Rock star and self-proclaimed professional partier Andrew W.K. is nothing short of a renaissance man. While the traditionally trained piano player is best known for rollicking hits like "Party Hard" and "It's Time to Party," Andrew has also tried his hand as a TV show host, a motivational speaker and, currently, a weekly advice columnist for The Village Voice. If there's one thing Andrew has maintained throughout the course of his career, it's staying positive — especially during his first few years in New York City.
"I was an opera ticket salesman, a bubble gum ball machine salesman, a retail clerk at Kim's Video when they had their location on St. Mark's Place [in New York City's East Village]. I also worked in the window, dressing displays at Bergdorf Goodman," Andrew told Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg about the assortment of odd jobs he once held down. "The one good thing about just about every job was there was someone there that would always make me laugh all day that helped make the rest of it less painful."
After the interview, we put one of Andrew's fans to the test to guess how the party expert answered a series of questions about party etiquette. What's the most awesome gift that Andrew would bring to a house party? And how would he dress for the occasion? Find out how to be the talk of your next shindig. (It might involve a furry costume.)
When we asked Andrew what topics he would be interested in being quizzed on, we discovered that he and house musician Jonathan Coulton share an abiding (some may say obsessive) love for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. (Andrew prefers the London cast album). So in an Ask Me Another Challenge called "Jesus Christ Super Quiz," Andrew tackled questions about Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's epic rock opera that's based on the story of Jesus. Plus, Coulton and Andrew perform a duet of the song "What's the Buzz?"
On his personal definition of "partying"
Not being dead is my version of partying. So far, so good.
On his forthcoming book, The Party Bible
It's not a biography, or even very anecdotal. I'm trying to make it more like a new age sort of "self-help through partying" concept. One thing I've been working on with it lately is this idea of how to have an open mind or maintain an open mind, and it seems to involve staying in a state of doubt, questioning everything, which we've heard people say that. But I never really understood what that meant. So you even have to question the idea of questioning things, but not too much, or then you won't be able to think at all. But that's an interesting thing when that happens.
On why he loves Jesus Christ Superstar
I do think it's Andrew Lloyd Weber's best musical. I also think it's one of the best rock albums ever recorded, musical or not. And the cast, the singers they had were just mind-blowing, and there's a rawness, and an immediate quality to all the performances. They probably did it in one take.
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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and let's welcome our very important puzzler, Andrew W.K.
ANDREW W.K.: Thank you very much. Very good to be here. Very intimidating. Very impressive, but very fun. So, we'll see what happens now.
EISENBERG: Uh-uh. Come on. You can't be intimidated.
W.K.: That was pretty impressive. I didn't get a single one of the names right.
DARWIN CONNER: Me either.
EISENBERG: So you do so many things: musician, writer, motivational speaker, advice columnist for the Village Voice, TV host and, of course, you're the authority on partying. So for listeners who don't know your greatest hits, they include, "Party Hard" "It's Time to Party," "Party, Party, Party." What message are you really trying to send here?
W.K.: To have some fun.
W.K.: It's one word that everyone understands and they can sort of take that and celebrate in their own way. And of all things I could think to do that I should spend my time on, partying seemed like the most fun of all. So I decided to go professional with it and I'm enjoying it very much.
EISENBERG: So I mean I have my definition of partying. What is your private definition of partying? When you're like I, Andrew W.K., want to have a good time, I'm doing this?
W.K.: Coming to an event like this. It really is. The...
EISENBERG: Too kind.
EISENBERG: No, the variety, it definitely helps to keep me entertained. And I think if I'm going to entertain other people, I have to be entertained by my life first. So that's the party, you know, not being dead is my version of partying.
W.K.: So far, so good.
EISENBERG: So far, so good.
W.K.: Thank you very much.
EISENBERG: Now you're a classically trained piano player.
W.K.: Yes. Traditionally trained.
EISENBERG: Traditionally trained.
W.K.: Out of respect for people that are much better than me, I don't feel comfortable saying classically trained.
EISENBERG: So how do you go from a traditionally trained piano player accepted to be at Institute in Chicago to becoming a rock star?
W.K.: You just have to make a special kind of agreement with yourself and with some other people or - depends how you describe them. You sell your soul to yourself, basically.
W.K.: So again, so far, so good.
EISENBERG: So when you came to New York, did you work a lot of different jobs in the beginning?
W.K.: I did. Yeah. I was a opera ticket salesman, a bubblegum ball machine salesman, a retail clerk at Kim's Video when they had their location on St. Mark's Place.
W.K.: I also worked in the window dressing displays at Bergdorf Goodman.
EISENBERG: Wow. All right.
W.K.: The one good thing about just about every job was there was someone there that would always make me laugh all day and that helped make the rest of it less painful. Much like this.
JONATHAN COULTON: It doesn't make it any better for me.
EISENBERG: One thing you said that I loved is that you would just say yes to any gig in the beginning, didn't matter what it was because that was how you were going to propel yourself forward.
W.K.: Yes. And again, like this.
EISENBERG: Yes. Ah, yeah.
EISENBERG: Well, propel yourself forward is hilarious. But...
W.K.: No, it seemed like that was a good way to get things done was to do them.
EISENBERG: So in the beginning when you were...
EISENBERG: ...taking music gigs, were you playing in like random places, a Starbucks or something like that?
W.K.: I did. Those are - I've played...
EISENBERG: Really? You played at Starbucks?
W.K.: You didn't know that?
That was one of my first shows was playing the Astor Place Starbucks with a great group that also was first beginning called Fischerspooner. And Sweet Thunder was the name of the production and I think the manager thought it would be novel to have live music. But it was, you know, not exactly what they were expecting, I think.
W.K.: I think it you have gone over better...
COULTON: A little acoustic, a mellow vibe. Yeah.
W.K.: ...with that crowd. Yes. But no, that was some of my first shows in New York.
EISENBERG: Now you sing, play piano, drums, bass...
W.K.: Yeah. A little bit of...
W.K.: A little bit.
EISENBERG: And you have a book coming out, "The Party Bible."
W.K.: Yes. I'm working on my first book about partying. It's not really a autobiography or even very anecdotal. I'm trying to make it more like a new age sort of self-help through partying concept.
EISENBERG: OK. Can you give us a tease on a tip or a how-to?
W.K.: Yes. One thing I've been working on lately is this idea of how to have an open mind or maintain an open mind, and it seems to involve staying in a state of doubt, questioning everything, which we've heard people say that. But I never really understood what that meant. So you even have to question the idea of questioning things. But not too much, or then you won't end up really being able to think at all. But that's an interesting feeling when it happens. Believe me.
EISENBERG: I totally relate to that. I thought before that only true feeling of happiness is confusion. That is the closest...
W.K.: I think that's closest we can get.
EISENBERG: That is the closest we can get. Yeah.
W.K.: I agree.
EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah. See, I know how to party.
W.K.: I feel very happy right now.
EISENBERG: Me too.
EISENBERG: OK. We're going to subject you to your own ASK ME ANOTHER challenge at the end of the show. But right now, we are going to find out a little bit more about you with our next contestant. Hello, you're on ASK ME ANOTHER.
SAKER ALEXANDER: Hi, this is Saker Alexander from Canton, Ohio.
EISENBERG: Hello, Saker. I'm here with Andrew W.K. and Jonathan Coulton.
COULTON: Hi, Saker.
ALEXANDER: Hi, guys. How are you?
W.K.: I'm doing well. How are you?
ALEXANDER: Very good.
EISENBERG: Now Saker, are you an Andrew W.K. fan?
ALEXANDER: I am an Andrew W.K. fan. I love "Gundam Rock."
W.K.: Oh, good. Thank you. That's a tribute to a Japanese animation series album but I released a few years ago. Thank you for having it.
ALEXANDER: Yeah. Oh, I'm a huge nerd so it hit a sweet spot for me.
EISENBERG: Not only are you a huge nerd, Saker, but you've been on the television basically celebrating that. Is that right?
ALEXANDER: No. That is not right. Actually...
ALEXANDER: I applied for a nerd reality TV show but I was not - I got to like the final level of contestant search, but I was not there. So I wasn't a nerdy enough.
EISENBERG: I can't imagine.
ALEXANDER: Yeah. I don't know. I don't get it either.
W.K.: Well, I think this is perfect that you're - you're having your telephone show appearance I mean what, on radio.
EISENBERG: Yeah. This is it. Yeah.
ALEXANDER: No. I've always been told that you, that I'd rather be on radio than television. People would rather see me there.
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COULTON: See, it's not even that you have a face for radio. You have a face for radio over the telephone.
ALEXANDER: There needs to be a couple levels of separation there, yeah.
COULTON: That's right.
EISENBERG: OK. Well, this game is called Party Etiquette With Andrew W.K., and we've asked Andrew some multiple choice questions about the right way to party. And all you have to do is Saker, is tell us what you think Andrew chose.
EISENBERG: And he will let you know if you got it right. Let's start. You're going to a house party and being a good guest, you want to bring a gift. What's the most awesome gift? A rescue cat, even if you rescued it from your next door neighbors, a literal chocolate fountain wheeled in by dudes dressed as Hershey kisses, or nothing. Your presence is their present.
ALEXANDER: Oh, I think that you shouldn't give people an animal they're not expecting because that's just generally never a good idea.
ALEXANDER: And gosh, I don't know. You know, I coming again, from the nerd thing, I think self-confidence low is sort of the nerd stereotype, so I'm going to go with the second one because I don't think I'd be enough. So I'm going with the Hershey, the chocolate fountain.
EISENBERG: OK. But wait, Saker.
EISENBERG: I know that you're thinking about this deep in your soul and what you would do. But you are answering how you think Andrew W.K. would answer.
ALEXANDER: Oh. Then Andrew W.K. is enough. Oh, but you're right, of course. I'm sorry.
EISENBERG: No problem.
EISENBERG: I think you would be enough as well, Saker.
ALEXANDER: Aw, shucks.
EISENBERG: But Andrew, what did you choose?
W.K.: I chose C, my presence is their present.
ALEXANDER: All right.
COULTON: I would like a chocolate fountain. I'm just saying.
EISENBERG: I would like an unexpected cat.
COULTON: All right. You had hosted in epic party at your house. But there are still a few people who don't get that it's time to leave, even though you've turned off the music and are obviously cleaning up. Do you A, call a cab and when it arrives trick your guests into going outside and lock the door behind them;...
COULTON: ...B, put some Hot Pockets in the microwave and turn the music back on 'cause it's now a sleepover; or C, make a dramatic production of locking your front door and in your most terrifying voice, tell everyone that the party's not over until you say it is.
ALEXANDER: Oh, man. So let's see, Hot Pockets are basically pizza sandwiches. So I'm going to go with Hot Pockets.
COULTON: With B, you're going to go with Hot Pockets?
W.K.: That is correct. That is right. Yes.
W.K.: Well done. I think we're getting into a groove now.
W.K.: You're thinking like me.
EISENBERG: Saker, when you party hard, sometimes you get double-booked, you know what I'm saying?
ALEXANDER: Of course.
EISENBERG: If you have to duck out of the party early to go to another party, do you A, apologize and say goodbye to all of your friends that no matter long how it takes; B, leave without saying anything to anyone, they'll figure it out; or C, why leave when you can get kicked out?
ALEXANDER: Oh, man. I guess, OK again, I'm Andrew W.K. so, OK, I'm just going to get kicked out, I guess.
EISENBERG: You're going to get kicked out?
W.K.: That is not the answer that I chose. I chose B.
ALEXANDER: Oh no. Sorry.
W.K.: I chose B, leave without saying anything to anyone. They'll figure it out.
COULTON: All right, Saker, which of these outfits did Andrew W.K. say he would be most likely to wear to a party, A, a full tuxedo with tails, top hat, and a cane; B, Speedos, flip-flops and rose-tinted goggles; or C, the last thing he were to that furries convention.
ALEXANDER: You know, I am from Ohio and I know that he did actually speak at a furry - not a furry convention, but a My Little Pony convention.
W.K.: That's right.
ALEXANDER: So that's tempting.
COULTON: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Bronies are totally different from furries.
W.K.: That's true.
ALEXANDER: I know. I know. I corrected myself. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
W.K.: That is true.
COULTON: Watch yourself.
ALEXANDER: I don't know. I guess I mean he's a pretty classy guy, so tuxedo sounds promising. You're giving me no middle ground. It's classy or Speedo.
COULTON: Or a furries costume.
ALEXANDER: Right. I'm sorry, I already discounted that one. I'm going to go with tuxedo.
W.K.: Wow, wrong again.
W.K.: But I do like tuxedos. No, I chose C, what I wore last at the furries convention.
ALEXANDER: Oh, no.
W.K.: And actually, I was recently invited to several furry conventions. And I have, thanks to the community, been given my own furry character, which is called a fursona.
W.K.: And mine is a wolf with wings and it's called the Party Animal.
EISENBERG: Oh, nice.
W.K.: So, yes.
COULTON: That's awesome.
EISENBERG: Saker, we're going to send you an ASK ME ANOTHER prize. You've done it.
ALEXANDER: Yes. Thanks, everybody.
EISENBERG: Thanks, Saker.
W.K.: Thank you.
EISENBERG: And thank you, Andrew W.K.
W.K.: Thank you very much. So far, so good.
EISENBERG: We will see you later in the show for your own challenge.
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EISENBERG: Did you know that you can party with ASK ME ANOTHER anywhere? We're looking for some worthy contestants, both on the phone and right here on stage. So if you think you have what it takes, take our contestant quiz. Just send us an email at ASK ME ANOTHER@npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.