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"Weird Al" Yankovic

"Weird Al" Yankovic
Background information
Birth name Alfred Matthew Yankovic
Also known as "Weird Al" Yankovic
Born October 23, 1959 (1959-10-23) (age 50) Downey, California
Origin Lynwood, California, U.S.
Genres Parody, Comedy, Polka
Occupations Record Producer, Satirist, Parodist, Singer-Songwriter, Musician, Director, Producer, Actor
Instruments Vocals, accordion, keyboards
Years active 1979–present
Labels Capitol, Placebo, TK, Scotti Brothers, Volcano
Associated acts Dr. Demento
Ak & Zuie
Apologetix
Website www.weirdal.com

Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic English pronunciation: /ˈjæŋkəvɪk/[1]; born 23 October, 1959) is an American singer-songwriter, music producer, actor, comedian, satirist, and a parodist. Yankovic is known in particular for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts. Since his first-aired song parody in 1979, he has sold more than 12 million albums—more than any other comedy act in history[2]—recorded more than 150 parody and original songs,[3][4][5] and has performed more than 1,000 live shows.[6] 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.

In addition to recording his albums, Yankovic has written and starred in his own film, UHF, and his own television show, The Weird Al Show, and directed music videos for himself and other artists including Ben Folds, Hanson, and The Presidents of the United States of America. He has also made guest appearances on many television shows, in addition to starring in his own Al TV specials.

Contents

Early life

The only child of Nick Louis Yankovic (June 4, 1917 – April 9, 2004)[7] and Mary Elizabeth (née Vivalda; February 7, 1923 – April 9, 2004), Alfred was born in Downey, California, and raised in the town of Lynwood.[7] His father was born in Kansas City, Kansas of Yugoslavian[8][7] American descent, and began living in California after serving during World War II;[9][10] he believed "the key to success" was "doing for a living whatever makes you happy" and often reminded his son of this philosophy.[9] Nick Yankovic married Mary 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.[9]

Al's first accordion lesson, which sparked his career in music, was on October 22, 1965, a 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 no relation.[9] Also, Yankovic said, that "[his] parents chose the accordion because they were convinced it would revolutionize rock."[8] He continued lessons at the school for three years before continuing to learn on his own.[7] 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."[9] 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."[7][11] Other sources of inspiration for his comedy come from Mad magazine,[9] Monty Python,[12] and the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker parody movies.[13]

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.[9] 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 claims to have been a straight-A student throughout high school, which earned him the honor of becoming valedictorian of his senior class.[9] Yankovic was fairly active in his school's extracurricular programs, including the National Forensic League (in which he "usually brought home some kind of trophy"), a play based upon Rebel Without a Cause, the yearbook program (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."[9]

Dr. Demento, "My Bologna" and early fame

In 1976, Yankovic, then a high school senior, sent a homemade tape to Dr. Demento, the host of a comedy radio program.[9] The tape's first song was "Belvedere Cruisin'," about his family's Plymouth Belvedere; another song included on the tape (which never received airtime) was "Dr. D Superstar", a parody of the title song from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.[14] 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."[9] 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.[15]

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.[9] 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 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 entitled "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 the song as a single.[9] "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.[9] Yankovic holds a degree in architecture from Cal Poly.[8]

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.[9] "Another One Rides the Bus" became so popular that Yankovic's first television appearance was a performance of the song on the 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.

The 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".[9] 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.[6] Several days later, Yankovic and his band were the opening act for Missing Persons. The unimpressed audience threw items at the group, and they were booed off the stage.

Yankovic recorded "I Love Rocky Road" (a parody of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" as recorded by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts) in 1982. Due to the influence of his new producer, Rick Derringer, it managed to become 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. He 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, "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 entitled 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."[16]

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 entitled 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.[9] 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, personal life, and career to present

Yankovic's "classic" look before eye surgery: with glasses, mustache and short, curly hair. He used it from 1979  – 1998.

On January 24, 1998, Yankovic had LASIK eye surgery to correct his extreme myopia.[17] In the same period, he shaved off his moustache and grew out his hair, thus radically changing his signature look (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 twenty years."[18] 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."[19]

Yankovic married Suzanne Krajewski on February 10, 2001. Their daughter, Nina, was born February 11, 2003. They also have a pet cockatiel named Bo Veaner.[7] They used to have a pet poodle, 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.[20][21]

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."[22] When asked how he can "rationalize" performing at events such as the Great American Rib Cook-Off when he is a vegetarian, he replied "The same way I can rationalize playing at a college even though I’m not a student anymore."[23]

On April 9, 2004, Yankovic's parents, Nick, 86, and Mary, 81, 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. An hour after his wife notified him of his parents' death, Yankovic went on with his concert in Appleton, Wisconsin,[24] 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."[25]

His latest three album releases feature the longest songs Yankovic has ever released. The "Albuquerque" track from Running with Scissors is 11 minutes and 25 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),[26] these "epic" songs were not performed live in their entirety due to 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."[27] 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 comprise a digital EP titled Internet Leaks, with "Whatever You Like" retroactively being considered part of the EP set. The songs will also be included on Yankovic's next studio album, due to be released in 2010.[28]

On August 28, 2009, Rolling Stone magazine released a fan poll that had asked readers to list their choices for who most deserves to be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Weird Al was the overwhelming choice, ranking first, followed by Rush and The Moody Blues in the top ten."[29]

Work

Music

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 has actually recorded an equally large number of original humorous songs ("You Don't Love Me Anymore" and "One More Minute").[7] 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."[30]

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. Exceptions include "Smells Like Nirvana", which references unintelligible lyrics in "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "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 "Confessions Part III", which references "Confessions" and "Confessions Part II" in the first few lines.

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.[7] 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.[9]

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.[31]

In addition to his parodies, 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."[32]

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 Devo with "Dare to Be Stupid", Talking Heads with "Dog Eat Dog", Frank Zappa with "Genius in France", and Nine Inch Nails with "Germs".[33] 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; "Al" is the chemical symbol for aluminum, and the atomic weight of that element is 27. It is seen on the covers for Running With Scissors, Poodle Hat, and Straight Outta Lynwood. Other recurring jokes revolve around the names Bob (the Al TV interviews often mention the name),[34] Frank (e.g. "Frank's 2000" TV"), and the surname "Finkelstein" (e.g. the music video for "I Lost on Jeopardy"). 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. Some 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, 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."[35]

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.[36][37] While most novelty artists are one-hit wonders, Yankovic's continued success (including the top 10 single "White & Nerdy" and album Straight Outta Lynwood in 2006) has enabled him to escape the stigma often associated with novelty music.[38]

Music videos

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 incorporate parodies of many elements of the original song's music video, or otherwise spoof the general style of the music. 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 are parodies of their original song videos include "Eat It", "Fat", "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*", "Bedrock Anthem", "Headline News", and "White & Nerdy". The video for "Dare to Be Stupid" is, as stated by Yankovic, a style parody in general of Devo videos.[39] "It's All about the Pentiums" is a parody of "It's All about the Benjamins" by Puff Daddy. Recent videos have included notable celebrities in addition to Yankovic and his band; for example, Dick Van Patten is featured in both "Smells Like Nirvana" and "Bedrock Anthem", Drew Carey, Emo Philips and Phil LaMarr appear in "It's All About the Pentiums", and Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Donny Osmond, Judy Tenuta and Seth Green appear in "White & Nerdy". Also, Ruth Buzzi and Pat Boone appear in "Gump".

While most videos that Yankovic creates are aired on music channels such as MTV and VH1, Yankovic has begun working 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 used as a segment during one episode.

Reactions from original artists

Under the "fair use" provision of U.S. copyright law, affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, one does not need permission to record a parody.[40] However, as a personal rule, and as a means of maintaining good relationships within the music community, Yankovic has always requested permission from the original artist before recording his parodies.[7] Most artists have had positive reactions to Yankovic's parodies. Several have considered it to be something of a badge of honor to have Yankovic ask permission to parody their song or style, since they felt that Yankovic would not choose to do so unless they were a success or had made some sort of cultural impact at the time. However, there are a few notable exceptions where people have not allowed parodies or have otherwise withdrawn permission.

Positive

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."[7] 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."[41]

Yankovic performing "The Saga Begins" in Auckland, New Zealand on March 10, 2007.

Michael Jackson was also a big fan of Yankovic. Jackson twice allowed him to parody his songs ("Beat It" and "Bad" became "Eat It" and "Fat," respectively). When he 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," because he felt the message was too important. However, Yankovic has performed a concert-only parody "Snack All Night" in some of his live shows.[26] Yankovic also has a cameo appearance, along with many other celebrities, in Jackson's music video for "Liberian Girl."

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*."[42] 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?"[43] The Permanent Record: Al in the Box booklet referred to the song's "compound fracture of a title."[9] 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."[44]

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 Yankovic's 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."[45]

The song "The Saga Begins" (a parody of Don McLean's "American Pie") accurately states the entire plot of The Phantom Menace, despite being written before the film's release. Yankovic got the plot details from rumor websites. He was slightly unsure about Anakin proposing to Amidala, so he attended a US$500 screening to confirm, and ended up making only very minor alterations to the lyrics. McLean was pleased with the parody, and even told Yankovic that the parody's lyrics sometimes enter his mind during live performances.[46] Yankovic's parody not only replicates the music from the original Don McLean song, but it also 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."[47]

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."[48] 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."[49]

Negative

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."[50]

In 2003, Yankovic was denied permission to make a video for "Couch Potato", his parody of Eminem's "Lose Yourself":

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.[51]

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.[52]

Refused parodies

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."[53]

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.[54] 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".[55]

Paul McCartney, also a Yankovic fan, refused Yankovic permission to record a parody of Wings' "Live and Let Die", entitled "Chicken Pot Pie", because McCartney is a vegetarian and found the parody to be in bad taste.[56] Yankovic, who is a vegetarian as well, has stated that he respects McCartney's decision to refuse the parody, and is hesitant to "put Paul on the list" of artists who have refused permission for a parody.[3] However, like "Snack All Night", "Chicken Pot Pie" has been performed numerous times in concert.[26] His concerts often feature parodies for which the artist did not give permission or could not be released for various reasons.

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. The parody was pulled from Yankovic's Straight Outta Lynwood due to 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.[57] The music video for "White & Nerdy" references this dispute, showing Yankovic defacing Atlantic Records' Wikipedia article with the words "YOU SUCK!"

Live performances

Weird Al wearing his "Atlantic Records Sucks" shirt during a performance of "You're Pitiful", on August 8, 2007, at the Ohio State Fair.

Yankovic often describes his live concert performances as "a rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza"[58] with an audience that "ranges from toddlers to geriatrics."[30] 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.[58] 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.[4] Titled "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!, the concert was recorded at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California, on October 2, 1999.[59] 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.[60]

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.[6] 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.[61] 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.[6]

UHF

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.[62] However, it was unsuccessful in theaters, likely due to a release in mid-1989, going up against Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, and others.

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).[63] 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.[64]

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.[65]

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; they stretched disappointments and skirmishes during his career into major downfalls to fit the program's classic formula.[citation needed] 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.

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 and 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, entitled "That 90's Show", during which he records a parody of Homer's grunge hit "Shave Me" entitled "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 has had one notable appearance in the animated Adult Swim show Robot Chicken voicing a kid who becomes a giant robot. The episode also featured Al's music video, "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;[66] 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.

An exhaustive list of television shows on which Yankovic has appeared is available on his official website.[67]

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 his latest, 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.[68] 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.[69] The $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.[70] 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.[71]

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").[68] 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 Cartoon Network and is set to write and direct a live-action feature film[72]. Although, Yankovic previously wrote the script for UHF, this will be the first movie he has directed[73]. Little is currently known about the movie. However, Yankovic did state on his blog that he will not be starring in the movie as Cartoon Network wants a younger protagonist, though he may still appear in a cameo. He also stated that they would hopefully start filming this fall.[74]

Other media

In 2008, "Weird Al" joined Michael J. Nelson as a guest on the RiffTrax treatment of Jurassic Park.

Yankovic will be writing a children's book, When I Grow Up, to be published by HarperCollins in early 2011.[75]

On November 10, 2009 "Weird Al" was a guest Internet Scientist on Rocketboom's Know Your Meme Video Series on the topic of Autotune, hosted by Jamie Wilkinson.

Misattribution and imitators

A screenshot of LimeWire PRO, showing a large number of parodies misattributed to Yankovic, as well as numerous misspellings of his surname. (February 2007 (2007-02))

Songs posted to file sharing networks are often misattributed to him due to 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 due to his supposedly explicit lyrics.[76] Quite a few of the songs, such as "Star Wars Cantina" by Mark Jonathan Davis (later of Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine), "Star Wars Gangsta Rap", "Yoda Smokes Weed", "Chewbacca" and several more have a Star Wars motif.[77] 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.

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.[78]

A list of songs frequently misattributed to Yankovic can be found at The Not Al Page[77] and a list of all commercially released songs recorded by Yankovic can be found on his website.[79]

Fan-driven campaigns

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."[80] 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.[81] 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.[80] However, Yankovic was not included on the list of inductees for 2007.[82] On February 9, 2007, the Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce raised the price to sponsor a new star to $25,000[80] 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.[83]

Similar to the Weird Al Star Fund, a second fan-driven campaign is the effort to Make the Rock Hall "Weird". Since 2004, Yankovic has been eligible to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.[84] 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.[85][86] 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.[86] The Hall has not considered Yankovic for nomination since the campaign started in 2004.[84]

Discography

Album title Release year
"Weird Al" Yankovic 1983
"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D 1984
Dare to Be Stupid 1985
Polka Party! 1986
Even Worse 1988
UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff 1989
Off the Deep End 1992
Alapalooza 1993
Bad Hair Day 1996
Running with Scissors 1999
Poodle Hat 2003
Straight Outta Lynwood 2006
Internet Leaks 2009

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards[87]

Year Nominated work Award Result
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 "Jurrasic Park" Best 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


Gold and platinum records[87][88]

Recording Gold Platinum Double
Platinum
"Weird Al" Yankovic U.S.
"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D Canada
U.S.

U.S.
"Eat It"1 Australia
Canada
U.S.
Dare to be Stupid U.S. U.S.
Even Worse Canada
U.S.

U.S.
"Weird Al" Yankovic's Greatest Hits Canada
Off the Deep End Canada
U.S.
Canada
U.S.
The Food Album U.S.
Alapalooza Canada
U.S.
Canada
 
Canada
 
Greatest Hits Volume II Canada
Bad Hair Day Canada
U.S.
Canada
U.S.
Running With Scissors Australia
Canada
U.S.


U.S.
Straight Outta Lynwood U.S.
"White & Nerdy"2 U.S. U.S.

^1 The "Eat It" single reached the #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.

Videography

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

Awards and nominations

Grammy Award winners[89]
Grammy Award nominees
Australian gold long form videos[87]
  • The Ultimate Video Collection
U.S. gold long form videos[87][88]
U.S. platinum long form videos[87][88]
  • The Ultimate Video Collection

Cameos and special appearances in film

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  81. ^ "The Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Campaign for "Weird Al" Yankovic". http://www.weirdalstar.com/tributeshow.html. Retrieved October 29, 2006. 
  82. ^ Gina Serpe. "Damon, Diddy, Ponch Got Star Power". E! Online News. http://www.eonline.com/news/article/index.jsp?uuid=8ce9efb9-2eb5-4f61-85ab-c5c2ffb9d885. Retrieved October 29, 2006. 
  83. ^ "New Stars to Grace Hollywood Walk of Fame". http://www.hollywoodtoday.net/?p=1129. Retrieved July 2, 2007. 
  84. ^ a b "Make the Rock Hall "Weird" - Our Mission". http://www.allthingsyank.com/rockhall/goal.htm. Retrieved June 15, 2008. 
  85. ^ "Make the Rock Hall "Weird" - FAQ". http://www.allthingsyank.com/rockhall/faq.htm. Retrieved June 15, 2008. 
  86. ^ a b "Make the Rock Hall "Weird" - How You Can Help". http://www.allthingsyank.com/rockhall/what.htm. Retrieved June 15, 2008. 
  87. ^ a b c d e ""Weird Al" Yankovic: Awards". http://www.weirdal.com/awards.htm. Retrieved December 14, 2006. 
  88. ^ a b c "RIAA Searchable Database". http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?table=SEARCH. Retrieved August 13, 2007. 
  89. ^ Grammy Award Winners. Retrieved December 1, 2006.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic (born October 23, 1959) is an American musician, satirist, parodist, accordionist, and television producer.

Contents

Sourced

  • Alanis Morissette and I actually used to date. I especially liked it when we went to the movies.
    • AL TV, MTV, 1996; referring to the line "Is she perverted like me/would she go down on you in a theater" from Morissette's breakout hit You Oughta Know
  • I wrote "Eat It" because I wanted to buy a house. It worked.
    • I Love the 80's 3D, VH1, 1985
  • I have very mixed feelings about [Napster]. On one hand, I'm concerned that the rampant downloading of my copyright-protected material over the Internet is severely eating into my album sales and having a decidedly adverse effect on my career. On the other hand, I can get all the Metallica songs I want for FREE! WOW!!!!!
  • What kind of morons do you have working at newspapers in Austin that would base an entire review of an artist's performance on whether or not they had a good seat?

Lyrics

  • My brothers and sisters all hated me 'cause I was an only child.
  • I'll never forget the first thing she said to me, she said: "Hey - you've got weasels on your face." Right then I knew it was true love.
  • I'm nerdy in the extreme
    Whiter than sour cream
  • I sued Taco Bell
    'Cause I ate half a million Chalupas
    And I got fat!
    I sued Panasonic
    They never said I shouldn't use their microwave
    To dry off my cat!

Unsourced

  • Well, besides working on the album, I got married and had a kid. So, you know, in spite of that petition that was floating around asking me not to reproduce, I did it anyway.

See also

External links

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