"Weird Al" Yankovic

Alpocalypse Now… and Then

> > Jul 2011

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Alpocalypse Now… and Then
By Vish KhannaHe could've been a fad — a one-trick pony whose skilled mockery might get tiresome quickly. But for 30 years, "Weird Al" Yankovic remains the most successful and sharpest satirist of our time, absorbing trends in music and pop culture, and spewing them back at us, charmingly highlighting the absurdity of it all. From "Beat It" to "Born This Way," Yankovic's comedic genius lies in taking the trendiest songs and genres and reflecting them in a funhouse mirror, exposing their demented potential like few before him. With his nerdy, exacting nature, he's changed music videos and song parodies forever, but his humility makes him hesitant to cop to his unlikely greatness and the enduring adoration of his fans. "I see my influence on various things and parts of the culture and it's always gratifying to see that I've made any kind of impact whatsoever," Yankovic says. "I appreciate when other people wax poetically on my many achievements, but it feels a little odd for me to be saying that myself."

1959 to 1973
Alfred Matthew Yankovic is born on October 23, 1959 in Downey, California, the only child of Mary and Nick Yankovic, who raise their son in nearby Lynwood. Of Yugoslavian descent and raised in Kansas City, KS, Nick settled in California after a World War II stint, and works in a steel factory, a pipe factory, a bedspring factory, and as a forklift operator, security guard and gas station attendant. Nick often urges Al to choose a living that, first and foremost, makes him happy. Mary is from Kentucky and of Anglo-Italian descent; she marries Nick in 1949.

Going into show business was something that they wouldn't have actually encouraged," Yankovic says. "In fact, on a few occasions, I remember my mom telling me to stay out of Hollywood because everyone there was evil, which is pretty much correct. But it's nice that, when I finally did wind up with a career in show business, as it were, they were very supportive and proud. They'd come to see me when I performed locally. I had them introduce the show on a couple of occasions; on my last live DVD, they introduced the show. So they were always very supportive and happy for my success."

Al receives his first music lesson on October 22, 1967, the day before his seventh birthday, after a door-to-door salesman offers his parents the choice between accordion and guitar lessons. According to Al, they choose accordion in deference to "America's Polka King," Frankie Yankovic, who's no relation. Al graduates from a beginner's sized accordion to a medium-sized one, which he plays to this day, instead of the adult-sized version. Al learns pop songs, classical pieces, and many polkas. Aside from Frankie Yankovic, his early role model is Myron Floren of the Lawrence Welk Show. He watches an inordinate amount of television, including lots of cartoons, sitcoms, variety shows, The Twilight Zone, and, a personal favourite, Mr. Terrific, with Stephen Strimpell and Dick Gautier. He's an exceptional student at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, starting kindergarten a year early, skipping the second grade entirely, and developing a proficiency for math. He's deemed a nerd by his peers, who refer to him as Alfred, after the butler in Batman and Alfred E. Neuman, the geeky mascot for MAD magazine, which Yankovic reads voraciously. The first funny song he remembers hearing is Johnny Cash's version of Shel Silverstein's "Boa Constrictor," and he's drawn to the Mason Williams hit "Classical Gas" in 1968. He attends Lynwood Senior High, where he's a straight A student. His primary extracurricular activity is the National Forensics League; Yankovic often brings home trophies in speech competitions, where he's very funny, even when the context doesn't call for humour. He also joins two honour societies, a drama club, and the yearbook committee. At 12 years old, inspired by drafting class, he decides he'll become an architect when he grows up; in the interim, he works part-time as an accordion teacher and occasional accordion repo man. In the early 1970s, Yankovic discovers the Los Angeles-based Dr. Demento radio show, which airs Sunday night. He's fascinated by the warped, risqué content and hears Spike Jones, Allan Sherman, Tom Lehrer, and Stan Freberg, whom he counts as early influences. In 1973, Barret Eugene Hansen (a.k.a. Dr. Demento) speaks at Lynwood High; Yankovic gets an autograph and submits a tape for a Dr. Demento contest to pick the show's theme song. He doesn't win, but at 13, impresses Hansen.
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I think that "Dare to be Stupid" is a highly underrated album and easily belongs on the list of essential Weird Al records.
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When I saw Weird Al perform at the Del Mar Fair earlier this month, I met Tad Dowd after the show (and before Jay Levey came to escort him backstage to the aftershow). Al is really good about staying in touch with people who were important to him when he was starting out.
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I love being a Nameless Poseur. You might want to consider editing "Don MacLean" to "Don McLean." Just a suggestion.
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I agree about Dare to Be Stupid. It was a close one there for a while but I wanted to pick Even Worse and then felt weird choosing two outta three records from the 80s. Wanted to spread it out a bit. Plus EW, OtDE, and SoL are all amazing. I stand by my Essential picks.
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What a thrill to find such a great and detailed piece
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Excellent article. Well researched and informative.
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Even Worse came out before UHF. If anything, it was a return after the lackluster sales of Polka Party (unfortunate, because that one is even more underrated than Dare to be Stupid, Dog Eat Dog is one of his best).
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Well you could have picked the 2009 Compilation "The Essential "Weird Al" Yankovic you know.. :D
I'd pick that, Alpocalypse and Poodle Hat as my Essentials
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Great article. As noted above, the author misspelled "McLean", but also misspelled "Popeil" by adding an "m". Anyway, loved the article! Al's pal and former producer Rick Derringer (who also played the lead guitar for the studio recording of "Eat It") is now touring with Ringo's All Starr band. Pretty impressive. I wanna add that some years back, VH-1 had people vote for their favorite video moment. Jim West blowing up in the "Eat It" video was one of the choices. I, of course voted for that. Never found out the results, but I thought it was a great moment in video history. Thanks for sharing this article.
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without Weird Al, the world would suck a little harder....
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Al receives his first music lesson on October 22, 1967, the day before his seventh birthday.

59-67 = 8 years !!!!
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i appreciate the effort that went into compiling all the info that went into this piece, but i have to say that the writing itself made me wince.

i'm also surprised that this website doesn't offer any indications as to how long their articles actually are.
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Who edited this article??! While this is very thorough and well-researched, there are spelling mistakes and several run-on sentences. It goes in order until the last page. After mentioning Al's 2011 work, it jumps to mentions of 1988 and 1992.
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One fairly major project that seems to be left out is "Al's Brain." Otherwise a great piece.
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Al's Brain! Good point!
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Like many others out there, "Weird Al" got me through a lot of bad times, and has indeed, made my world so much better. I couldn't imagine life being brilliant, without him around.
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Wait, you seriously want us to tell you how long each article is in advance?!
Wow, someone's really been spoiled by "This Song's Just Six Words Long."
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uh...the references to 1988 and 1992 appear to be the author's top three picks, after the proper article had concluded. Kinda like a sidebar.
Well done, Vish. Excellent piece.
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My parents drove by my elementary school during recess when I was in 4th grade just to show me that they had just purchased "IN-3D" on vinyl for me, which had just come out. I was beyond excited.
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Don't forget that he appeared in an episode of Johnny Bravo!
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He who is tired of Weird Al, is tired of life.
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Ugh, please learn how to use tense before becoming a journalist. Thanks.
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This is awesome :) all the details I ever wanted to know about Al's journey to success, without having to pick up a book. :)
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Hey Nameless Poseur, how should I be using tense?
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Nameless Poseur........ stop being a cynic and just appreciate the article for what it is will you
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Well, let me say, 2 boys in the 80's~~ saw vidioes from Wierd Al and they were hooked. What does a Mother know?? HMM Accordian?? Yeah, my Dad thrust one on me!Hey, Cindy here play this. He was a car salesman. HMMMMM?? must have been his tip??WELL!! I impressed myself, aS i PLAYED!(caps lock)Okay, reply because we want( or I do) to see you on the sunshine coast of Gibsons! BC!
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Saw Al in concert in Birmingham, England. It was his first show on his first European Tour ever. It was amazing! As a kid growing up in Kansas City in the 80's, I'd always wanted to hear Weird Al first hand. I was happy I did, and my son got to experience it too. The lady at the ticket booth never took my tickets so I still have them as a keepsake.
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Nameless Poseur or one of you, your Al messing about!
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qeer
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i love chicken and weird al
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i was here
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Article Published In Jul 11 Issue