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Weird Al Yankovic
Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic (/'jæ?k?v?k/ YANG-k?-vik; born October 23, 1959) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, parodist, record producer, satirist, music video director, film producer, actor, and author.
Yankovic is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and 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 and a further 11 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.Dr.
Demento and early fameYankovic 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 fame1981 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, even though "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 to 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.
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 presentOn 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 was also a judge for the 10th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.Yankovic stated in September 2013 that he is working on a new album, but gave no details.UHFIn 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 appearancesYankovic 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.
In 2014, he appeared in the fourth season My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Pinkie Pride" as Cheese Sandwich, a rival party planner to Pinkie Pie.A brief list of television shows on which Yankovic has appeared is available on his official website.Directing career"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", a $2.5 million project which was sponsored by and premiered at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, California, in 2009.
The project included a brief cameo by Sir Paul McCartney, which Yankovic directed during McCartney's appearance at the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Fair CEO Steve Beazley, who supported the project, considered the project a success and explored leasing the exhibit to other fairs; the second appearance of the exhibit was at the 2009 Puyallup Fair in Washington.He has also directed several videos for other artists, including 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").Canceled Cartoon Network feature filmOn January 25, 2010, Yankovic announced that he had signed a production deal with Warner Bros.
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.
Yankovic stated that he would not be starring in the movie, as Cartoon Network wanted a younger protagonist.
During an interview on 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 initially stated that he would instead shop the script around to other potential studios, but in 2013 revealed that the project had been scrapped as "it was really geared for Cartoon Network" and that he had "cannibalized jokes from that script to use for other projects."WritingYankovic 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 to be 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.Yankovic also wrote a sequel to When I Grow Up, 2013's My New Teacher and Me! (ISBN 978-0-06-219203-5).Web mediaIn 2008, Weird Al joined Michael J.
Nelson as a guest on the RiffTrax treatment of Jurassic Park.On November 10, 2009, Weird Al was a guest "internet scientist" on Rocketboom's "Know Your Meme" video series, in the installment on the topic of Auto-Tune, hosted by Jamie Wilkinson.
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.Al has appeared on numerous other webshows, including CollegeHumor Originals, LearningTown, Some Jerk with a Camera, and Team Unicorn.Other mediaYankovic competed on a week of Wheel of Fortune taped at Disney's Hollywood Studios in March 1994.
He also competed on Rock & Roll Jeopardy!Weird Al joined the band Hanson in their music video for "Thinking 'bout Somethin'" in which he plays the tambourine.Yankovic contributes backing vocals for the song "Time" on Ben Folds' album Songs for Silverman.Yankovic also appeared in Halloween II as himself on a news channel.Yankovic was also one of many celebrities who took part in the NOH8 Campaign against Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.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 2009, Yankovic was a special guest on an episode of G4's Web Soup where he came as Mark Gormley at first.In 2011, Yankovic guest starred as the character "Banana Man" in an episode of Adventure Time.
The same year, he appeared as himself in the How I Met Your Mother episode "Noretta".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 imitatorsSongs 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 Richard Cheese, "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.
A list of songs frequently misattributed to Yankovic can be found at The Not Al Page and a list of all commercially released songs recorded by Yankovic can be found on his website.Yankovic cites these misattributions as "his only real beef with peer-to-peer file sharing sites":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 in an email that he was "flattered, in a weird way" and "found it very funny".Fan-driven campaignsThe 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."
White & Nerdy