"Weird Al" Yankovic
|"Weird Al" Yankovic|
"Weird Al" Yankovic performing live in concert during his 2010 tour
|Birth name||Alfred Matthew Yankovic|
|Also known as||"Weird Al" Yankovic|
October 23, 1959 |
|Origin||Lynwood, California, United States|
|Genres||Parody, comedy, polka|
|Occupations||Record producer, satirist, parodist, singer-songwriter, musician, director, producer, actor|
|Instruments||Vocals, accordion, keyboards, theremin|
|Labels||RCA, Capitol, Placebo, TK, Scotti Brothers, Volcano|
|Associated acts||Dr. Demento|
Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic (born October 23, 1959) is an American singer-songwriter, music producer, accordionist, actor, comedian, writer, satirist, and parodist. Yankovic is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts. Since his first-aired comedy song in 1976, he has sold more than 12 million albums (as of 2007), recorded more than 150 parody and original songs, and has performed more than 1,000 live shows. His works have earned him three Grammy Awards among nine nominations, four gold records, and six platinum records in the United States. Yankovic's first top ten Billboard album (Straight Outta Lynwood) and single ("White & Nerdy") were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his career.
Yankovic's success comes in part from his effective use of music video to further parody popular culture, the song's original artist, and the original music videos themselves, scene-for-scene in some cases. He directed later videos himself and went on to direct for other artists including Ben Folds, Hanson, The Black Crowes, and The Presidents of the United States of America. In addition to recording his albums, Yankovic wrote and starred in the film UHF and The Weird Al Show. He has also made guest appearances on many television shows, in addition to starring in Al TV specials on MTV.
Alfred was born in Downey, California, and raised in the town of Lynwood. He is the only child of Nick Louis Yankovic (June 4, 1917 – April 9, 2004) and Mary Elizabeth (née Vivalda; February 7, 1923 – April 9, 2004). His father was born in Kansas City, Kansas of Yugoslavian descent, and began living in California after serving during World War II; he believed "the key to success" was "doing for a living whatever makes you happy" and often reminded his son of this philosophy. Nick Yankovic married Mary Elizabeth Vivalda in 1949. Mary, who was of Italian and English descent, and had come to California from Kentucky, gave birth to Alfred ten years later.
Al's first accordion lesson, which sparked his career in music, was on the day before his sixth birthday. A door-to-door salesman traveling through Lynwood offered the Yankovic parents a choice of accordion or guitar lessons at a local music school. Yankovic claims the reason his parents chose accordion over guitar was "They figured there should be at least one more accordion-playing Yankovic in the world", referring to Frankie Yankovic, to whom he is not related directly. Yankovic said that "[his] parents chose the accordion because they were convinced it would revolutionize rock." He continued lessons at the school for three years before continuing to learn on his own. Yankovic's early accordion role models include Frankie Yankovic and Myron Floren (the accordionist on The Lawrence Welk Show).
In the 1970s, Yankovic was a big fan of Elton John and claims John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album "was partly how I learned to play rock 'n roll on the accordion." As for his influences in comedic and parody music, Yankovic lists artists including Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Spike Jones, Allan Sherman, Shel Silverstein and Frank Zappa "and all the other wonderfully sick and twisted artists that he was exposed to through the Dr. Demento Radio Show." Other sources of inspiration for his comedy come from Mad magazine, Monty Python, and the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker parody movies.
Yankovic began kindergarten a year earlier than most children, and he skipped the second grade. "My classmates seemed to think I was some kind of rocket scientist so I was labeled a nerd early on", he recalls. As his unusual schooling left him two years younger than most of his classmates, Yankovic was not interested in sports or social events at school. He was valedictorian of his senior class. Yankovic was active in his school's extracurricular programs, including the National Forensic League, a play based upon Rebel Without a Cause, the yearbook (for which he wrote most of the captions), and the Volcano Worshippers club, "which did absolutely nothing. We started the club just to get an extra picture of ourselves in the yearbook."
Dr. Demento and early fame
Yankovic received his first exposure via southern California and syndicated comedy radio personality Dr. Demento's radio show, saying "If there hadn't been a Dr. Demento, I'd probably have a real job now." In 1976, Dr. Demento spoke at Yankovic's school where the then 16-year-old Yankovic gave him a homemade tape of original and parody songs performed on the accordion in Yankovic's bedroom into a "cheesy little tape recorder". The tape's first song was "Belvedere Cruisin'", about his family's Plymouth Belvedere, was played on Demento's comedy radio show, launching Yankovic's career. Demento said, "'Belvedere Cruising' might not have been the very best song I ever heard, but it had some clever lines [...] I put the tape on the air immediately." Yankovic also played at local coffeehouses, saying:
It was sort of like amateur music night, and a lot of people were like wannabe Dan Fogelbergs. They'd get up on stage with their acoustic guitar and do these lovely ballads. And I would get up with my accordion and play the theme from 2001. And people were kind of shocked that I would be disrupting their mellow Thursday night folk fest.
During Yankovic's sophomore year as an architecture student at Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo, he became a disc jockey at the university's radio station, KCPR. Yankovic said he had been nicknamed Weird Al by fellow students and "took it on professionally" as his persona for the station. In 1978, he released his first recording (as Alfred Yankovic), "Take Me Down", on the LP, Slo Grown, as a benefit for the Economic Opportunity Commission of San Luis Obispo County. The song mocked famous nearby landmarks such as Bubblegum Alley and the fountain toilets at the Madonna Inn.
In mid-1979, shortly before his senior year, "My Sharona" by The Knack was on the charts and Yankovic took his accordion into the restroom across the hall from the radio station (to take advantage of the echo chamber acoustics) and recorded a parody titled "My Bologna". He sent it to Dr. Demento, who played it to good response from listeners. Yankovic met The Knack after a show at his college and introduced himself as the author of "My Bologna". The Knack's lead singer, Doug Fieger, said he liked the song and suggested that Capitol Records vice president Rupert Perry release it as a single. "My Bologna" was released as a single with "School Cafeteria" as its B-side, and the label gave Yankovic a six-month recording contract. Yankovic, who was "only getting average grades" in his architecture degree, began to realize that he might make a career of comedic music.
On September 14, 1980, Yankovic was a guest on the Dr. Demento Show, where he was to record a new parody live. The song was called "Another One Rides the Bus", a parody of Queen's hit, "Another One Bites the Dust". While practicing the song outside the sound booth, he met Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, who told him he was a drummer and agreed to bang on Yankovic's accordion case to help Yankovic keep a steady beat during the song. They rehearsed the song just a few times before the show began. "Another One Rides the Bus" became so popular that Yankovic's first television appearance was a performance of the song on The Tomorrow Show (April 21, 1981) with Tom Snyder. On the show, Yankovic played his accordion, and again, Schwartz banged on the accordion case and provided comical sound effects.
Band and fame
1981 brought Yankovic on tour for the first time as part of Dr. Demento's stage show. His stage act in a Phoenix, Arizona, nightclub caught the eye of manager Jay Levey, who was "blown away". Levey asked Yankovic if he had considered creating a full band and doing his music as a career. Yankovic admitted that he had, so Levey held auditions. Steve Jay became Yankovic's bass player, and Jay's friend Jim West played guitar. Schwartz continued on drums. Yankovic's first show with his new band was on March 31, 1982. Several days later, Yankovic and his band were the opening act for Missing Persons.
Yankovic recorded "I Love Rocky Road", (a parody of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" as recorded by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts) which was produced by Rick Derringer, in 1982. The song was a hit on Top 40 radio, leading to Yankovic's signing with Scotti Brothers Records. In 1983, Yankovic's first self-titled album was released on Scotti Bros. The song Ricky was released as a single and the music video received exposure on the still-young MTV. Yankovic released his second album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D in 1984. The first single "Eat It", a parody of the Michael Jackson song "Beat It", became popular, thanks in part to the music video, a shot-for-shot parody of Jackson's "Beat It" music video, and what Yankovic described as his "uncanny resemblance" to Jackson. Peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 14, 1984, "Eat It" remained Yankovic's highest-charting single until "White & Nerdy" placed at number 9 in October 2006.
In 1985, Yankovic co-wrote and starred in a mockumentary of his own life titled The Compleat Al, which intertwined the facts of his life up to that point with fiction. The movie also featured some clips from Yankovic's trip to Japan and some clips from the Al TV specials. The Compleat Al was co-directed by Jay Levey, who would direct UHF four years later. Also released around the same time as The Compleat Al was The Authorized Al, a biographical book based on the film. The book, resembling a scrapbook, included real and fictional humorous photographs and documents.
Yankovic and his band toured as the opening act for The Monkees in mid-1987 for their second reunion tour of North America. Yankovic claims to have enjoyed touring with The Monkees, despite the fact "the promoter gypped us out of a bunch of money."
Yankovic also appeared on the Wendy Carlos recording of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" as the narrator in 1988. The album also included a sequel of Camille Saint-Saëns's composition The Carnival of the Animals titled the "Carnival of the Animals Part II", with Yankovic providing humorous poems for each of the featured creatures in the style of Ogden Nash, who had written humorous poems for the original. Rubén Valtierra joined the band on keyboards in 1991, allowing Yankovic to concentrate more on singing and increasing his use of the stage space during concerts.
A factual biographical booklet of Yankovic's life, written by Dr. Demento, was released with the 1994 box set compilation Permanent Record: Al in the Box. The Dr. Demento Society, which issues yearly Christmas re-releases of material from Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes, often includes unreleased tracks from Yankovic's vaults, such as "Pacman", "It's Still Billy Joel To Me" or the live version of "School Cafeteria".
New look and career to present
On January 24, 1998, Yankovic had LASIK eye surgery to correct his extreme myopia. When Running with Scissors debuted in 1999, he unveiled a radically changed look. In addition to shedding his glasses, he had shaved off his moustache and grown out his hair. He had previously shaved his mustache in 1983 for the video of "Ricky" to resemble Desi Arnaz, and 1996 for the "Amish Paradise" video. Yankovic reasoned, "If Madonna's allowed to reinvent herself every 15 minutes, I figure I should be good for a change at least once every 20 years." He parodied the reaction to this "new look" in a commercial for his nonexistent MTV Unplugged special. The commercial featured Yankovic in the short-haired wig from the music video for Hanson's "River", claiming his new look was an attempt to "get back to the core of what I'm all about", that being "the music".
Three of his latest albums feature the longest songs Yankovic has ever released. The "Albuquerque" track from Running with Scissors is 11 minutes and 23 seconds; "Genius in France" from Poodle Hat runs for 8 minutes and 56 seconds; "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" from Straight Outta Lynwood is 10 minutes and 53 seconds long. Before 2007 (apart from a one-off performance of "Albuquerque" in Albuquerque, New Mexico), these "epic" songs were not performed live in their entirety because of their length and complexity. (See Live performances for details)
Yankovic has also started to explore digital distribution of his songs. On October 7, 2008, Yankovic released to the iTunes Store "Whatever You Like", a parody of the T.I. song of the same title, which Yankovic said he had come up with two weeks before. Yankovic said that the benefit of digital distribution is that "I don't have to wait around while my songs get old and dated—I can get them out on the Internet almost immediately." In 2009, Yankovic released four more songs: "Craigslist" on June 16, "Skipper Dan" on July 14, "CNR" on August 4, and "Ringtone" on August 25. These five digitally released songs were packaged as a digital EP titled Internet Leaks, with "Whatever You Like" retroactively included in the set.
In 2011, Yankovic completed his thirteenth studio album, titled Alpocalypse, which was released on June 21, 2011. The album contains the five songs from the previous Internet Leaks digital download release, a polka medley called "Polka Face", a song called "TMZ" for which Bill Plympton created an animated music video, and five other new songs.
Yankovic had reported an interest in parodying Lady Gaga's material, and on April 20 announced that he had written and recorded a parody of "Born This Way" titled "Perform This Way", to be the lead single for his new album. However, upon first submitting it to Lady Gaga's manager for approval (which Yankovic does as a courtesy), he was not given permission to release it commercially. As he had previously done under similar circumstances (with his parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful"), Yankovic then released the song for free on the internet. Soon afterwards, Gaga's manager admitted that he had denied the parody of his own accord without forwarding the song to his client, and upon seeing it online, Lady Gaga granted permission for the parody. Yankovic has stated that all of his proceeds from the parody and its music video will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign, to support the human rights themes of the original song.
Yankovic married Suzanne Krajewski in 2001; their daughter, Nina, was born in 2003. They also have a pet cockatiel named Bo Veaner and dog named Bambu. They used to have a pet poodle, named Bela (pictured atop Yankovic's head on the cover of his album, Poodle Hat). Yankovic identifies as Christian and has stated that a couple from his church appeared on the cover of Poodle Hat.
Yankovic changed his diet to become a vegan in 1992, after a former girlfriend gave him the book Diet for a New America and he felt "it made [...] a very compelling argument for a strict vegetarian diet." When asked how he can "rationalize" performing at events such as the Great American Rib Cook-Off when he is a vegan, he replied, "The same way I can rationalize playing at a college even though I’m not a student anymore."
On April 9, 2004, Yankovic's parents were found dead in their Fallbrook, California, home, apparently the victims of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from their fireplace that had been recently lit. The flue was closed, which trapped the carbon monoxide gas inside the house, suffocating them. Several hours after his wife notified him of his parents' death, Yankovic went on with his concert in Mankato, Minnesota, saying that "since my music had helped many of my fans through tough times, maybe it would work for me as well" and that it would "at least ... give me a break from sobbing all the time." Although Yankovic played the concert as planned, a scheduled meet and greet following the concert was canceled.
While Yankovic's song parodies (such as "Eat It") have resulted in success on the Billboard charts (see List of singles by "Weird Al" Yankovic), he recorded an equally large number of original humorous songs ("You Don't Love Me Anymore" and "One More Minute"). His work depends largely on the satirizing of popular culture, including television (see The TV Album), movies ("The Saga Begins"), food (see The Food Album), popular music ("Bohemian Polka", "Polkarama"), and sometimes issues in contemporary news ("Headline News"). Yankovic claims he has no intention of writing "serious" music. In his reasoning, "There's enough people that do unfunny music. I'll leave the serious stuff to Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline."
Although many of Yankovic's songs are parodies of contemporary radio hits, it is rare that the song's primary topic lampoons the original artist as a person, or the song itself. Most Yankovic songs consist of the original song's music, with a separate, unrelated set of amusing lyrics. Yankovic considered that his first true satirical song was "Smells Like Nirvana", which references unintelligible lyrics in Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Other satirical songs include "Achy Breaky Song", which refers to the song "Achy Breaky Heart", "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long", which refers to the repetitious lyrics in "Got My Mind Set on You", the unreleased "It's Still Billy Joel to Me", and "Perform This Way", set to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way".
Yankovic's humor normally lies more in creating unexpected incongruity between an artist's image and the topic of the song, contrasting the style of the song with its content (such as the songs "Amish Paradise", "White & Nerdy", and "You're Pitiful"), or in pointing out trends or works which have become pop culture clichés (such as "eBay" and "Don't Download This Song").
Yankovic is the sole writer for all his songs and, for "legal and personal reasons", does not accept parody submissions or ideas from fans. There exists, however, one exception to this rule in the case of "Like a Surgeon". Madonna was reportedly talking with a friend and happened to wonder aloud when Yankovic was going to turn her "Like a Virgin" into "Like a Surgeon". Madonna's friend was a mutual friend of Yankovic's manager, Jay Levey, and eventually Yankovic himself heard the story from Levey.
Unlike other parody artists such as Allan Sherman, Yankovic strives to keep the backing music in his parodies the same as the original. While Sherman reproduced them orchestrally, Yankovic and his band essentially play the original song with new lyrics. Instead of using instrumental versions of the original songs, Yankovic and his band transcribe the original song by ear and re-record the song for Yankovic's parody version. Sometimes artists whose work Yankovic parodies perform on the recordings, e.g. Dire Straits members Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher perform on Yankovic's parody of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" and "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*".
Yankovic also includes a medley of various songs on most albums, each one reinterpreted as a polka, with the choruses or memorable lines of various songs juxtaposed for humorous effect. Yankovic has been known to say that converting these songs to polka was "...the way God intended". Because the polkas have become a staple of Yankovic's albums, he has said he tries to include one on each album because "fans would be rioting in the streets, I think, if I didn't do a polka medley."
Some of Yankovic's original songs are "style parodies" for which he chooses a band's entire body of work to honor/parody, rather than any single hit by that band. Such bands include Rage Against the Machine with "I'll Sue Ya" (which features many aspects of the hit song "Killing in the Name"), Devo with "Dare to Be Stupid", Talking Heads with "Dog Eat Dog", Frank Zappa with "Genius in France", Nine Inch Nails with "Germs", and Queen with "Ringtone". Others are style parodies in the style of a genre of music, rather than a specific band (for example, country music with "Good Enough For Now" and charity records with "Don't Download This Song").
Yankovic has contributed original songs to several films ("This Is the Life" from Johnny Dangerously; "Polkamon" from the movie Pokémon: The Movie 2000, and a parody of the James Bond title sequence in Spy Hard), in addition to his own film, UHF. Other songs of his have appeared in films or television series as well, such as "Dare to Be Stupid" in The Transformers: The Movie.
One of Yankovic's recurring jokes involves the number 27. It is mentioned in the lyrics of several songs, and seen on the covers for Running With Scissors, Poodle Hat and Straight Outta Lynwood. He had originally just pulled the number 27 as a random figure to use in filling out lyrics, but as his fans started to notice the reuse of the number after the first few times, he began to purposely drop references to 27 within his lyrics, videos, and album covers. He explains that "It's just a number I started using that people started attaching a lot of importance to." Other recurring jokes revolve around the names Bob (the Al TV interviews often mention the name, and a song called "Bob" is featured on Poodle Hat), Frank (e.g. "Frank's 2000" TV"), and the surname "Finkelstein" (e.g. the music video for "I Lost on Jeopardy", or Fran Drescher's character, Pamela Finkelstein, in UHF). Also, a hamster called Harvey the Wonder Hamster is a recurring character in The Weird Al Show and the Al TV specials, as well as the subject of an original song on Alapalooza. Other recurring jokes include Yankovic borrowing, or being owed, $5. In a number of Al TV interviews, he often asks if he can borrow $5, being turned down every time. This motif also occurs in "Why Does This Always Happen to Me?", in which his deceased friend owes him $5. Another recurring joke is his attraction to female nostrils or nostrils in general. This also appears in numerous Al TV interviews as well as in several of his songs ("Albuquerque" and "Wanna B Ur Lovr" to name a few.) Yankovic also asks his celebrity guests if they could "shave his back for a nickel." This also appears in the song "Albuquerque". Yankovic has also put two backmasking messages into his songs. The first, in "Nature Trail to Hell", said "Satan Eats Cheez Whiz"; the second, in "I Remember Larry", said "Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands."
Yankovic's career in novelty and comedy music has outlasted many of his "mainstream" parody targets, such as Toni Basil, MC Hammer, and Men Without Hats. Yankovic's continued success (including the top 10 single "White & Nerdy" and album Straight Outta Lynwood in 2006) has enabled him to escape the one-hit wonder stigma often associated with novelty music.
While Yankovic's musical parodies generally do not include references to the songs or the artists of the original songs, Yankovic's music videos will sometimes parody the original song's music video in whole or in part. Most notably, the video for "Smells Like Nirvana" uses an extremely similar set to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", including using several of the same actors. This video contended with "Smells like Teen Spirit" at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Male Video. Other videos that draw directly from those of the original song include "Eat It", "Fat", "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*", "Bedrock Anthem", "Headline News", "It's All About the Pentiums", "Amish Paradise", "Like a Surgeon", and "White & Nerdy". The video for "Dare to Be Stupid" is, as stated by Yankovic, a style parody in general of Devo videos.
Several videos have included appearances by notable celebrities in addition to Yankovic and his band. Dr. Demento appeared in several of Yankovic's earlier videos, such as "I Love Rocky Road" and "Ricky". Actor Dick Van Patten is featured in both "Smells Like Nirvana" and "Bedrock Anthem"; Drew Carey, Emo Philips and Phil LaMarr appeared in "It's All About the Pentiums"; Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Donny Osmond, Judy Tenuta and Seth Green appeared in "White & Nerdy"; and Ruth Buzzi and Pat Boone appeared in "Gump". The video for "I Lost on Jeopardy" includes an appearance by Greg Kihn, the artist whose song, "Jeopardy", was being parodied, along with Don Pardo and Art Fleming, Jeopardy's original announcer and host, as themselves. Florence Henderson played Yankovic's Amish wife in "Amish Paradise".
While most videos that Yankovic creates are aired on music channels such as MTV and VH1, Yankovic worked with animation artists to create music videos for release with extended content albums. The DualDisc version of Straight Outta Lynwood features six videos set to songs from the release, including videos created by Bill Plympton and John Kricfalusi; one video, "Weasel Stomping Day" was created by the producers of the show Robot Chicken, and aired as a segment of that program. As of fall 2010, Yankovic is again collaborating with Bill Plympton to create a video for a new song ("TMZ") which will appear on his upcoming album.
Reactions from original artists
Under the "fair use" provision of U.S. copyright law, affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, artists such as Yankovic do not need permission to record a parody. However, as a personal rule and as a means of maintaining good relationships, Yankovic has always sought permission from the original artist before commercially releasing a parody. He claims that only about two to three percent of the artists he approaches for permission deny his requests, while many of the rest who approve consider Yankovic's parodies to be a badge of honor and rite of passage in the music industry.
Michael Jackson was a big fan of Yankovic, and Yankovic claimed Jackson "had always been very supportive" of his work. Jackson twice allowed him to parody his songs ("Beat It" and "Bad" became "Eat It" and "Fat", respectively). When Jackson granted Yankovic permission to do "Fat", Jackson allowed him to use the same set built for his own "Badder" video from the Moonwalker video. Though Jackson allowed "Eat It" and "Fat", he requested that Yankovic not record a parody of "Black or White", titled "Snack All Night", because he felt the message was too important. This refusal, coming shortly after the commercial failure of Yankovic's movie UHF in theaters, had initially set Yankovic back; he later recognized this as a critical time, as in searching for new parodies, he came across Nirvana and leading to a revitalization of his career with "Smells Like Nirvana". Yankovic has performed a concert-only parody "Snack All Night" in some of his live shows. Yankovic had a cameo appearance, along with many other celebrities, in Jackson's music video for "Liberian Girl".
Dave Grohl of Nirvana said that the band felt they had "made it" after Yankovic recorded "Smells Like Nirvana", a parody of the grunge band's smash hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit". On his Behind the Music special, Yankovic stated that when he called Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain to ask if he could parody the song, Cobain gave him permission, then paused and asked, "Um... it's not gonna be about food, is it?" Yankovic responded with, "No, it'll be about how no one can understand your lyrics." According to members of Nirvana interviewed for Behind the Music, when they saw the video of the song, they laughed hysterically. Additionally, Cobain described Yankovic as "a musical genius".
Mark Knopfler approved Yankovic's parody of the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" for use in the film UHF on the provision that Knopfler himself be allowed to play lead guitar on the parody which was later titled "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*". Yankovic commented on the legal complications of the parody in the DVD audio commentary for UHF, explaining "We had to name that song 'Money for Nothing 'slash' Beverly Hillbillies 'asterisk' because the lawyers told us that had to be the name. Those wacky lawyers! What ya gonna do?" The Permanent Record: Al in the Box booklet referred to the song's "compound fracture of a title." When a fan asked about the song's title, Yankovic shared his feelings on the title, replying "That incredibly stupid name is what the lawyers insisted that the parody be listed as. I'm not sure why, and I've obviously never been very happy about it."
The Presidents of the United States of America were so pleased with "Gump", Yankovic's parody of their song "Lump", that they ended the song with his last line instead of their own ("And that's all I have to say about that") on the live recording of "Lump" featured on the compilation album Pure Frosting. In 2008, Yankovic directed the music video for their song "Mixed Up S.O.B."
Don McLean was reportedly pleased with "The Saga Begins", a parody of "American Pie", and told Yankovic that the parody's lyrics sometimes enter his mind during live performances. His parody not only replicates the music from the original Don McLean song, but it replicates the multi-layered rhyming structure in the verses and chorus. Additionally, George Lucas loved the song and a Lucasfilm representative told Yankovic, "You should have seen the smile on his face."
Chamillionaire was also very pleased, even putting Yankovic's parody "White & Nerdy" (a parody of "Ridin'") on his official MySpace page before it was on Yankovic's own page. Chamillionaire stated in an interview, "He's actually rapping pretty good on it, it's crazy [...] I didn't know he could rap like that. It's really an honor when he does that. [...] Weird Al is not gonna do a parody of your song if you're not doing it big." In September 2007, Chamillionaire credited "White & Nerdy" for his recent Grammy win, stating "That parody was the reason I won the Grammy, because it made the record so big it was undeniable. It was so big overseas that people were telling me they had heard my version of Weird Al's song."
In 2011, Yankovic was initially denied permission to parody Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" for his song "Perform This Way" for release on a new album, but through his release of the song on YouTube and subsequent spread via Twitter, Lady Gaga and her staff asserted that her manager had made the decision without her input, and Gaga herself gave Yankovic permission to proceed with the parody's release. Gaga considered herself "a huge Weird Al fan", and she stated that the parody was a "rite of passage" for her musical career and considered the song "very empowering".
One of Yankovic's most controversial parodies was 1996's "Amish Paradise", based on "Gangsta's Paradise" by hip-hop artist Coolio, which, in turn, was based on "Pastime Paradise" by Stevie Wonder. Reportedly, Coolio's label gave Yankovic the impression that Coolio had granted permission to record the parody, but Coolio maintains that he never did. While Coolio claimed he was upset, legal action never materialized, and Coolio accepted royalty payments for the song. After this controversy, Yankovic has always made sure to speak directly with the artist of every song he parodied. At the XM Satellite Radio booth at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show Yankovic and Coolio made peace. On his website, Yankovic wrote of this event, "I don’t remember what we said to each other exactly, but it was all very friendly. I doubt I’ll be invited to Coolio’s next birthday party, but at least I can stop wearing that bulletproof vest to the mall."
Last year, Eminem forced me to halt production on the video for my 'Lose Yourself' parody because he somehow thought that it would be harmful to his image or career.
For the Poodle Hat Al TV special, Yankovic raised the question of artistic expression in a fake interview with Eminem. As Yankovic has always done for his Al TV specials, he edited the footage of a previous Eminem interview and inserted himself asking questions for comic effect.
On numerous occasions, Prince has refused Yankovic permission to record parodies of his songs. Yankovic has stated in interviews that he has "approached him every few years [to] see if he's lightened up." Yankovic related one story where, before the American Music Awards where he and Prince were assigned to sit in the same row, he got a telegram from Prince's lawyers, demanding he not make eye contact with the artist.
Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page is a self-proclaimed Yankovic fan, but when Yankovic wished to create a polka medley of Led Zeppelin songs, Page refused. Yankovic was, however, allowed the very rare opportunity to re-record a sample of "Black Dog" for a segment of "Trapped in the Drive-Thru".
Paul McCartney, also a Yankovic fan, refused Yankovic permission to record a parody of Wings' "Live and Let Die", titled "Chicken Pot Pie", because McCartney is a vegetarian and found the parody to be improper.
In 2006, Yankovic gained James Blunt's permission to record a parody of "You're Beautiful". However, after Yankovic had recorded "You're Pitiful", Blunt's label, Atlantic Records, rescinded this permission, despite Blunt's personal approval of the song. The parody was pulled from Yankovic's Straight Outta Lynwood because of his label's unwillingness to "go to war" with Atlantic. Yankovic released the song as a free download on his MySpace profile, as well as his official website, and plays it in concert, since it was not Blunt himself objecting to the parody. Yankovic referenced the incident in his video for "White and Nerdy" when he depicts himself vandalizing Atlantic Records' Wikipedia page.
Yankovic often describes his live concert performances as "a rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza" with an audience that "ranges from toddlers to geriatrics." Apart from Yankovic and his band performing his classic and contemporary hits, staples of Yankovic's live performances include a medley of parodies, many costume changes between songs, and a video screen on which various clips are played during the costume changes. A concert from Yankovic's 1999 tour for the Running with Scissors album ("Touring with Scissors") was released on VHS in 1999 and on DVD in 2000. Titled "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!, the concert was recorded at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California, on October 2, 1999. For legal reasons, video clips (apart from those for Yankovic's own music videos) could not be shown for the home release, and unreleased parodies were removed from the parody medley for the performance.
2003 saw Yankovic on tour overseas for the first time. Before 2003, Yankovic and his band had toured only the United States and parts of Canada. Following the success of Poodle Hat in Australia, Yankovic performed eleven shows in Australia's major capital cities and regional areas in October of that year. Yankovic returned to Australia and toured New Zealand for the first time in 2007 to support the Straight Outta Lynwood album. On September 8, 2007, Yankovic performed his 1,000th live show at Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Yankovic has invited members of the 501st Legion on stage during performances of his Star Wars-themed songs "Yoda" and "The Saga Begins", recruiting members of local garrisons (club chapters) while on tour. In appreciation, the 501st inducted Yankovic as a "Friend of the Legion", in September 2007.
He performed his first ever European mini-tour, including an appearance at the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival in Minehead, England in December 2010. Yankovic was picked to perform by the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who curated the festival's lineup. Yankovic played three other dates in the UK around his festival appearance before performing a single date in the Netherlands.
In 1989, Yankovic starred in a full-length feature film, co-written by himself and manager Jay Levey, and filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma called UHF. A satire of the television and film industries, also starring Michael Richards, Fran Drescher, and Victoria Jackson, it brought floundering studio Orion their highest test scores since the movie RoboCop. However, it was unsuccessful in theaters.
The film has since become a cult classic, with out-of-print copies of the VHS version selling for up to $100 on eBay until the release of the DVD in 2002. Yankovic occasionally shows clips from the film at his concerts (to which MGM, the film's current owner, initially objected in the form of a cease and desist letter). In an apparent attempt to make it more accessible to overseas audiences, where the term UHF is used less frequently to describe TV broadcasts, the film was titled The Vidiot From UHF in Australia and parts of Europe.
UHF shows the creation of Yankovic's signature food—the Twinkie Wiener Sandwich. The snack consists of an overturned Twinkie split open as a makeshift bun, a hot dog, and Easy Cheese put together and dipped in milk before eating. Yankovic has stated that he has switched to using tofu hot dogs since becoming a vegetarian, but still enjoys the occasional Twinkie Wiener Sandwich.
Notable television appearances
Yankovic had a TV series called The Weird Al Show, which aired from September 1997 to December 1997 on CBS. Though the show appeared to be geared at children, the humor was really more for his adult fans (as such, it is often compared to Pee-wee's Playhouse). The entire series was released on DVD by Shout! Factory on August 15, 2006.
Yankovic has hosted Al TV on MTV and Al Music on MuchMusic many times, generally coinciding with the release of each new album. For Poodle Hat, Al TV appeared on VH1 for the first time. A recurring segment of Al TV involves Yankovic manipulating interviews for comic effect. He inserts himself into a previously conducted interview with a musician, and then manipulates his questions, resulting in bizarre and comic responses from the celebrity.
VH1 produced a Behind the Music episode on Yankovic. His two commercial failures (his film UHF and his 1986 album Polka Party!) were presented as having a larger impact on the direction of his career than they really had. Also, Coolio's later disapproval of "Amish Paradise" was played up as a large feud. Much was also made over his apparent lack of a love life, though he got married shortly after the program aired. The episode was updated and re-released in early 2012 as part of the "Behind the Music Remastered" series.
Yankovic has done voice-overs for a number of animated series. He appeared in a 2003 episode of The Simpsons, singing "The Ballad of Homer & Marge" (a parody of John Mellencamp's "Jack & Diane") with his band. The episode, "Three Gays of the Condo", in which Marge hires Yankovic to sing the aforementioned song to Homer in an attempt to reconcile their marriage, later won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour)". Yankovic also had a cameo in a 2008 episode, titled "That '90s Show", during which he records a parody of Homer's grunge hit "Shave Me" titled "Brain Freeze" (Homer's song, "Shave Me", was itself a parody of Nirvana's "Rape Me") making Yankovic one of only a handful of celebrities to appear twice on the show playing themselves. He appeared in the animated Adult Swim show Robot Chicken, which provided him with a music video for the song "Weasel Stomping Day". Yankovic is the voice for Squid Hat on the Cartoon Network show, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. He is also the announcer of the cartoon's eponymous video game adaptation. Yankovic had a guest appearance voicing Wreck-Gar, a waste collection vehicle Transformer in the Transformers: Animated cartoon series; previously, Yankovic's "Dare to Be Stupid" song was featured in the 1986 animated film The Transformers: The Movie, during the sequence in which the Wreck-Gar character was first introduced; as such, the song is referenced in the episode. He also plays local TV talent show host Uncle Muscles on several episodes of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! along with other appearances on the show. Weird Al has also supplied the voice of one-shot character 'Petroleum Joe' on The Brak Show. He also voiced himself on a Back at the Barnyard episode, and he appeared as a ringmaster who helps the regular characters of Yo Gabba Gabba! organize a circus in a 2007 episode of the children's show. In 2012, Al was extensively featured in the sixth season episode of 30 Rock called "Kidnapped by Danger", where Jenna tries to come up with a "Weird Al-proof" song, as well as appearing on two episodes of The Aquabats! Super Show!, playing two different characters as the superhero SuperMagic PowerMan and as the President of the United States.
An exhaustive list of television shows on which Yankovic has appeared is available on his official website.
"Weird Al" Yankovic has directed many of his own music videos; he has directed all of his music videos from 1993’s "Bedrock Anthem" to 2006’s "White & Nerdy". He also directed the end sequence of 1986’s "Christmas at Ground Zero" (an original piece juxtaposing Christmas with nuclear warfare) from his Polka Party! album and the title sequence to Spy Hard, for which he sang the title song. Yankovic wrote, directed and starred in the short 3-D movie attraction "Al's Brain: A 3-D Journey Through The Human Brain", which premiered at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, California in 2009. The US$2.5 million project sponsored by the Orange County Fair, including a brief cameo by Sir Paul McCartney that Yankovic directed during McCartney's tour at the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Fair CEO Steve Beazley, who supported the project, considers the project a success and is considering leasing the exhibit to other fairs; the second appearance of the exhibit will be at the Puyallup Fair in Washington.
In addition to his own, he has directed several videos for Hanson (the Titanic sequences in "River"), The Black Crowes ("Only a Fool"), Ben Folds ("Rockin' the Suburbs"), Jeff Foxworthy ("Redneck Stomp" and "Party All Night"), Blues Explosion ("Wail"), and The Presidents of the United States of America ("Mixed Up S.O.B"). He has cameo appearances in his videos for Blues Explosion, Hanson (as the interviewer), and Ben Folds (as the producer fixing Folds' "shitty tracks").
Cartoon Network feature film
On January 25, 2010, Yankovic announced that he signed a production deal with Warner Bros. and is set to write and direct a live-action feature film. Although Yankovic previously wrote the script for UHF, this was to be the first movie Yankovic directed. Little is currently known about the movie. However, Yankovic did state that he would not be starring in the movie, as Cartoon Network wanted a younger protagonist. During an interview on the Comedy Death-Ray Radio, Yankovic revealed that though Cartoon Network "loved" his script, the network decided that they were no longer intending to produce feature films. Yankovic stated that he would instead shop the script around to other potential studios.
Yankovic wrote When I Grow Up (ISBN 978-0-06-192691-4), a children's book released on February 1, 2011 and published by HarperCollins. The book features 8-year-old Billy presenting to his class the wide variety of imaginative career possibilities that he is considering. Yankovic stated that the idea for the book was based on his own "circuitous" career path. The book allows Yankovic to apply the humorous writing style found in his music in another medium, allowing him to use puns and rhymes. Yankovic worked with Harper Collins' editor Anne Hoppe—the first time that Yankovic has had an editor—and found her help as a positive experience. The book is illustrated by Wes Hargis, who, according to Yankovic, has a "a childlike quality and a very fun quality and a very imaginative quality" that matched well with Yankovic's writing. The book reached the No. 4 position on The New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Picture Books for the week of February 20, 2011.
Eric Appel produced a Funny or Die movie trailer for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, a fictional biographical film that parodies other films based on musicians; Yankovic (played by Aaron Paul) is seen hiding his "weirdness" from his parents (Gary Cole and Mary Steenburgen), making it big using song parodies with the help of Dr. Demento (Patton Oswalt), falling in and out of love with Madonna (Olivia Wilde), and fading into alcoholism and being arrested, at which point his father finally admits he is "weird" as well. Yankovic himself plays a music producer in the short.
For The Nerdist Podcast, Weird Al began hosting a new comedic celebrity interview web series, Face to Face with 'Weird Al' Yankovic, on April 3, 2012. The series features Al TV-esque fake interviews with movie stars.
Yankovic also appeared in the recent Halloween II as himself on a news channel.
Yankovic was approached by a beer company to endorse their product. Yankovic had turned it down because he believed that "a lot of my fans were young and impressionable." Yankovic later posted on his Twitter account that he never regretted the decision.
In 2012, he appeared as himself along with Alice Cooper, Bret Michaels, and Maria Menounos in The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange for the Christmas special, and sung with Alice, Bret, and Orange.
Misattribution and imitators
Songs posted to file sharing networks are often misattributed to him because of their humorous subject matter. Often, his surname is misspelled (and thus mispronounced) as "Yankovich", among other variations. Much to the disdain of Yankovic, these misattributed files include songs that are racist, sexually explicit, or otherwise offensive. A young listener who had heard several of these offensive tracks by way of a file sharing service confronted Yankovic online, threatening a boycott because of his supposedly explicit lyrics. Quite a few of the songs, such as "Star Wars Cantina" by the pre-Lounge Against the Machine Mark Jonathan Davis, "Star Wars Gangsta Rap", "Yoda Smokes Weed", "Chewbacca", The Devil Went To Jamaica and several more have a Star Wars motif. Some songs misattributed to him are not songs, but spoken skits, such as "Sesame Street on crack", which is also widely misattributed to Adam Sandler.
If you do a search for my name on any one of those sites, I guarantee you that about half of the songs that come up will be songs I had absolutely nothing to do with. That particularly bothers me, because I really try to do quality work, and I also try to maintain a more-or-less family-friendly image—and some of these songs that are supposedly by me are just, well, vulgar and awful. I truly think my reputation has suffered in a lot of people's minds because of all those fake Weird Al songs floating around the Internet.
In an episode of HBO's "Mr. Show with Bob and David" called Rudy Will Await Your Foundation, Bob Odenkirk plays a character called Daffy "Mal" Yinkleyankle, a parody of Weird Al. Al, who claims it was the only genuine parody act on himself he has ever seen, told Odenkirk over e-mail that he was "flattered, in a weird way" and "found it very funny".
The Weird Al Star Fund is a campaign started by Yankovic's fans to get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Their mission is to "solicit, collect, and raise the necessary money, and to compile the information needed for the application to nominate "Weird Al" Yankovic for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame." Fans worldwide have sent donations to raise the US$15,000 needed for a nomination. In addition to the preferred method of cash donations, many methods were used to raise money for the cause, such as a live benefit show held April 11, 2006, and selling merchandise on the official website and eBay, including T-shirts, calendars, and cookbooks. On May 26, 2006, the campaign hit the then-$15,000 target, just five days before the May 31 deadline to submit the necessary paperwork. However, Yankovic was not included on the list of inductees for 2007. On February 9, 2007, the Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce raised the price to sponsor a new star to $25,000 and as such the Fund is accepting donations again. Yankovic's application was resubmitted for consideration in 2007, but he was not included among 2008's inductees.
Similar to the Weird Al Star Fund, a second fan-driven campaign called "Make the Rock Hall 'Weird'" has tried to enshrine him into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, for which he has been eligible since 2004. Previous attempts to raise awareness for the campaign and support Yankovic's nomination included a petition drive from 2006 to 2007, which raised over 9000 signatures; an art competition in 2005; additionally, a documentary film about the campaign is currently being developed. In addition to these efforts, an ongoing campaign is underway in which supporters of Yankovic's nomination are requested to send "sincere, thoughtful" letters to the Rock Hall Foundation's headquarters in New York. The Hall has not considered Yankovic for nomination since the campaign started in 2004. A 2009 Rolling Stone poll named Weird Al as the top artist that should be nominated for the Hall of Fame, followed by Rush and The Moody Blues in the top ten."
|Peak chart position|
|Billboard Comedy Album
|"Weird Al" Yankovic||1983||139||—|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D||1984||17||—|
|Dare to Be Stupid||1985||50||—|
|UHF – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff||1989||146||—|
|Off the Deep End||1992||17||—|
|Bad Hair Day||1996||14||—|
|Running with Scissors||1999||16||—|
|Straight Outta Lynwood||2006||10||1|
Note: Billboard Comedy Album chart was first published in November, 2004.
|Another One Rides the Bus||1981|
|Selections from Straight Outta Lynwood||2006|
|The Food Album||1993|
|Permanent Record: Al in the Box||1994|
|Greatest Hits (Volume II)||1994|
|The TV Album||1995|
|The Essential "Weird Al" Yankovic||2009|
Awards and nominations
|1984||"Eat It"||Best Comedy Recording||Won|
|1985||Dare to Be Stupid||Best Comedy Recording||Nominated|
|1987||Polka Party!||Best Comedy Recording||Nominated|
|1988||"Fat"||Best Concept Music Video||Won|
|Even Worse||Best Comedy Recording||Nominated|
|Peter and the Wolf||Best Recording for Children||Nominated|
|1992||Off the Deep End||Best Comedy Album||Nominated|
|1994||"Jurassic Park"||Best Short Form Music Video||Nominated|
|2003||Poodle Hat||Best Comedy Album||Won|
|2006||Straight Outta Lynwood||Best Surround Sound Album||Nominated|
|Best Comedy Album||Nominated|
|2009||Internet Leaks||Best Comedy Album||Nominated|
|2011||Alpocalypse||Best Comedy Album||Nominated|
|"Perform This Way"||Best Short Form Music Video||Nominated|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic||U.S.|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D||Canada
|Dare to be Stupid||U.S.||U.S.|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic's Greatest Hits||Canada|
|Off the Deep End||Canada
|The Food Album||U.S.|
|Greatest Hits Volume II||Canada|
|Bad Hair Day||Canada
|Running With Scissors||Australia
|Straight Outta Lynwood||U.S.|
|"White & Nerdy"2||U.S.||U.S.|
^1 The "Eat It" single reached the No. 1 position on the Australian singles chart in 1984.
^2 The "White & Nerdy" single was certified platinum for digital downloads and gold for ringtone downloads in the U.S.
The following is a comprehensive list of Yankovic's long form videos to date, with the United States release date.
|Video title||Release date|
|The Compleat Al||August 1985|
|UHF||July 21, 1989|
|The "Weird Al" Yankovic Video Library||May 1992|
|Alapalooza: The Videos||December 1993|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic: The Ultimate Collection||1993|
|Bad Hair Day: The Videos||June 1996|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic: The Videos||January 1998|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic Live!||November 23, 1999|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection||November 3, 2003|
|The Weird Al Show - The Complete Series||August 15, 2006|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour||October 4, 2011|
|Alpocalypse HD||November 8, 2011|
Awards and nominations
|Grammy Award winners|
|Grammy Award nominees|
|Australian gold long form videos|
|U.S. gold long form videos|
|U.S. platinum long form videos
Cameos and special appearances in film
- 1988: Tapeheads
- 1988: The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
- 1991: The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear
- 1994: Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult
- 1996: Spy Hard
- 1997: Safety Patrol
- 2000: Nothing Sacred
- 2002: Desperation Boulevard
- 2003: Haunted Lighthouse
- 2008: Nerdcore Rising
- 2009: Halloween II
- 2012: The Annoying Orange
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Al's grandparents on his father's side were Yugoslavian.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: "Weird Al" Yankovic|
- Official website
- "Weird Al" Yankovic at the Internet Movie Database
- "Weird Al" Yankovic discography at MusicBrainz
- "Weird Al" timeline from Exclaim!
- "Weird Al" Yankovic at the Open Directory Project