When The Simpsons Acknowledge your existence, you know you’ve made it big. Homer Simpson once said of “Weird Al” Yankovic: “He who is tired of ‘Weird Al’ is tired of life.”
At sixteen, “Weird Al” performed a song at the Dr. Demento Show. Its popularity has only grown since then, and despite an up and down or two, it has remained a popular favorite for years. His big break came in 1979 when he covered The Knack’s “My Sharona” as “My Bologna.” This first try isn’t as professional as his later work, but The Knack liked it and it gave him the contacts that helped Al get started.
Born in 1959, “Weird Al” was a bright and imaginative student who went on to study architecture. His college roommates called him “weird” because he stood out from the rest.
Al remains as fresh today as ever. He always comes up with new material and shows no signs of slowing down. His parodies are always funny but never cruel. If he’s “weird,” it’s because he sees life from a different angle than most of us. I’d probably say the angle is 27 degrees, but more on that later.
Here are ten weird facts about “Weird Al.”
Related: 10 Famous People With Extremely Goofy Quirks
10 accordion for him
A salesman came to the family home the day before Alfred Yankovic’s seventh birthday. A local music school was offering guitar or accordion lessons to the people of Lynwood, California. You would imagine that most parents would have opted for guitar lessons, as the noise made by an inexperienced accordionist can disturb the peace and quiet of even the most patient parent.
But no, Alfred’s mom and dad chose the accordion. This was apparently because “America’s king of polka, Frankie Yankovic, was at the height of his fame.” There was no connection between Polka King and Alfred’s family, but the coincidence of names must have seemed a good omen.
Al taught himself to play rock on the accordion. Using Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” as a pattern, he would play the album repeatedly and try to follow it on his accordion.
9 a crazy world
“Weird Al” was a young teenager when ANGRY it peaked in the early 1970s. The magazine sold around two million copies at the time, but its impact spread even further. It was a comic that people passed around, so a single issue often had more than one reader. In an interview, Al said:
“I was a big fan of crazy magazine when I was 11, 12, 13 years old. He would go through second-hand bookstores trying to find back issues, and wait at the newsstand for a new issue to come out. My life revolved around that.”
When it first appeared in 1952, ANGRY offered an irreverent take on events that was unlike anything else on the market. His mix of teen humor and biting political satire found a ready audience. This comic series helped “Weird Al” find his new and unique outlook on life.
8 Madonna doesn’t cut it!
Madonna seems to have realized early that her song “Like a Virgin” was an obvious target for a Yankovic parody. The idea that the Madonna track would make great material for “Weird Al” came from someone Madonna knew who also knew Al’s manager.
Madonna partially created the new song and came up with the title. Yankovic doesn’t normally respond to his suggestions, preferring to have his own ideas. But he couldn’t resist this one.
Gossip has suggested that Madonna and Al dated for a while, but there appears to be no truth to the rumor. It would hardly be a relationship that you could keep a secret, so we can assume that the two never dated. In fact, no evidence shows that they ever met.
Stop the video at 2:23 and look at the “Your Turn” board in the background. What number do you see?
In 2006, “Weird Al” released the album Straight outta Lynwood to an eager audience. One of the songs was “White & Nerdy,” which pays homage to various symbols of nerd culture, such as action figures, Star Wars, monty pythonand superhero comics. There is also a reference to the 1970s sitcom. Happy Days—the show that originally popularized the word “nerd.”
Al’s song is a parody of “Ridin” by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone. It’s a celebration of the mirror image of cool black urban culture as the white nerd celebrates his quirky lifestyle. And yet, the uncool white guy tries to befriend members of the cool culture, to no avail. But the two worlds overlap.
In the opening of the video, two men cruise the suburban streets in a car with a license plate reading “OG 4LIFE.” Al, taking a break from computer games, is mowing the lawn.
6 twenty six plus one
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams assures us that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. You may be right, but Al has another candidate. Though to be fair, he doesn’t claim that his number answers any questions except one.
For whatever reason, the number 27 appears frequently in Al’s videos and lyrics. Part of the fun for fans is trying to spot it when it appears. For example, in his song “Hardware Store,” “Weird Al” sings, “every 27 customers will get a free ball-peen hammer.”
When asked about the importance of 27, Al replied:
“I thought that was pretty obvious, but if you need me to explain it, it’s the cube root of 19,683.”
Indeed, but it’s also three cubed.
5 teen spirit
Yankovic always likes to get permission from the original artist before doing a parody. This was not easy when he wanted to work with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. At the time, Al needed a hit because his 1989 film ultra high frequency he hadn’t made any money and Al’s career was at a low point. He was sure that a parody of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would help rescue his career, but he needed to talk to Cobain.
Al’s co-star in ultra high frequency It was Victoria Jackson, a regular at Saturday night live, and Nirvana was going to be on the show. Al called the studios and Victoria handed it over to Cobain. Cobain was happy to give him the thumbs up, but he wondered if the skit would be about food, a common Yankovic theme. Al told him that he would reproduce the parody because no one could understand the original lyrics.
The result is strange, by the way. The video includes many of the extras from the Nirvana original, uses the same stage, and is an almost exact copy.
4 the true story
While casting for the recent biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, it must have been a headache trying to cast the actor to play Al. Yankovic is 100% American; his humor and attitude are quintessentially American. It is impossible to imagine him coming from any other country. He would have developed a completely different style if he had been British. But when it came time to cast Al, the director chose Daniel Radcliffe.
It’s strange, perhaps, but it’s an inspired choice.
Radcliffe, as British as he is, has refused to be pigeonholed as an eternal Harry Potter and has chosen various roles that show his extraordinary talent. Radcliffe looks, sounds, and behaves exactly like Al in the biopic.
3 food for thought
The success of “Eat It” probably explains why Kurt Cobain thought “Smells Like Nirvana” would be about food. This version of Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit “Beat It” appeared on Al’s 1984 Grammy Award-winning album. “To the rare” Yankovic in 3D.
You can almost see Al’s creative mind in action. He chooses a popular song, plays around with the title until he finds a similar word, and then reimagines the lyrics to fit the new setting. The parody has to be as close to the original as possible in every way, and the original artist has to give the go-ahead. This new version should also be released as soon as possible while the original version is still in people’s minds.
When Al showed the lyrics to his cover to Jackson, Jackson thought it was funny and was glad Al covered his song. For most artists, being covered by Yankovic is a compliment. Kurt Cobain said that he knew Nirvana had made it when Al faked his song.
2 born to pun
Lady Gaga is so much larger than life that she herself is almost a parody. So “Weird Al” was reluctant to cover one of her songs. She was also such an obvious target that everyone expected Al to try to attack her. Al has always liked unpredictability and has been hesitant to do what is expected. There was another reason to pause before attempting “Perform This Way”. Lady Gaga’s original was about human rights, and this, Al thought, was no laughing matter.
However, he went ahead. Lady Gaga loved her version and Al donated all proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign. A fancy move, “Weird Al.”
1 in his own words
After 7:30, the interviewer points out that some of Al’s parodies have outlived the original songs and wonders why. They conclude that modern existence is so absurd that perhaps people connect more with a comical version of reality.
This would certainly be comforting and help people cope with the confusion and complexity of modern life. He would also suggest that it is not Al who is weird, but life itself. He rose to fame long before the internet allowed anyone to film themselves doing a parody, but despite the competition, he’s still on top of the competition.
In interviews, Al seems perfectly normal. He’s funny and witty, of course, but there’s a friendly humility about him that makes him instantly likable.
It could be that “Weird” is always in quotes because Al knows that it’s not him who’s weird but life itself. Just a thought.
[Editor’s Note: Obviously, this is my favorite “Weird Al” parody!]
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