Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic (/ˈjæŋkəvɪk/yang-kə-vik; born October 23, 1959) is an American singer, songwriter, parodist, record producer, satirist, actor, music video director, film producer, and author. He is 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 (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 four Grammy Awards and a further 11 nominations, four gold records, and six platinum records in the United States. Weird Al's first top ten Billboardalbum (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 on its debut week.
Weird Al'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. With the decline of music television and the onset of social media, Weird Al 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. Weird Al 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, Weird Al wrote and starred in the film UHF (1989) and The Weird Al Show (1997). He has also made guest appearances and 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.
Yankovic was born in Downey, California and raised in Lynwood, California. He is the only child of Nick and Mary Yankovic. His father was born in Kansas City, Kansas, of Yugoslavian descent, and began living in California after serving during World War II; he believed "the key to success" was "doing for a living whatever makes you happy" and often reminded his son of this philosophy. Nick Yankovic married Mary Elizabeth Vivalda in 1949. Mary, who was of Italian and English descent, had come to California from Kentucky, and gave birth to Alfred ten years later.
Al's first accordion lesson, which sparked his career in music, was on the day before his sixth birthday. A door-to-door salesman traveling through Lynwood offered the Yankovic parents a choice of accordion or guitar lessons at a local music school. Yankovic claims the reason his parents chose accordion over guitar was "they figured there should be at least one more accordion-playing Yankovic in the world", referring to Frankie Yankovic, to whom he is not related. Yankovic said that "[his] parents chose the accordion because they were convinced it would revolutionize rock." He continued lessons at the school for three years before continuing to learn on his own. Yankovic's early accordion role models included Frankie Yankovic and Myron Floren.
Yankovic began kindergarten a year earlier than most children, and he skipped second grade. "My classmates seemed to think I was some kind of rocket scientist so I was labeled a nerd early on," he recalls. As his unusual schooling left him two years younger than most of his classmates, Yankovic was not interested in sports or social events at school. He attended Lynwood High School. Yankovic was active in his school's extracurricular programs, including the National Forensic Leaguesanctioned speech events, a play based upon Rebel Without a Cause, the yearbook (for which he wrote most of the captions), and the Volcano Worshippers club, "which did absolutely nothing. We started the club just to get an extra picture of ourselves in the yearbook." Weird Al graduated in 1975 and was valedictorian of his senior class.
Yankovic received his first exposure via southern California and syndicated comedy radio personality Dr. Demento's radio show, saying "If there hadn't been a Dr. Demento, I'd probably have a real job now." In 1976, Dr. Demento spoke at Yankovic's school where the then 16-year-old Yankovic gave him a homemade tape of original and parody songs performed on the accordion in Yankovic's bedroom into a "cheesy little tape recorder". The tape's first song, "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 from2001.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, he became a disc jockey at KCPR the university's radio station. Yankovic said he had originally 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. Yankovic's record label, TK Records, went bankrupt about two weeks after the single was released, so Yankovic received no royalties from its initial release.
1981 brought Yankovic on tour for the first time as part of Dr. Demento's stage show. His stage act in a Phoenix, Arizona, nightclub caught the eye of manager Jay Levey, who was "blown away". Levey asked Yankovic if he had considered creating a full band and doing his music as a career. Yankovic admitted that he had, so Levey held auditions. Steve Jaybecame 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.
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."
Rubén Valtierra joined the band on keyboards in 1991, allowing Yankovic to concentrate more on singing and increasing his use of the stage space during concerts.
A factual biographical booklet of Yankovic's life, written by Dr. Demento, was released with the 1994 box set compilation Permanent Record: Al in the Box. The Dr. Demento Society, which issues yearly Christmas re-releases of material from Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes, often includes unreleased tracks from Yankovic's vaults, such as "Pacman", "It's Still Billy Joel To Me" or the live version of "School Cafeteria".
Yankovic's "classic" look before eye surgery: with glasses, mustache and short, curly hair; used from 1979 to 1998
On January 24, 1998, Yankovic had LASIK eye surgery to correct his extreme myopia. When Running with Scissors debuted in 1999, he unveiled a radically changed look. In addition to shedding his glasses, he had shaved off his moustache and grown out his hair. He had previously shaved his mustache in 1983 for the video of "Ricky" to resemble Desi Arnaz, and 1996 for the "Amish Paradise" video. Yankovic reasoned, "If Madonna's allowed to reinvent herself every 15 minutes, I figure I should be good for a change at least once every 20 years." He parodied the reaction to this "new look" in a commercial for his nonexistent MTV Unplugged special. The commercial featured Yankovic in the short-haired wig from the music video for Hanson's"River", claiming his new look was an attempt to "get back to the core of what I'm all about", that being "the music".
Four of his latest albums feature the longest songs Yankovic has ever released.
"Albuquerque" from Running with Scissors: 11 minutes and 23 seconds
"Genius in France" from Poodle Hat: 8 minutes and 56 seconds
"Trapped in the Drive-Thru" from Straight Outta Lynwood: 10 minutes and 53 seconds
"Jackson Park Express" from Mandatory Fun: 9 minutes and 5 seconds.
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", which was titled "You're Pitiful"), 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 was working on a new album, but gave no details. In 2014, he used social media websites to hint at a July 15 release of this new album, as noted by Rolling Stone. The album artwork and title, Mandatory Fun, were affirmed by his publisher. Yankovic said in an interview promoting the album that, with the end of his recording contract, it is likely his last traditional album, in the sense of recording and releasing that many songs at a time; he said he will likely switch to releasing singles and EPs over the Internet, a method which offers more immediate release opportunities as Yankovic considers his parodies in particular as something that can become dated by the time of release.[42Mandatory Fun was released to strong critical praise and was the No. 1 debut album on the Billboard charts the week of its release, buoyed by Yankovic's approach for releasing eight music videos over eight continuous days that drew viral attention to the album as described below. It became Yankovic's first No. 1 album in his career. Additionally, the song "Word Crimes" (a parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines") reached No. 39 on the Top 100 singles for the same week; this is Yankovic's fourth Top 40 single, and makes him only the third artist, after Michael Jackson and Madonna, to have a Top 40 single in each decade since the 1980s.
Yankovic changed his diet to become a vegan in 1992 after a former girlfriend gave him the book Diet for a New America and he felt "it made [...] a very compelling argument for a strict vegetarian diet." When asked how he can "rationalize" performing at events such as the Great American Rib Cook-Off when he is a vegan, he replied, "The same way I can rationalize playing at a college even though I'm not a student anymore."
Yankovic married Suzanne Krajewski in 2001 after being introduced by their common friend Bill Mumy. Their daughter, Nina, was born in 2003. Yankovic identifies as Christian and has stated that a couple from his church appeared on the cover of Poodle Hat. Yankovic's religious background is reflected in his abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and profanity.
On April 9, 2004, Yankovic's parents were found dead in their Fallbrook, California, home, the victims of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from their fireplace. Several hours after his wife notified him of his parents' death, Yankovic went on with his concert in Appleton, Wisconsin, 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."  On a 2014 interview with Dan Rather, Yankovic called his parents' death "the worst thing that ever happened to me." He added that "I knew intellectually, that at some point, probably, I'd have to, you know, live through the death of my parents, but I never thought it would be at the same time, and so abruptly."
Yankovic is well known for creating parodies of contemporary radio hits, typically which make up about half of his studio releases. Unlike other parody artists such as Allan Sherman, Yankovic and his band strive to keep the backing music in his parodies the same as the original, transcribing the original song by ear and re-recording the song for the parody. In some cases, in requesting the original band to allow for his parody, the band will offer to help out with the recreation: Dire Straits members Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcherperform on "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*", Yankovic's parody of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing", while Imagine Dragons provided Yankovic with advice on how to recreate some of the electronic sounds they used for "Radioactive" in Yankovic's parody "Inactive". Yankovic's career in novelty and comedy music has outlasted many of his "mainstream" parody targets, such as Toni Basil, MC Hammer, and Men Without Hats. Yankovic's continued success (including the top 10 single "White & Nerdy" and album Straight Outta Lynwood in 2006) has enabled him to escape the one-hit wonder stigma often associated with novelty music.
Most of Yankovic's studio albums include a polka medley of about a dozen contemporary songs at the time of the album, 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."
Although many of Yankovic's songs are parodies of contemporary radio hits, it is rare that the song's primary topic lampoons the original artist as a person, or the song itself. Most Yankovic songs consist of the original song's music, with a separate, unrelated set of amusing lyrics. Yankovic'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's parodies are often satirical of popular culture, including television (see The TV Album), movies ("The Saga Begins"), and food (see The Food Album). 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."
Yankovic is the sole writer for all his songs and, for "legal and personal reasons", does not accept parody submissions or ideas from fans. There exists, however, one exception to this rule: 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.
One of Yankovic's recurring jokes involves the number 27. It is mentioned in the lyrics of several songs, and seen on the covers for Running With Scissors, Poodle Hat and Straight Outta Lynwood. He had originally just pulled the number 27 as a random figure to use in filling out lyrics, but as his fans started to notice the reuse of the number after the first few times, he began to purposely drop references to 27 within his lyrics, videos, and album covers. He explains that "It's just a number I started using that people started attaching a lot of importance to." Other recurring jokes revolve around the names Bob (the Al TV interviews often mention the name, David Bowe's character in UHF is named Bob, and a song called "Bob", done in the style of Bob Dylan, is featured on Poodle Hat), Frank (e.g. "Frank's 2000" TV"), and the surname "Finkelstein" (e.g. the music video for "I Lost on Jeopardy", or Fran Drescher's character, Pamela Finkelstein, in UHF). Also, a hamster called Harvey the Wonder Hamster is a recurring character in The Weird Al Show and the Al TV specials, as well as the subject of an original song on Alapalooza. Other recurring jokes include Yankovic borrowing, or being owed, $5. In a number of Al TVinterviews, he often asks if he can borrow $5, being turned down every time. This motif also occurs in "Why Does This Always Happen to Me?", in which his deceased friend owes him $5. Another recurring joke is his attraction to female nostrils or nostrils in general. This also appears in numerous Al TV interviews as well as in several of his songs ("Albuquerque" and "Wanna B Ur Lovr" to name a few.) Yankovic also asks his celebrity guests if they could "shave his back for a nickel." This also appears in the song "Albuquerque". Yankovic has also put two backmasking messages into his songs. The first, in "Nature Trail to Hell", said "Satan Eats Cheez Whiz"; the second, in "I Remember Larry", said "Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands."
While most videos that Yankovic creates are aired on music channels such as MTV and VH1, Yankovic worked with animation artists to create music videos for release with extended content albums. The DualDisc version of Straight Outta Lynwood features six videos set to songs from the release, including videos created by Bill Plympton and John Kricfalusi; one video, "Weasel Stomping Day" was created by the producers of the show Robot Chicken, and aired as a segment of that program. For the 2010 Alpocalypse, Yankovic produced videos for every song; four of those were previously released for each of the songs on the EP Internet Leaks, with the videos for the remaining songs released via social media sites and included in the deluxe edition of Alpocalypse. These live-action and animated videos were produced by both previous collaborators such as Plympton for "TMZ", video content providers like Jib-Jab and SuperNews, and other directors and animators.
To help promote his 2014 album Mandatory Fun in social media circles, Yankovic produced eight music videos for the album releasing them over eight consecutive days with release of the album, believing it "would make an impact because people would be talking about the album all week long". RCA Records opted not to fund production of any of these videos, and Yankovic turned to various social media portals including Funny or Die and CollegeHumor which he had worked with in the past; these sites helped to cover the production cost of the videos with Yankovic foregoing any ad video revenue. He chose to distribute the videos to different portals to avoid burdening any single one with all of the costs and work needed to produce them. This approach proved to be successful, as the total collection of videos had acquired more than 20 million views in the first week. This release strategy was considered by The Atlantic as a "web-enabled precision video delivery operation, and evidence of some serious digital distributional forethought" as it allows the videos to be seen by different sets of audiences for each site. The approach was considered to be essential to promoting Mandatory Fun to reach the No. 1 position on the Billboard charts on its debut week. Businessweek attributed the sales success of Mandatory Fun to the viral music video campaign. ABC World News elaborated that Yankovic's success is in part due to the Internet's interest in viral and humorous videos catching up with what Yankovic has been doing for his entire career. Yankovic himself was amazed with the response he got from the album and video releases, stating that "I've been doing the same thing for 30 years and all of a sudden I'm having the best week of my life" and that he "kind of stumbled on my formula for the future".
Under the "fair use" provision of U.S. copyright law, affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, artists such as Yankovic do not need permission to record a parody. However, as a personal rule and as a means of maintaining good relationships, Yankovic has always sought permission from the original artist before commercially releasing a parody.These communications are typically handled by his manager Jay Levey, but at times Yankovic has asked the artist directly, such as flying to Denver, Colorado, to attend an Iggy Azalea concert and speak to her personally about parodying her song "Fancy". He claims that only about two to three percent of the artists he approaches for permission deny his requests,while many of the rest who approve consider Yankovic's parodies to be a badge of honor and rite of passage in the music industry.
Michael Jackson was a big fan of Yankovic, and Yankovic claimed Jackson "had always been very supportive" of his work.Jackson twice allowed him to parody his songs ("Beat It" and "Bad" became "Eat It" and "Fat", respectively). When Jackson granted Yankovic permission to do "Fat", Jackson allowed him to use the same set built for his own "Badder" video from the Moonwalker film. Though Jackson allowed "Eat It" and "Fat", he requested that Yankovic not record a parody of "Black or White", titled "Snack All Night", because he felt the message was too important. This refusal, coming shortly after the commercial failure of Yankovic's movie UHF in theaters, had initially set Yankovic back; he later recognized this as a critical time as, while searching for new parodies, he came across Nirvana, leading to a revitalization of his career with "Smells Like Nirvana". Yankovic has performed a concert-only parody "Snack All Night" in some of his live shows. Yankovic had a cameo appearance, along with many other celebrities, in Jackson's music video for "Liberian Girl".
Dave Grohl of Nirvana said that the band felt they had "made it" after Yankovic recorded "Smells Like Nirvana", a parody of the grungeband's smash hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit". On his Behind the Musicspecial, Yankovic stated that when he called Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain to ask if he could parody the song, Cobain gave him permission, then paused and asked, "Um... it's not gonna be about food, is it?" Yankovic responded with, "No, it'll be about how no one can understand your lyrics." According to members of Nirvana interviewed for Behind the Music, when they saw the video of the song, they laughed hysterically. Additionally, Cobain described Yankovic as "a musical genius".
Mark Knopfler approved Yankovic's parody of the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" for use in the film UHF on the provision that Knopfler himself be allowed to play lead guitar on the parody which was later titled "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*". Yankovic commented on the legal complications of the parody in the DVD audio commentary for UHF, explaining "We had to name that song 'Money for Nothing 'slash' Beverly Hillbillies 'asterisk' because the lawyers told us that had to be the name. Those wacky lawyers! What ya gonna do?" The Permanent Record: Al in the Box booklet referred to the song's "compound fracture of a title." When a fan asked about the song's title, Yankovic shared his feelings on the title, replying "That incredibly stupid name is what the lawyers insisted that the parody be listed as. I'm not sure why, and I've obviously never been very happy about it."
The Presidents of the United States of America were so pleased with "Gump", Yankovic's parody of their song "Lump", that they ended the song with his last line instead of their own ("And that's all I have to say about that") on the live recording of "Lump" featured on the compilation album Pure Frosting. In 2008, Yankovic directed the music video for their song "Mixed Up S.O.B."
Don McLean was reportedly pleased with "The Saga Begins", a parody of "American Pie", and told Yankovic that the parody's lyrics sometimes enter his mind during live performances. His parody not only replicates the music from the original Don McLean song, but it replicates the multi-layered rhyming structure in the verses and chorus. Additionally, George Lucas loved the song and a Lucasfilm representative told Yankovic, "You should have seen the smile on his face."
Chamillionaire was also very pleased, even putting Yankovic's parody "White & Nerdy" (a parody of "Ridin'") on his official MySpace page before it was on Yankovic's own page. Chamillionaire stated in an interview, "He's actually rapping pretty good on it, it's crazy [...] I didn't know he could rap like that. It's really an honor when he does that. [...] Weird Al is not gonna do a parody of your song if you're not doing it big." In September 2007, Chamillionaire credited "White & Nerdy" for his recent Grammy win, stating "That parody was the reason I won the Grammy, because it made the record so big it was undeniable. It was so big overseas that people were telling me they had heard my version of Weird Al's song."
In 2011, Yankovic was initially denied permission to parody Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" for his song "Perform This Way" for release on a new album, but through his release of the song on YouTube and subsequent spread via Twitter, Lady Gaga and her staff asserted that her manager had made the decision without her input, and Gaga herself gave Yankovic permission to proceed with the parody's release. Gaga considered herself "a huge Weird Al fan", and she stated that the parody was a "rite of passage" for her musical career and considered the song "very empowering".
Yankovic states that his style parodies have also been met with positive remarks by the original artist. He noted that his friends and fellow musicians Ben Folds and Taylor Hanson helped to support their respective style parodies "Why Does This Always Happen To Me?" and "If That Isn't Love". He also noted positive reactions he got through friends his band members have, such as from Frank Black of The Pixies for "First World Problems" and Southern Culture on the Skids for "Lame Claim to Fame", and a similar praise when he encountered Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, and Nash on the street, and was able to play his recently completed "Mission Statement" for him.
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." In an interview in 2014, Coolio extended his apology for refusing his permission, stating that at the time "I was being cocky and shit and being stupid and I was wrong and I should've embraced that shit and went with it", and that he considered Yankovic's parody "actually funny as shit".
In 2003, Yankovic was denied permission to make a video for "Couch Potato", his parody of Eminem's "Lose Yourself". Yankovic believes that Eminem thought that the video would be harmful to his image.
For the Poodle HatAl TV special, Yankovic raised the question of artistic expression in a fake interview with Eminem. As Yankovic has always done for his Al TV specials, he edited the footage of a previous Eminem interview and inserted himself asking questions for comic effect.
On numerous occasions, Prince has refused Yankovic permission to record parodies of his songs. Yankovic has stated in interviews that he has "approached him every few years [to] see if he's lightened up." Yankovic related one story where, before the American Music Awards where he and Prince were assigned to sit in the same row, he got a telegram from Prince's lawyers, demanding he not make eye contact with the artist.
Paul McCartney, also a Yankovic fan, refused Yankovic permission to record a parody of Wings' "Live and Let Die", titled "Chicken Pot Pie", because McCartney is a vegetarian and found the parody to be improper.
In 2006, Yankovic gained James Blunt's permission to record a parody of "You're Beautiful". However, after Yankovic had recorded "You're Pitiful", Blunt's label, Atlantic Records, rescinded this permission, despite Blunt's personal approval of the song. The parody was pulled from Yankovic's Straight Outta Lynwood because of his label's unwillingness to "go to war" with Atlantic. Yankovic released the song as a free download on his MySpace profile, as well as his official website, and plays it in concert, since it was not Blunt himself objecting to the parody. Yankovic referenced the incident in his video for "White & Nerdy" when he depicts himself vandalizing Atlantic Records' Wikipedia page.
Yankovic often describes his live concert performances as "a rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza" with an audience that "ranges from toddlers to geriatrics." Apart from Yankovic and his band performing his classic and contemporary hits, staples of Yankovic's live performances include a medley of parodies, many costume changes between songs, and a video screen on which various clips are played during the costume changes. A concert from Yankovic's 1999 tour, "Touring with Scissors", for the Running with Scissors album was released on VHS in 1999 and on DVD in 2000. Titled "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!, the concert was recorded at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California, on October 2, 1999. For legal reasons, video clips (apart from those for Yankovic's own music videos) could not be shown for the home release, and unreleased parodies were removed from the parody medley for the performance.
In 2003, Yankovic toured overseas for the first time. Before 2003, Yankovic and his band had toured only the United States and parts of Canada. Following the success of Poodle Hat in Australia, Yankovic performed eleven shows in Australia's major capital cities and regional areas in October of that year.Yankovic returned to Australia and toured New Zealand for the first time in 2007 to support the Straight Outta Lynwoodalbum. On September 8, 2007, Yankovic performed his 1,000th live show at Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Yankovic has invited members of the 501st Legion on stage during performances of his Star Wars-themed songs "Yoda" and "The Saga Begins", recruiting members of local garrisons (club chapters) while on tour. In appreciation, the 501st inducted Yankovic as a "Friend of the Legion", in September 2007.
He performed his first ever European mini-tour, including an appearance at the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival inMinehead, England in December 2010. Yankovic was picked to perform by the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who curated the festival's lineup. Yankovic played three other dates in the UK around his festival appearance before performing a single date in the Netherlands.
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.
Yankovic had a TV series called The Weird Al Show, which aired from September 1997 to December 1997 on CBS. Though the show appeared to be geared at children, the humor was really more for his adult fans (as such, it is often compared to Pee-wee's Playhouse). The entire series was released on DVD by Shout! Factory on August 15, 2006.
Yankovic has hosted Al TV on MTV and Al Music on MuchMusic many times, generally coinciding with the release of each new album. For Poodle Hat, Al TV appeared on VH1 for the first time. A recurring segment of Al TV involves Yankovic manipulating interviews for comic effect. He inserts himself into a previously conducted interview with a musician, and then manipulates his questions, resulting in bizarre and comic responses from the celebrity.
VH1 produced a Behind the Music episode on Yankovic. His two commercial failures (his film UHF and his 1986 album Polka Party!) were presented as having a larger impact on the direction of his career than they really had. Also, Coolio's later disapproval of "Amish Paradise" was played up as a large feud. Much was also made over his apparent lack of a love life, though he got married shortly after the program aired. The episode was updated and re-released in early 2012 as part of the "Behind the Music Remastered" series.
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. 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."
Yankovic wrote When I Grow Up (ISBN 978-0-06-192691-4), a children's book released on February 1, 2011 and published byHarperCollins. 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.
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 Coleand Mary Steenburgen), making it big using song parodies with the help of Dr. Demento (Patton Oswalt), falling in and out of love with Madonna (Olivia Wilde), and fading into alcoholism and being arrested, at which point his father finally admits he is "weird" as well. Yankovic himself plays a music producer in the short.
For The Nerdist Podcast, Weird Al began hosting a new comedic celebrity interview web series, Face to Face with 'Weird Al' Yankovic, on April 3, 2012. The series features Al TV-esque fake interviews with movie stars.
Yankovic 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.
A screenshot of LimeWire PRO, showing a large number of parodies misattributed to Yankovic, as well as numerous misspellings of his surname (February 2007)
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", 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 toAdam 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.
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.
The Weird Al Star Fund is a campaign started by Yankovic's fans to get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Their mission is to "solicit, collect, and raise the necessary money, and to compile the information needed for the application to nominate "Weird Al" Yankovic for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame." Fans worldwide have sent donations to raise the US$15,000 needed for a nomination. In addition to the preferred method of cash donations, many methods were used to raise money for the cause, such as a live benefit show held April 11, 2006, and selling merchandise on the official website and eBay, including T-shirts, calendars, and cookbooks. On May 26, 2006, the campaign hit the then-$15,000 target, just five days before the May 31 deadline to submit the necessary paperwork. However, Yankovic was not included on the list of inductees for 2007. On February 9, 2007, the Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce raised the price to sponsor a new star to $25,000 and as such the Fund is accepting donations again. Yankovic's application was resubmitted for consideration in 2007, but he was not included among 2008's inductees.
Similar to the Weird Al Star Fund, a second fan-driven campaign called "Make the Rock Hall 'Weird'" has tried to enshrine him into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, for which he has been eligible since 2004. Previous attempts to raise awareness for the campaign and support Yankovic's nomination included a petition drive from 2006 to 2007, which raised over 9000 signatures; an art competition in 2005; additionally, a documentary film about the campaign is currently being developed. In addition to these efforts, an ongoing campaign is underway in which supporters of Yankovic's nomination are requested to send "sincere, thoughtful" letters to the Rock Hall Foundation's headquarters in New York.The Hall has not considered Yankovic for nomination since the campaign started in 2004. A 2009 Rolling Stone poll named Weird Al as the top artist that should be nominated for the Hall of Fame, followed by Rush (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 CNNand Wired, though the decision for this selection would reside within the management of the NFL (who instead chose Katy Perry for that position).