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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.