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Weirding Out

10 Things You Might Not Know About Weird Al

Catch Weird Al's debut as Comedy Bang! Bang!'s new bandleader this June.

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With “Weird Al” stepping in as the new Comedy Bang! Bang! band leader and cohost, we thought we should do a deep dive into all things Yankovic. Sure, many of us grew up listening to the king of parody songs, but that doesn’t mean we know much about him beyond the microphone. Here are some of the most surprising facts we dug up about the world’s greatest song parodist/polka king. Welcome to IFC, Al. We’ll be sure to keep the fridge stocked with Spam.

10. One of his first songs was about his family’s car

Al’s interest in music began when his parents got him his first accordion lesson at the age of six. In 1976, he recorded a demo tape of songs which he gave to his idol Dr Demento when the oddball radio host spoke at Al’s high school. One of the songs, an ode to his family’s car called “Belvedere Cruisin’,” was an early hit for Al on the Demento radio show.


9. He gave himself a “Weird” nickname

Orion Pictures

Orion Pictures

While studying architecture at California Polytechnic State University, Al got a gig with the college’s radio station, manning the midnight to 3am shift every Wednesday. Wanting to stand out from the crowd — and give a tip of the hat to Dr. Demento — he took on the moniker “Weird Al” and made it his mission to slip odd music past his hard-nosed bosses at the station.


8. He recorded “My Bologna” in the bathroom

It was during his time at CPSU that Al would score his first major hit, a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which he recorded in the bathroom across the hall from the radio station. When The Knack played the small college, they met with Al backstage, and professed their appreciation for his spin on their hit song. The Knack’s lead singer, Doug Fieger, suggested that his label Capitol Records release “My Bologna” as a single. It was a hit, and led to Al scoring a record deal.


7. Michael Jackson refused to let him record a parody for “Black or White”

Al of course hit the stratosphere with his classic Michael Jackson parodies “Eat It” and “Fat.” The King of Pop was a huge fan, but still refused to let Al record a spoof of his 1991 hit “Black or White.” Jackson thought that his pop anthem had an important message, and didn’t want it undercut with Al’s proposed song “Snack All Night.” Granted, Al didn’t need to heed Jackson’s request, but he preferred to only spoof songs when the people behind them approved. He’s since gone on to state that Jackson helped save his career. Instead of another Gloved One parody, he wrote “Smells Like Nirvana,” his biggest hit in years. While Al never recorded “Snack All Night,” he has performed it live on occasion.


6. Victoria Jackson helped make “Smells Like Nirvana” possible

Fans can thank former SNL cast member and current controversial political blogger Victoria Jackson for Al getting permission to record his classic Nirvana parody. When Nirvana performed on SNL in 1992, Al called his UHF costar and asked if she could put him on the phone with Kurt Cobain. Al pitched a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” spoof to Kurt, who loved the idea and asked if the song would be about food. Al informed the singer that he’d be poking fun at the band’s garbled lyrics, an idea that Kurt was totally on board with.


5. Madonna came up with the title for “Like a Surgeon”

Madonna herself suggested the title for Al’s “Like a Virgin” spoof while joking with friends about when Weird Al would get around to spoofing her. The idea made it’s way back to Yankovic, who loved it and made it the first song on his “Dare to Be Stupid” album. It was the first and only time that one of Al’s songs came directly from the artist he was spoofing.


4. Coolio was not a fan of “Amish Paradise”

Due to a miscommunication, “Weird Al” thought he had the go-ahead when he wrote “Amish Paradise,” his take on Coolio’s hit “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Coolio complained that his song was about social change, and shouldn’t be mocked. Al apologized, but that didn’t stop Coolio from dissing him on his next album, rapping, “Fools be in the bars advanced with a switch. Uppercuts and fight kicks with Weird Al Yankovic.” Years later, the rapper admitted he had made a mistake, claiming it took him too long to realize that the parody was “funny as sh*t.”


3. The number 27 turns up often in his music

Scotti Brothers

Scotti Brothers

Yankovic loves the number 27. But unlike Pixar’s fixation on A113, Al seems to have come by his love of the number randomly. He accidentally used it in both “Like a Surgeon” and “This is the Life” before realizing the connection. After a fan pointed out the happy coincide, he called the number funny, and started squeezing it into any song that it would fit in.


2. Prince’s lawyer once forbid Weird Al from making eye contact with The Purple One

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Over the years Al has talked about how Prince has frequently refused requests to spoof any of his music. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Al once received a telegram from Prince’s attorneys, directing him to avoid contact with “His Royal Badness” at the American Music Awards. Al said he still looked a few times, just for the heck of it.


1. Don McLean accidentally sang lyrics to “The Saga Begins” onstage

Al had a hit with his Star War spoof “The Saga Begins,” released just before The Phantom Menace hit theaters in 1999. Set to the tune of “American Pie,” Al even attended an exclusive fundraiser that screened the movie before its release just to make sure he was getting all the details right. The song became a big hit, especially in the home of “American Pie” singer Don McLean. His kids played it constantly, causing him to mix up Yankovic’s lyrics with his own a few times on stage.

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Very NSFW

The Brockmire Premiere Is All Truth

Watch The First Episode of Brockmire Right Now for Free

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At long last, the Brockmire pre-premiere has arrived. Which means you can watch it right now—on IFC.com, at Funny Or Die, on IFC’s Apple TV and mobile apps, on Youtube, on Facebook, on the AMC apps, and right here. So grab some headphones and get watching.

No seriously, get headphones.

Because whether he’s giving a play-by-play or ruminating on the world around him, Jim Brockmire calls it like he sees it. And how he sees it is very NSFW. His take on life is actually quite refreshing, even to the point of being profoundly sage. For proof just look at these pearls of unconventional wisdom from the premiere…

Brockmire On The Internet

“If I need porn I just buy a nudie mag, like my father and his father before him.”

Brockmire On Sex-Ed

“Kids, a strap-on is a belt with d— on it that mommies use to f— daddies.”
Brockmire-Strap-On

Brockmire On The Perfect High

“Somewhere between 10 cups of coffee and very low-grade cocaine.”
Brockmire-Perfect-High

Brockmire On The Tardiness of Spring

“Old man winter’s reaching his hand inside your coat to give that thing one more squeeze.”

Brockmire On Keeping Perspective

“I thought I hit rock bottom in a handicap restroom in Bangkok where a Thai lady-boy snorted crank off my johnson while a sunburnt German watched us on the toilet”
Brockmire-grain-salt

Brockmire On Humanity

“If you want to look directly into the gaping maw of oblivion, don’t look up to the heavens. Just look in the mirror.”
Jules-never-seen

See these nuggets and more in the first episode of Brockmire, and see the whole season beginning April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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