Trivia / "Weird Al" Yankovic

  • Approval of God: These days, a parody from Al is considered a greater honor than a Grammy. Examples include:
    • The creators and writers of Jeopardy! apparently love "I Lost on Jeopardy", as they've referenced it many times. (The song references the Art Fleming version from the 1960s and 1970s, of which the Alex Trebek version — which debuted 14 weeks after "I Lost on Jeopardy" — is a revival.) Similarly, Greg Kihn, who wrote the song "Jeopardy" that Al parodied, has written about how much he enjoyed the parody.
    • Michael Jackson was a big fan and enjoyed the parodies of his work. He even lent the set for his "Badder" music video (the kid version of "Bad" seen in Moonwalker) for Al to use for his parody "Fat".
    • Chamillionaire told the Houston Chronicle: "It's one thing to go platinum. Where do you go from there? Then Weird Al calls." He would later end up with The Weird Al Effect being inverted on him— People in Asia thought that Al wrote the song first, and they really enjoyed his "parody" of "White & Nerdy".
    • Averted with Red Hot Chili Peppers ("disapproval of god?"). While they did give Al permission to do "Bedrock Anthem," and are fans of Al's work, RHCP bassist Flea later stated that the band members weren't impressed with the parody.
    • Lady Gaga stated that being parodied by Weird Al is a rite of passage for any singer.
    • Imagine Dragons drummer Daniel Platzman says that since he and his bandmates love Weird Al's music, they felt "honored" to hear that he parodied "Radioactive" as, "Inactive". They even directly helped with the production of the song to reproduce the sound of the original as much as possible.
    • Kurt Cobain once claimed that he hadn't felt as though he'd "made it" until "Smells Like Nirvana." When he and the other members of Nirvana saw the video for "Smells Like Nirvana," they literally rolled on the floor laughing.
    • Subverted with Coolio, who originally hated "Amish Paradise" because it made light of the gangland drama he was attempting to bring awareness to, and because he had never given his approval for it. He would later claim that he overreacted and that he finds the song hilarious.
    • The Presidents of the United States of America loved "Gump" so much that they added "And that's all I have to say about that" to their future live performances of "Lump" and later got Al to direct their video for "Mixed Up Son of A Bitch."
    • Pharrell Williams said it was "an honor" to be spoofed by Al for "Tacky."
    • Acknowledged In-Universe on an episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series, where Sabrina's band has a hit single with the song "What's Your Favorite Flavor" and among their successes is a Weird Al parody called "Electric Shaver."
  • Celebrity Voice Actor: Al voiced Darkseid on an episode of Teen Titans Go! and used the occasion for some serious Self-Deprecation (though Cyborg comes to his reputational defense).
    Cyborg: This dude totally sounds like someone. I know—Weird Al Yankovic! [All the other Teen Titans agree.]
    Darkseid: Aw, yes, the great singer of song parodies. If only I was half as evil! To earn a living making song writers look like fools! <<Evil Laugh>> Diabolical!
    Cyborg: I don’t know. I think it’s all in good fun.
    Darkseid: What’s fun abut undercutting musicians by subverting their words and compromising their artistic integrity?! Weird Al is a true monster!
    Cyborg: You take that back! He is a national treasure!
    Darkseid: A monster I say!
    Cyborg: That tears it! You’re going down, Darkseid!
  • Creator Backlash
    • After some time, Al admitted he wasn't fond of "Achy Breaky Song", feeling that it was a bit mean-spirited.
    • As detailed below, he was not happy with his label rushing out The Food Album and The TV Album compilations just to make a quick buck.
  • Development Hell: A minor example with Off The Deep End: Al had the problems with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney detailed below (though they were very respectful about it) and after his hiatus at the time wanted to come back strong with a parody of a major hit. Cue Smells Like Teen Spirit becoming huge and thus Smells Like Nirvana was born and the album got on the release track.
  • Doing It for the Art: The appropriately-named "Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour," his first tour to just be a straightforward concert with none of the props, costumes, videos or even song parodies that had been ubiquitous of his concerts since the mid 90s. Al decided he was finally at a point in his career where he was capable of deviating from his trademark theatrics without having to worry about it being career suicide.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • Al recorded his vocals for "Headline News" as early in the morning as he could the day of so that his voice would be naturally low enough to emulate Brad Roberts' Badass Baritone on "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm." Likewise with "Truck Drivin' Song".
    • Al had exactly one take to smash a $1,000 Ovation guitar at the end of the "You Don't Love Me Anymore" music video. His anger at it being harder to break than he thought, and the Aside Glance he gives to the camera after he does so are authentic.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • Essentially the cause of Coolio's beef with Weird Al. Al usually got permission directly from celebrities for his parodies (even though he does not legally have to) but occasionally relied on the studio heads to do that for him. His producer got permission from Coolio's producer but not Coolio. After that incident, Al goes directly to the artist for permission.
    • Used in the more traditional sense with the song "You're Pitiful" which was supposed to be a parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful". James said yes, but the higher-ups said no, and the song was only released on Al's website for free.
    • Happened with his parody of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." Al thought Gaga had not given him permission to put his parody on his new record, when what actually happened was her manager hadn't given Gaga the song to listen to in the first place, just assuming she would hate it. Once Gaga finally heard the song, she loved it.
      • Not to mention the hoops that Gaga's manager made Al jump through. Normally, Al doesn't even write a parody until he's gotten permission, but Gaga's manager insisted that she needed to hear it first, so he wrote the lyrics and sent them. Her manager's reply? That she needed to actually HEAR the song. Al, obviously thought it was weird since it was just going to be his lyrics with her music, but, as he wanted to use the song regardless of whatever hoops he had to jump, he went ahead and recorded it. When he got the rejection, he was rather disappointed. As it turns out, however, Gaga's manager had never even sent her the lyrics, let alone the song itself, so she actually had no idea that the song existed, let alone was rejected.
    • "Yoda" was originally supposed to be released on his first album, but copyright issues with Lucasfilm led to it being delayed until the Dare To Be Stupid album — five years after the movie it was spoofing had been released.
    • "Dare to Be Stupid" was hit with this. The record label made two demands: one, a Cyndi Lauper parody and two, a cover. For the former, he came up with the deliberately forced and obnoxious "Girls Just Want To Have Lunch," but met them halfway for the latter by covering the theme to George of the Jungle, a song that is entirely impossible not to enjoy singing.
    • One album later, they wanted a Christmas song. The result, naturally, was "Christmas At Ground Zero".
    • In the early 90s, Scotti Bros. Records forced Al to rush-release several compilations and a single because Alapalooza and Bad Hair Day would not be released before the end of their respective fiscal quarters in 1993 and 1996. First, they wanted to release Al Unplugged, but Al protested when he learned that they would just mix out the electric instruments and rerecord synthesized acoustic-sounding parts in their place. He begrudgingly agreed to The Food Album because he "hated it slightly less." Two years later, under the same circumstances, the label had to beg him to release The TV Album and then the single "Headline News," which wound up on two more compilations, Greatest Hits: Volume 2 and the Al In A Box boxed set, released that year because Bad Hair Day was almost finished, but wouldn't be released soon enough for a single.
  • Genre Adultery: Due to his earlier songs being well-known about eating or related to it, when Al asked for permission to parody Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Kurt Cobain had this question:
    Kurt Cobain: It's not going to be about food, is it?
    Al: No, it's going to be about how no one understands your lyrics.
  • He Also Did: Al has directed several music videos for other artists, including Ben Folds, Hanson, and Jeff Foxworthy.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: While many of Weird Al's songs are still widely available, two are hard to find to own, outside of YouTube music videos - "Spy Hard", the theme to the movie of the same name and Polkamon, from the soundtrack to Pokémon 2000. The former appears on the rarities collection Medium Rarities, but the latter is still only available on its soundtrack album.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: His stage and Al TV persona is that of an arrogant smart aleck (if not a Know-Nothing Know-It-All) who ribs pop culture and insists that everyone treat him like a genius. In person, he's a gentle soul who adores his fans, is generally nice to other celebrities and, most importantly, is still really funny!
  • Money, Dear Boy: His stated reason for recording "Eat It" and "Like a Surgeon". The latter was his biggest chart-topper until "White and Nerdy."
    • His indifference towards "Like a Surgeon" was discussed on How I Met Your Mother, which had one of the main characters write the song in a fan-letter rather than actually making it himself.
    • In-song reason for making “(This Song’s Just) Six Words Long”, which may be a shot at the writers of the original, “Got My Mind Set on You.”
  • Name's the Same: In his Fat music video, one thug recalls that he hasn't seen the main character at Burger World lately; in UHF, "Burger World" is the name of the restaurant Al's character initially works at. Burger World is also the name of the fast food restaurant that Beavis and Butthead work at.
  • Old Shame:
    • "It's Still Billy Joel to Me", a home demo recorded in the early 1980s. Al later admitted it was poor taste and has since apologized to Billy for the song. Ironically, Joel not only loved the parody (being prone to Self-Deprecation), he performed it himself a couple times!
    • A couple of other early coffeehouse recordings, "Orgy On My Own" and "If I Could Make Love to a Bottle", some of which contain content so explicit that many contemporary listeners naturally assumed they were among the many fakes when they surfaced.
    • While "Amish Paradise" remains a concert staple, Al admitted that, had he known that Coolio would initially disprove of it, he never would have recorded it.
  • One of Us: Does this even need to be here?
    • The White And Nerdy music video alone proves this as only a real nerd would have known some of these things. Knowing about The Star Wars Holiday Special and why you would need to bootleg it is some serious nerd cred. He's jokingly claimed that it's the one song he's never had to do any research for.
    • His bandmates, too. "Bermuda" Schwartz, for example, helped maintain Al's original web page and participated in Al's Usenet fan group.
    • "Pancreas" includes a near-perfect recitation of Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation (it drops a "squared").
    • And then there's "All About the Pentiums", which came out earlier and is labeled as one of the earliest nerdcore songs ever.
    • He's a Brony, and even had a guest role on the show.
      • Which would be Hilarious in Hindsight for those who heard "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me", in which one of the lyrics implies that he doesn't care about unicorns. Doubly funny when you consider that he actually tweeted a fanmade music video that joins Friendship is Magic and Polkarama - thereby making HIM the one "forwarding unicorns".
    • He also did a polka song about Pokémon, for the soundtrack to the second movie. "EEEEVERYBODY POLKAMON!"
    • He's done voices for Transformers media as well, and Dare to Be Stupid was used in Transformers: The Movie.
    • He's a huge fan of animation and uses any opportunity to numerous different kinds in his work.
    • He has watched the anime adaptation of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, posting to his Instagram a segment from the last episode of Stardust Crusaders where one of his songs his mentioned.
    • While he usually shies away from name-dropping specific music acts that he likes, he's a professed lover of alternative rock and indie rock.
    • By name-checking all of the Glurgey Urban Legends on the Internet in "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me", it's obvious he spends a lot of time online.
  • Playing Against Type: He typically plays characters similar to his on stage/music video persona. However...
  • Promoted Fanboy: Was a huge fan of The Simpsons and considered his two appearances on the show to be seminal moments in his career.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • Nick and Mary Yankovic, Al's real-life parents, are seen in the video for "I Lost on Jeopardy!" at the point where announcer Don Pardo tells Al he's "brought shame and disgrace on [his] family name for generations to come!" Averted with the little girl who tosses Al's portrait into the trash, however — she's implied to be his sister, but Al's an only child.
    • Al's Aunt Dot is the jumping cave woman in "Bedrock Anthem".
  • Reality Subtext: Al wrote "One More Minute" to get over an ex who dumped him. He even rips up her picture in the music video.
  • Technology Marches On:
    • "It's All About the Pentiums" almost squeaks by, because so many of the specs Al boasts about are either still a long way from becoming the norm (a flatscreen monitor 40 inches widenote ) or just absurd by any era's standards (a hundred gigabytes of RAMnote )... the only line that's completely unsalvageable even with creative editing is... well, the title line. The Pentium brand was discontinued in 2006 before being retooled as a low-end budget processor, losing its top-of-the-line implications.
    • Similarly, "When I Was Your Age" references fax machines and "Nintendo" (aka video games) as fancy new technology he didn't have growing up. To a lesser extent, water beds have fallen well out of popularity.
    • On Bad Hair Day, Al has a song called "Phony Calls", about the old pastime of prank phone calls - a practice which has been practically killed for the amateur by caller ID and star-69.
    • On "White and Nerdy", Al says "My MySpace Page is totally pimped out. Got people begging for my top eight spaces". Back in 2006 when the song was released, MySpace was the top social networking site. However, it was eventually superseded by Facebook- which engages in no such ranking- and now MySpace is much more of a niche site that has nowhere near as many users.
  • Throw It In!:
    • In the video for "You Don't Love Me Anymore," bassist Steve Jay chipped one of his teeth biting into a piece of ham (watch carefully — he noticeably winces as he does so). Since it fit with everything else, it was kept.
    • The picture falling off the wall at the beginning of the video for "Eat It" wasn't intended but fit the mood well enough that they used that take.
    • The very off-key note that concludes "Albuquerque," as well as the chuckle that follows, was this.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • Al parodies (or style parodies) artists from all across the musical spectrum, giving equal due to whoever is popular at the time. As a result, his albums end up becoming rather tidy time capsules for the sounds that were popular at the time of their release. Add in the many pop culture references from the era and it completes the portrait.
      • "Weird Al" Yankovic from 1983 is a case of Early Installment Weirdness but it still qualifies. The album is composed of power pop, bubblegum, heartland rock and early New Wave, also mentioning discotheques and 8-tracks which were fading at the time of its release.
      • In 3-D, Dare to Be Stupid and Polka Party from 1984/85/86 are composed mostly of New Wave, over-the-top electropop and bar rock.
      • Even Worse and UHF: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack and Some Other Stuff from 1988/89 are composed of arena-oriented dance pop, hair metal, hip hop and teen pop.
      • Off the Deep End and Alapaoolza from 1992/93 are composed of heavy metal, hip hop, dance pop, jangle pop with single Nirvana and New Kids on the Block parodies symbolizing both the rise of grunge and 80's teen pop acts taking their dying gasp.
      • Bad Hair Day from 1996 is composed of hip hop, alternative rock, grunge, college rock and R&B.
      • Running With Scissors from 1999 is composed of hip hop, bubblegum pop, adult contemporary, alternative rock, country, and the "revival" genres like neo-swing ("Grapefruit Diet") and third-wave ska ("Your Horoscope For Today").
      • Poodle Hat and Straight Outta Lynwood from 2003 and 2006 are composed of hip-hop, ringtone rap, punk rock, emo rock and R&B, with some ribbing of popular American Idol launched acts thrown in.
      • 2011's Alpocalypse is composed of hip hop, dance pop and bubblegum teen pop. In addition, the album's title is in reference to the 2011 and 2012 doomsday predictions.
      • Subverted with 2014's Mandatory Fun. All of the parodies are of hip-hop and R&B, but the sound-alikes are all of rock bands that are either obscure, dated or have few crossover hits.
    • All of his parodies hark back to some (possibly forgotten) hit or the era it came from. "Headline News", however, is not only a parody but recounts a few of the big news stories of the early 1990's. The song never appeared on a regular studio album possible because of how quickly Al knew it would feel dated. To wit:
    • "Biggest Ball of Twine In Minnesota" could easily stand in for any time period for the whole song... until the single line "In our '53 Desoto". That car was aged but reasonable in the 1980's, but now you wonder why he'd be driving that ancient museum piece.
      • Similarly, the car that keeps getting impounded in "Stop Dragging My Car Around" is a '64 Plymouth. This was obviously Rule of Funny in 1983 but it applies now since they don't make Plymouths anymore.
    • "I Lost on Jeopardy" parodied the original 1964-1974 Art Fleming version of the show, a mere three months before the current, Alex Trebek-hosted version began.
    • The song "Tacky", with its references to Instagram, Yelp, selfies, the YOLO (You Only Live Once) motto, and twerking, could almost be seen as "Early 2010s Pop Culture: The Song"
    • The whole conflict for half of the song Drive-Thru is because the fast food place doesn't take credit cards, which for a time was true. Pretty much every fast food chain in the US accepts them these days.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Paul McCartney, a fan of Al's work, vetoed Chicken Pot Pie since it was about eating meat, as McCartney is a vegetarian.
      • Similarly, Al wanted to do a parody of "Free as a Bird" as "Gee, I'm a Nerd", but it was turned down by Yoko Ono. He performed it live a few times, however.
    • While "Buckingham Blues" sounds like a typical blues song, the opening lines and insistent references to the prince and princess as Chuck and Diane make it clear that it was originally conceived as a parody of John Cougar Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane". Al later used a parody of that song in his Simpsons cameo.
    • "Snack All Night" (Black or White, rejected because Michael Jackson felt it undermined the anti-racism sentiment of the original). The song has been played a few times live, but never made it onto an album.
    • He repeatedly approached Prince asking for permission to do a parody of his work, which was always refused. The closest he got were the style parodies "Traffic Jam" and "I Wanna B Ur Lover," the latter of which was performed as a tribute to Prince on his most recent tour (of course, he didn't outright say it, but the backdrop during the song was purple clouds, and Al wore a Prince-ly outfit). note  After Prince's death and having never budged from this position, Al announced that he would respect those wishes and never do anything based on his songs.
    • Al got accordion lessons for his seventh birthday. However, he could've gone with guitar lessons instead. As Al himself noted in one of his Reddit "Ask Me Anything" sessions, if he had gone with guitar, he probably wouldn't have the fame he has today; Dr. Demento was attracted by the novelty of a teenager playing accordion and would have probably not given his demo tape a second listen if he was playing acoustic guitar. Still, one can only imagine the possibilities...
    • Bassist Steve Jay almost got a chance to audition for Frank Zappa, but didn't quite make it. So then he answered a newspaper ad from some guy named Al...
    • Al considered doing a "Let it Go" parody ("Make it So") for Mandatory Fun, before finding out there was a fanmade "Make it So" already online. Unable to come up with any other idea he liked as much, Al scrapped the "Let it Go" parody altogether.
    • Al was originally recruited to help write the songs for a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of Airplane!, but backed out after a chance encounter with Jerry Zucker, who told him that nobody had approached him for the rights and that it sounded like a terrible idea.
    • During their disastrous "CN Real" era, Cartoon Network commissioned Al to direct a couple of live-action TV movies for them, but he was let go after CN Real flopped.
    • Al had written down lyrics to incomplete songs about three different subjects: constipation, incest and decapitation. Unsure of which one to finish, he made each into a verse of "A Complicated Song".
    • E! approached Al to write a theme song for Talk Soup which he did for his Alapalooza album. Though E! liked Al's "Talk Soup" song, the finished product was never used as the show's theme.
    • Had Weezer not revoked permission at the last second, "The Alternative Polka" would have included a snippet of "Buddy Holly."
  • Writer Revolt:
    • "Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch", widely considered his worst song by a wide margin, and deliberately so. The execs in charge of his third album Dare to Be Stupid literally forced him to include a parody of a Cyndi Lauper song, any cover, and one cover or they wouldn't release it. So Al just shoddily composed, recorded and released a parody of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" that — judging from the lyrics and even Al's piercing, nasal singing — clearly sounds like no effort went into making it good. He met them half way with the cover by doing the George of the Jungle theme song, which is impossible not to have fun singing.
    • As mentioned above, "Christmas At Ground Zero" was his response to the label forcing him to write a Christmas single.
    • When his label decided to release the two compilation albums The Food Album and The TV Album for a quick buck, Al commissioned gruesome covers for both as a form of "passive aggressive protest" so that "...every time I look at this album that I hate, I'll laugh and I won't hate it.": for Food, an illustration of Al's skeleton having just been picked clean by a monster (drawn by famed Nickelodeon animator Mr Lawrence) to illustrate how the label had "[bled] his catalogue dry", and for TV, a cartoon of Al sadistically blowing up a television set.
    "I don't mind putting out actual Greatest Hits albums every decade or so—I realize the value in that. I just have a problem when the record company tries to make a quick buck by putting out albums like Songs That Al Did In The Key Of F#."

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