Throwback Thursday: 30 Years of Being 'Weird Al' Yankovic
"I'm not trying to wedge some serious social message into my music. I’m just trying to make people laugh."
This story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Somewhere in L.A.'s Hillside Memorial Park, Allan Sherman is stirring in his crypt. The "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" singer has been unseated after five decades as the last person to top the Billboard 200 with a comedy album. And it was his disciple "Weird Al" Yankovic who did it.
"Allan, Stan Freberg, Spike Jones and Tom Lehrer are my all-time heroes. They're my Mount Rushmore of inspiration," says Yankovic, whose 14th album, Mandatory Fun, debuted at No. 1, selling 104,700 copies in the week ending July 20. Alfred Matthew Yankovic was an only child raised in Lynwood, Calif., where he learned to play the accordion and was a fan of Dr. Demento, a radio host who featured novelty songs. Yankovic had his first big hit with "My Bologna," a 1979 take on The Knack's "My Sharona," while a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Since then, he's sold more than 12 million albums and made music videos a key part of his promotion: For "Eat It," which won him a Grammy for best comedy recording in 1984, he made a shot-for-shot parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (and Jackson even let him use the "Bad" subway set for his follow-up parody "Fat"). The video for "Word Crimes," his send-up of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," has garnered more than 11 million YouTube views since its July 15 release.
Little-known fact: Yankovic, 54, also wrote and starred in the 1989 cult classic UHF. "It's flattering that fans are asking for a UHF 2," says Yankovic, who lives in L.A. with his wife and 11-year-old daughter. "But I'm told major studios rarely do sequels to films that bombed 25 years ago."