s not really just for kids. There are a lot of jokes that will assuredly go over some kids’ heads, but that’s okay. They’re not going to feel like they’re missing out on something, but their parents will appreciate it even more.


AVC: Do you watch a lot of cartoons at home?

WAY: I suppose so. I don’t watch anything on a regular basis—I tend to binge-watch things. I just got off the road [Laughs.] and most of my TV viewing has been in great spurts. My daughter’s 13, so she’s not watching as much animated programming as she used to, but I watch as much as I ever have. It’s definitely part of our normal viewing habits.


AVC: How was the balance between touring and playing the lead role on an animated show?

WAY: They were able to work around my schedule, thankfully. I just got off of a tour where I did 200 dates—we did five months solid last year and four months solid this year. But [the show has] been nice enough to arrange so that if they needed me to do a voiceover session, they would find a studio and just make it happen. They would be in L.A. and I would be [Laughs.] wherever I happened to be and we’d get through it.


AVC: So they’re giving you directions over the phone?

WAY: We’d even be able to do ADR work, where I’d already done the session, but now we’re replacing dialogue. So they had a set-up so I’d see a monitor and I’d get the beeps and I’d have to match the video and they’d still be on the other end of the country giving me notes. The technology’s amazing—we made it happen.


AVC: Can you describe the process of developing your portrayal of Milo? How did you arrive at how he would sound?

WAY: It was pretty quick. I’m not a man of 1,000 voices—I’m not Tom Kenny or Billy West—but my own voice has a very animation-friendly quality to it, and a lot of my cartoon voices are basically just variations on my natural voice. Milo Murphy is no exception. I tried a few things in the studio with Swampy and Dan, and we settled on a higher-pitched version of my natural voice. It’s not a big stretch: Just me, a little higher in register.


AVC: What do you think it is about your voice that makes it animation-friendly?

WAY: [Laughs.] It’s hard to articulate. There’s a certain energy to it—there’s a certain nerdish quality to it, for want of a better word. I tend to enunciate pretty well. It’s always seemed that my voice is one of those voices that people can recognize pretty easily—which has been a bit of a drawback for some characters because you’re supposed to lose yourself in the character, but sometimes people look at a character and go “Oh, it’s ‘Weird Al.’” [Laughs.] I hope people can get beyond that for Milo Murphy and just enjoy the character for who he is.


AVC: Were you able to lose yourself in Milo?

WAY: I think so. Milo’s a great character: He’s a 13-year-old kid who, even though he’s a walking jinx, is extremely optimistic in life. And that’s something else I think my voice is well-suited for, because I’m known for being an up, high-energy, and optimistic kind of guy, so that all goes along with the role. It seemed like a pretty good fit all the way around.


AVC: One of Phineas And Ferb’s signature elements was its split between the kids’ projects and Agent P’s efforts to thwart Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Will there be a similar split on Milo Murphy? The promotional materials mention something about time travelers and pistachios.

WAY: That doesn’t show up for a little bit, so you won’t see that in the first few episodes of the season. The whole season—and I would assume the whole series—has a bit of an arc, so things happen during the course of the season. But first it’s mostly about establishing Milo and his friends, and there isn’t the dramatic B-story split that there was in Phineas And Ferb. Obviously, there’s more than one thing happening at a time, but it’s not as much as a two-story delineation [Laughs.] as “Swampy” and Dan’s previous series.


AVC: There’s also an allusion, in the show’s first episode, to the show-within-the-show, Dr. Zone. What can you tell us about that?

WAY: There’s not a whole lot I can say without giving it away. I can say that he’s voiced by Jemaine Clement from Flight Of The Conchords, which I love. [Dr. Zone] is a long-running show—I think it’s inspired in a small part, perhaps, by Doctor Who. And I’ll leave that there. [Laughs.] There’s little breadcrumbs strewn throughout the series, and as time goes on, you figure out what all these little allusions are in fact referring to. You’ll get to know more and more about Dr. Zone as the show goes on, and then by the end of season one—which is all I’ve seen so far—you know a lot of secrets about Dr. Zone.


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