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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

via GIPHY

IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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