"Weird Al" Yankovic
Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic ( ; born October 23, 1959) is an American musical comedian known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts; original songs that are style pastiches of the work of other acts; and polka medleys of several popular songs, featuring his favored instrument, the accordion.
Since his first-aired comedy song in 1976, he has sold more than 12 million albums (), recorded more than 150 parody and original songs, and performed more than 1,000 live shows. His works have earned him five Grammy Awards and a further eleven 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. His latest album, Mandatory Fun (2014), became his first number-one album during its debut week.
Yankovic's success comes in part from his effective use of the 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. With the decline of music television and the onset of social media, Yankovic used YouTube and other video sites to publish his videos; this strategy proved integral, helping to boost sales of his later albums, including Mandatory Fun. Yankovic has stated that he may forgo traditional albums in favor of timely releases of singles and EPs following on this success.
In addition to recording his albums, Yankovic wrote and starred in the film UHF (1989) and the television series The Weird Al Show (1997). He has also made guest appearances and performed voice acting roles on many television shows and video web content, in addition to starring in Al TV specials on MTV. He has also written two children's books, When I Grow Up and My New Teacher and Me!
Early lifeYankovic was born in Downey, California and raised in Lynwood, California. He is the only child of Mary Elizabeth (Vivalda) and Nick Yankovic. His father, born in Strawberry Hill (Kansas City, Kansas) of Yugoslav descent (the original last name spelling would have been Janković), began living in California after serving as a medic during World War II, earning two Purple Hearts for his service.
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 due to both poor critical reception and competition from other summer blockbusters at the time such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, Batman and Licence to Kill. The failure of the film left Yankovic in a three-year slump, which was later broken by his inspiration to compose "Smells Like Nirvana".
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.
Live televisionIn his early career, Yankovic hosted the specials Al TV on MTV and Al Music on MuchMusic many times, generally coinciding with the release of each new album. These shows typically included some of Yankovic's videos to date and previews of songs on the upcoming 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.
The Weird Al Show was a live action skit-based children's show hosted by Yankovic, airing from September to December 1997 on CBS, which featured several actors and bands as guests along with Yankovic and other actors. It was designed to be part of CBS's mandated Educational or Informative programming to teach children morals. The show had a troubled production due to this requirement and the desire by CBS to follow in the success of Pee-wee's Playhouse, leading to the show's cancellation after one 13-episode season. The entire series was released on DVD by Shout! Factory on August 15, 2006.
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 performed at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards singing a comedic medley of songs based on the themes of several Emmy-nominated shows such as Mad Men and Game of Thrones.
Animation and voice workYankovic has done voice-overs for several 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 2011, Al appeared as himself in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases!" 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. He would later reprise his role in the season 9 episode "The Last Laugh."
In 2016, Al appeared in 2 episodes of BoJack Horseman as Mr. Peanutbutter's brother, Captain Peanutbutter, and began portraying Milo Murphy in the Disney XD series Milo Murphy's Law. Yankovic guest voiced as Papa Kotassium in a 2016 episode of Cartoon Network's animated series, Mighty Magiswords, which was created by fellow Weird Al-fan, musician and accordionist, Kyle Carrozza. Carrozza sent a FAQ to Weird Al when Carrozza was in college in 1999.
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. Yankovic later appeared in another Funny or Die short alongside Huey Lewis which parodied the ax murder scene in the movie American Psycho, in which Christian Bale's character Patrick Bateman discusses the nature of Lewis's musical work before killing his victim.
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, LearningTown, Some Jerk with a Camera, Team Unicorn, and Epic Rap Battles of History appearing as Sir Isaac Newton in a battle against actors portraying Bill Nye, the Science Guy (YouTube star Nice Peter), and Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Chali 2na of the group Jurassic 5).
In October 2016, Yankovic collaborated with the Gregory Brothers to create a music video "Bad Hombres, Nasty Women" shortly after the third debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, with Yankovic singing between autotuned snippets from the candidates.
Directing"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"), Jon Spencer 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 Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Hanson (as the interviewer), and Ben Folds (as the producer fixing Folds' "shitty tracks").
On January 25, 2010, Yankovic announced that he had signed a production deal with Warner Bros. to write and direct a live-action feature film for Cartoon Network. 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, 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 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!.
Yankovic became the first guest editor for Mad Magazine for their 533rd issue, published in April 2015.
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 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.
On May 31, 2014, Yankovic won the ACE Award (Amateur Cartoonist Extraordinaire) from the National Cartoonists Society at its awards banquet in San Diego.
From 2014 until 2017, Yankovic appeared as a celebrity contestant in eight episodes of the game show Celebrity Name Game.
In 2015, Yankovic made an appearance on an episode of The Odd Couple as a yoga student in the class Felix takes over for one day.
In 2016, Yankovic became the bandleader on the IFC series Comedy Bang! Bang!, on which he had previously guest starred.
In the official video for Weezer's cover of "Africa" published in September 2018, which itself is parody of Weezer's video for "Undone – The Sweater Song", Yankovic stands in for Rivers Cuomo as vocalist and lead guitar.
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 Mark Jonathan Davis (not, in a double misattribution, his lounge-singer character Richard Cheese), "Star Wars Gangsta Rap", "Yoda Smokes Weed", "Chewbacca", "The Devil Went To Jamaica", "The Twelve Pains of Christmas" by Bob Rivers 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":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 was a campaign started by Yankovic's fans to get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Their mission was 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$40,000 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. Yankovic's application was resubmitted for consideration in 2007, but he was not included among 2008's inductees. In December 2010, the price was raised again to $30,000. and in 2017 the price was raised to $40,000. The campaign raised the new target each time and applications continued to be submitted yearly, until The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced in June 2017 that Yankovic would receive a star on the Walk of Fame as one of the 2018 inductees. In an official induction ceremony on August 27, 2018, Al received the 2,643rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located at 6914 Hollywood Blvd, directly across the street from TCL Chinese Theatre. The ceremony was attended by 1,500 fans.
Similar to the Weird Al Star Fund, a second fan-driven campaign called "Make the Rock Hall 'Weird'" has tried to enshrine him into the 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 (who were inducted in 2013) and The Moody Blues in the top ten."
A smaller ongoing effort has been made by fans to have Yankovic perform at the halftime show of a Super Bowl game. This inspired Yankovic to write the fight song parody "Sports Song" for Mandatory Fun to help round out his repertoire. Subsequent to the success of Mandatory Fun, another fan-driven campaign pushed for Yankovic to headline the then-upcoming Super Bowl XLIX at the highlight of the artist's career, which was noticed by many media outlets, including CNN and Wired, though the decision for this selection would reside within the management of the NFL (who instead chose Katy Perry for that position).
Awards and nominationsGrammy Awards
Band membersCurrent members