November can't come soon enough! We've been counting down the days until "Weird Al" Yankovic's hilarious upcoming biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story hits Roku TV. The comedy film is set to premiere November 4. Also in November, a Z2 Comics graphic novel about "Weird Al" will be hitting shelves. Looks like November is going to be a very weird month.
Anticipation around "Weird Al's" career is growing. While we're waiting for it all to go down exactly three months from now, we figured we'd create a Top 10 list of Yankovic's best parody songs for the time being. It's about time we paid our respects to the Hawaiian shirt-loving, accordion-toting, curly-haired song wizard. After all, the parody genre would not be the same without him. Some people on the internet even say he created memes with his funny songs and videos before the term was even born.
Speaking of birth, Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic was born October 23, 1959 in Downey, California. Since having a comedy song air in 1976, Yankovic has sold more than 12 million albums, recorded more than 150 parodies and original songs, and performed more than 1,000 live shows. His work has earned him five Grammy Awards and six platinum records in the U.S. And it all happened because he was a strange kid who liked to play the accordion and regularly listened to Dr. Demento's radio show.
Yankovic's success comes in part from his effective use of music videos throughout his career. Although music television declined, he still found success on social media, posting videos to YouTube and other video sites. This helped boost the sales of his later albums, and even decades into his career, Yankovic is still going strong.
Curious to know which of Al's parody songs we think are the weirdest of the weird? Look down below!
90s boy bands are our kryptonite here at Live365, so the fact that "Weird Al" has a parody of The Backstreet Boys' hit song "I Want It That Way"? Well, there's no way we weren't putting it on this list.
But seriously, "Ebay" is a quirky romp with pop culture references out the wazoo and we believe it's a criminally underrated bop in Al's catalogue. The track comes from his classic 2003 album Poodle Hat and retains so much Y2K charm that we get nostalgic every time we listen to it.
In the song, Al laments over the fact that he can't stop buying stuff off of Ebay. Some of the many items he purchases include William Shatner's old toupee, an Alf alarm clock, and a Kleenex used by Dr. Dre. Our favorite part of "Ebay" is when Yankovic gloriously exclaims "I'm highest bidder!" during the song's key-changing bridge. Trust us: after listening to this parody, you'll never shop on Ebay the same way again.
9. "Couch Potato"
"Look, if you had, one shot / To sit on your lazy butt, and watch all the TV you ever wanted / Until your brain turned to mush, would you go for it / Or just let it slip?"
This is the iconic opening line of Yankovic's Eminem parody song "Couch Potato." A spoof of Slim Shady's 2002 hit "Lose Yourself," the silly tune is all about Al's adventures channel surfing – from watching The Flintstones to Nascar racing, CSI, and every little sitcom in-between. "Couch Potato" is another banger off Yankovic's Poodle Hat. In fact, it's the opening track. And thank goodness it is, because Al's Eminem-like intensity is really what makes this thing hysterical.
Unfortunately, there's no official video for "Couch Potato," as Eminem vetoed the visual at the last minute. Regardless, Al has still performed the song live and on late shows while fans have taken to making their own funny unofficial videos.
8. "The Saga Begins"
Of "Weird Al's" two Star Wars parody songs – "Yoda" and "The Saga Begins" – we prefer the latter. A grand parody of Don McLean's "American Pie," the song is sung from the perspective of Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi during the events of Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. In the video, Yankovic dresses up like Kenobi and parties it up with some cantina aliens. Palpatine even plays the piano!
While the song itself is technically and lyrically great, the story of its creation is even more astounding. "The Saga Begins" was actually released before the The Phantom Menace came out. Because Lucasfilm refused to give "Weird Al" an advanced screening of The Phantom Menace, Yankovic actually wrote the entire song having only seen the trailer. The song was based completely off of spoilers and rumors fans had leaked onto the internet. Al managed to pay $500 to attend a pre-release charity screening of the movie, but it was mainly to make sure he had the details of the film right before the CD of Running with Scissors shipped.
In the end, most of the lyrics ended up being correct, so Yankovic only made minor changes. The only major change he had to make after the screening of The Phantom Menace was that Anakin did not tell Amidala he was going to marry her, like Yankovic originally thought.
7 "My Bologna"
The song that first put Yankovic in the public eye. A food-lover's take on the Knack’s “My Sharona,” this accordion rock song was originally recorded in a bathroom at Al's university, California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Al was, at the time, working at the college’s radio station and liked the acoustics in the bathroom across the hall – so he grabbed his accordion and recorded his first single.
Eventually, footage for the single was captured at the college. It was recorded at the TV production facility at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. A student named Randy Kergoon took what would become Yankovic's first music video as part of his final directing project for a TV production class he took in 1979.
"I knew Al from the Cal Poly radio station KCPR...never thought much about [the video] afterwards until I got a call from MTV asking if I had any pics of Al for their 'Driven' TV show," Kergoon revealed about the footage in a YouTube comment. "I said no...but I have this "video" on 3/4 inch tape!! Thought the producer was about to faint. Looking back...it's pretty cool to be the director/producer of Al's first video."
Fun fact: the belch at the end of the accordion solo on the original version is not actually Yankovic, it’s a sample from a MAD Magazine flexidisc called “It’s a Gas.”
6. "Another One Rides the Bus"
Another standout "Weird Al" track made during the earlier part of his career. "Another One Rides the Bus" is an energetic parody of “Another One Bites the Dust,” the 1980 chart-topping hit by Queen. That September, Al debuted the song live on the Dr. Demento Show – just as Queen’s song was climbing the charts on its way to #1.
In his first-ever live performance, Yankovic adopted Queen’s dramatic tale with a lighthearted tone, recreating a more relatable nightmare scene: the cramped and undesirable conditions of public buses. Capitol Records previously released “My Bologna” but had stopped returning Al's calls, so he borrowed money from Demento to press his own records for "Another One Rides the Bus." Every copy of the song quickly sold out.
TK Records eventually took interest and released it nationwide in 1981, but as the single was gaining traction, the label went out of business, ceasing promotion efforts. Regardless, “Another One Rides The Bus” managed to chart on Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart, and was later re-released on Al's debut album.
5. "Eat It"
Some of Yankovic's Michael Jackson parodies have become more controversial than the late King of Pop himself (we're looking at you, "Fat"), but "Eat It," released in 1984 shortly after the ‘80s classic “Beat It,” will always remain a lovable "Weird Al" classic.
Largely following the same melody and flow as the original song, the lyrics are about not being fussy with food. It's basically the anthem of every annoyed parent trying to get their picky child to clean their plate! In terms of Al's music videos, "Eat It" is one of his best. The original visual is practically a shot-for-shot remake of Jackson's official video for "Beat It."
4. "Like a Surgeon"
We were so happy to hear this song used in the trailer for Al's biopic! Is it strange we actually prefer the key and music production of this song more than Madonna's "Like a Virgin"? We can't be the only ones. After all, the heart monitor beep electronic bit is just so clever. And kind of earwormy.
The anthem of every intern who's just made it through med school and is about to "cut for the very first time," "Like a Surgeon" was actually made thanks in part to an idea from Madonna herself. Yankovic told The New York Post in 2011...
"Madonna was talking with a pal of hers. "Like a Virgin" was everywhere on the radio and she said "I wonder when Weird Al is going to do ‘Like a Surgeon.’" Madonna’s friend knew my manager, who got back to me with it. I was like “Good idea, Madonna. Thanks!"
In 2014, Al spoke to Vulture about shooting this song’s iconic music video. "We shot that in an actual hospital that had closed down and was mostly used as a hospital set," he said. "My biggest memory was we actually had a live lion on the set for those scenes where there’s a lion roaming the hallway. At that point we lost a lot of extras because they were saying, ‘You know, my day rate is not worth this’. It was just fun to be writhing around on a hospital gurney in a music video because I normally do that in my everyday life, so it was nice to be able to do that in public for a change."
3. "Smells Like Nirvana"
"Weird Al" could have turned a "Smells Like Teen Spirit" parody into something outlandish and original – and it probably would have been awesome. Instead, he uses it to poke fun at, well...the song itself. And it's one of the most genius parodies he's ever written.
If you actually pay attention to the lyrics of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," you know they don't exactly make sense. Kurt Cobain even testified he was just trying to make the ultimate pop song and rip off the Pixies. That, combined with the fact that you really can't hear what the hell Kurt Cobain is even singing in the song, is what led Al to create "Smells Like Nirvana."
"Weird Al" had actually been a fan of the band for a while before “Teen Spirit” became a huge success, saying that after listening to Nevermind, he’d wanted to make a parody of their music but feared their music wouldn't become popular enough for a parody. Soon after "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit #1, "Weird Al" knew the parody’s time had come.
Yankovic got in touch with his friend Victoria Jackson – then a Saturday Night Live cast member – to see if she could possibly get him in touch with Kurt Cobain. When Nirvana was booked as a musical guest for SNL in 1992, Jackson connected Cobain and Al. Yankovic explained he wanted to do a Nirvana parody. Cobain replied, “Is it going to be a song about food?” Al said, “Well, no, it’s going to be a song about how nobody can understand your lyrics.” Surprisingly, Cobain approved the idea immediately. (Personally, we think it's because he was already frustrated with the overwhelming popularity of the song...but that's just our theory!)
The impact of "Smells Like Nirvana"? A million more copies of Nevermind sold, a music video shot on the same soundstage as the original song with many of the same actors (and strangely, a teenaged Tony Hawk), and Kurt Cobain writing in his journal that "Weird Al" was “America’s modern pop-rock genius” and better than Eric Clapton.
2. "Amish Paradise"
While "Amish Paradise" isn't our #1 pick, we'll admit it's the "Weird Al" song that makes us chuckle the most. The track is a spoof of Coolio's 1995 hit "Gangsta's Paradise." Before recording the satire of Amish life, "Weird Al," as with all parodies he does, sought permission from the original artist.
In the end, confusion ensued and Yankovic was given rights to use the song, but when Coolio was presented the offer himself, he declined. Ultimately, the song was released and later, Coolio admitted Al's parody was a funny song and the pair reconciled. Because of the infamous incident, Yankovic now asks artists directly for parody permission instead of asking through a third party.
Additionally, the video for "Amish Paradise" is another one of Al's best. Several instances of the "Amish Paradise" video show a closeup of Al appearing sweaty, a reference to the original "Gangsta's Paradise" video. The lyrics about churning butter and the boy who kicks Al's butt never fail to make us laugh.
1. "White & Nerdy"
Oftentimes, "White & Nerdy" seems to be many fans' first introduction to "Weird Al." Its legacy lives on thanks to its popular status on YouTube – where it ranks as Al's most-viewed visual. A parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'”, "White & Nerdy" has the distinction of being the only Yankovic song to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at #9, practically three decades into Yankovic's career.
In "White & Nerdy," Al's character wishes he could be a gangsta instead of a caucasian geek. Still, he brags about his intellectualistic traits: like his Minesweeper skills and trivia game expertise. "Weird Al" says his default answer to the question “What is your favorite parody?” is “White & Nerdy,” as it’s his “most autobiographical” song.
In the beloved video, Al and a few other singers are dressed and act like white rappers such as the Beastie Boys, Vanilla Ice, or Eminem. The video also features a young Key & Peele among others who act like gangstas and interact with Weird Al’s dorky character. We hope Al eventually gets to bowl with the gangstas. Until then, we'll try to catch him rollin' on his Segway.
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Article Image: A young "Weird Al" Yankovic posing with his leg raised against a wall outside the China Club nightclub in 1991. (Bart Sherkow via Shutterstock.)