The Life and Career of Weird Al Yankovic

Born October 23rd, 1959 in Lynwood, California, Weird Al Yankovic made a name for himself parodying popular and successful songs and artists. He also stood out thanks to his love of comedy, the accordion and his skills with making music videos. Yankovic has used his many talents to make fun of popular culture throughout the years, and has spawned hits such as "Fat," "Amish Paradise," and "White & Nerdy". In this video, takes a look at the life and career of Weird Al Yankovic.

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Early Musical Interests

Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born on October 23rd, 1959 in Downey, California. He began taking accordion lessons at a young age and soon started to record himself performing original and parody songs. In high school, Yankovic received his first airplay after he sent a tape to radio broadcaster Dr. Demento.

Weird Al

While studying architecture at university, he DJed for the campus radio station. It was during this time that he took on the name Weird Al and released his first recordings. Yankovic soon began performing with a band and even had a Top 40 hit that parodied Joan Jett and the Blackhearts with “I Love Rocky Road.”

Debut and Early Success with Second Record

This led to a recording contract with Scotti Bros. Records and his debut album “Weird Al” Yankovic in 1983. Despite tepid reviews, Yankovic released a sophomore effort “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D the next year. The comedy album reached the top twenty on the Billboard 200 chart. It also yielded the Grammy-winning single “Eat It” and was complemented by a successful music video.

More Musical Comedy Albums

Up next was 1985’s Dare to Be Stupid, and this was the first musical comedy record released on CD. Despite mixed reviews, it spawned another of Yankovic’s well-known singles: “Like a Surgeon.” That same year, he starred in a mockumentary about his life called “The Compleat Al.” This was followed by the critical and commercial flop Polka Party! in 1986.

Revived Career

Yankovic’s career was rejuvenated in 1988 with the album Even Worse. The well-received effort reached the top thirty on the Billboard 200. It also generated the hit “Fat,” which was accompanied by a Grammy-winning music video. He then co-wrote and starred in the 1989 comedy “UHF” and recorded a corresponding soundtrack.

A Nirvana-Influenced Hit

Though the soundtrack sold poorly, Yankovic had a hit album in 1992 with Off the Deep End. The positively-reviewed record charted in the top twenty on Billboard. It contained the successful single “Smells Like Nirvana” and an accompanying music video that parodied Nirvana’s music video for their huge hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

More Albums

The 1993 album Alapalooza received mixed reviews and was followed by several compilations. His next studio record was 1996’s Bad Hair Day. The effort became one of his best-selling discs and produced hit comedy singles such as “Gump” and “Amish Paradise.”


Though Yankovic had previously hosted television comedy and music specials such as “Al-TV” since the 1980s, he began hosting a weekly show in 1997 called “The Weird Al Show.” The series was presented as a children’s program; however it also featured adult-oriented humor. It lasted only one season.

A New Look

Yankovic debuted a new look without his trademark glasses and moustache for his 1999 disc Running with Scissors. He then won a Grammy award for best comedy album for 2003’s Poodle Hat.

Top Ten

In 2006, Yankovic had his first top ten album with Straight Outta Lynwood and his first top ten single with “White & Nerdy.” His next record Alpocalypse was released five years later. It peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200, and this was even higher than his previous album.

Musical and Comedic Style

Though Yankovic has found success with his parodies of popular songs, he has also recorded many original tracks that imitate artists’ musical styles and satirize pop culture. Moreover, most of his records have featured a medley of hit tunes set to polka music. His live shows usually include all of these elements, as well as costume changes and the use of multimedia.

Other Work

In addition to the musical contributions he has made for films and television shows, Yankovic has lent his voice to several animated programs. He has directed many of his own music videos as well as those of other acts, and has written a best-selling children’s book.

Lasting Career

Weird Al Yankovic’s career has lasted longer than some of the artists he has parodied. The success he has had with his comedy and parody music has shown he is more than just a one-hit wonder and certainly not a novelty.

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