By selling 104,00 copies of his new LP, Mandatory Fun, "Weird Al" Yankovic has just scored the first Number One of his career as well as the first chart-topping comedy album since Allan Sherman's 1963 My Son, the Nut. Yankovic accomplished this by releasing eight videos in eight days, creating a tidal wave of interest across the Internet. We figured this was a good time to poll our readers and determine their favorite Weird Al videos of all time. Click through to see the results.
Yankovic planned on releasing his tenth album, Running With Scissors, in June of 1999, right around the time that Stars Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace arrived in theaters. He knew the movie would be the biggest pop culture story of the year, and he couldn't resist recording a spoof song about it. The only problem was he had no chance to see the movie before creating the song, forcing him to pour over internet rumors and cobble together the plot as best he could. He set the song to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie," squeezing the needlessly complicated plot of the movie into five-and-a-half minutes. It's a work of absolute genius. Who else could have found a way to fit the word "midichlorian" into a song?
Weird Al faced a serious challenge when he decided to spoof R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" saga: How do you mock something that's already completely ridiculous? He decided the only real option was to tell a super mundane tale of a couple deciding what to have for dinner and then infuse it with the insane drama and tone of "Trapped in the Closet." The song goes for eleven minutes and manages to be funny the entire time, especially when the couple turns on the radio and Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" begins blaring out.
There isn't a single song in the Weird Al catalog that's even PG-13, so an X-rated tune like Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" might seem like a tricky one for him to tackle. But Weird Al loves a challenge. "I wanted to take a song that was ostensibly misogynistic, and people were saying it was even a little rape-y," he says, "and make it into a song that could ostensibly be part of a school’s curriculum." The result is "Word Crimes," a Schoolhouse Rock!-esque lesson about grammar. The animated video has been viewed nearly 10 million times in a single week.
Remember the Greg Kihn Band's 1983 hit "Jeopardy?" No? It reached Number Two on the Hot 100 and was all over the place that year. Right around the time it dueling with Michael Jackson on the charts, Al spoofed it with "I Lost on Jeopoardy." The show had been off the air for four years at that point, but just months after "I Lost on Jeopardy" came out the show returned with new host Alex Trebek. 40 years later, it's still going strong. Can Weird Al be thanked for that? We think he can.
According to legend, Madonna was walking down the streets of New York not long after "Like a Virgin" came out and said to a friend, "How come Weird Al hasn't done 'Like a Surgeon' yet?'" This came back to Al, who felt it was a grand idea. The song tells the tale of a rookie surgeon on the verge of facing a great many medical malpractice cases. It's been a key part of Yankovic's live show for decades, and after Truth or Dare came out he began playing a slowed down spoof of the Middle Eastern rendition she does in the documentary.
Weird Al was going through a bit of a slump when the 1990s began. His brilliant movie UHF tanked at the box office and he was starting to be viewed as has-been. In past years, he'd revived his career by writing food-related Michael Jackson parodies, and when "Black or White" hit in 1991 he responded with "Snack All Night," only Jackson refused to sign off on it. Dejected, Weird Al settled for "Smells Like Nirvana," a parody, obviously, of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Much like the song that inspired it, "Smells Like Nirvana" was the right song at the right moment. It became a massive hit and introduced him to a whole new generation of fans. The video was shot at the same Culver City, California high school where Nirvana filmed their video. They even used some of the same cheerleaders and the janitor, who they dressed in a tutu.
By 2006, people were once again counting out Weird Al Yankovic. His last few albums arrived during a time when MTV wasn't playing music videos, and YouTube had yet to be created. It was a challenging time to market parody songs. The big song that year was James Blunt's "You're Beautiful," but Blunt's label wouldn't let Yankovic spoof the song, arguing it would hurt his young career. (Somehow Madonna and Nirvana got past this roadblock.) It turned out to be a blessing, because Al turned his attention to Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty," turning it into "White and Nerdy," a brilliant and hilarious tale of a nerd who wants to "ride with the gangstas." The amazing video has been seen by some 86 million people. It was the beginning of Weird Al in the age of YouTube.
"Amish Paradise" may well be the single funniest song in the vast Weird Al catalog. Lines like "And I've been milkin' and plowin' so long that even Ezekiel thinks that my mind is gone" are still hysterical nearly 20 years later. The song is a spoof of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise," from the soundtrack to Dangerous Minds. At the time, just about everyone thought it was funny besides Coolio. He bashed Weird Al to the press, saying he did the song without his permission. It's the closest thing to a scandal in Yankovic's history, though a couple years later Coolio changed his mind and said he loved the song. He made peace with Weird Al many years ago, but the controversy lives on every time VH1 shows his Behind The Music.
It's hard to imagine what might have happened to Weird Al's career had Michael Jackson not signed off on "Eat It." That could have easily happened: Al was pretty unknown at that point and Jackson wasn't exactly known for his roaring sense of humor, especially when it came to his music. But sign off on the song he did, and "Weird Al" created an amazing shot-for-shot parody of the "Beat It" video that MTV put into heavy rotation. Suddenly, children all across the country fell in love with this bizarre man singing about food with incredible passion. The success of "Eat It" finally proved that Weird Al might have some longevity to his career, though nobody thought it would be going strong in 2014.
An amazing thing happens near the end of every "Weird Al" Yankovic concert. Al walks offstage and a familiar black and white video begins playing on the screen. Cheers erupt and the crowd screams along to every word of dialogue, especially "Ding-Dong man, Ding-Dong." They know what's coming next. Al runs on stage in a fat costume and somehow finds the energy to dance around and belt out the lyrics to "Fat," a spoof of Michael Jackson's "Bad." The song hit not long after Al's 1986 LP Polka Party! stiffed, and was yet another comeback in his long and incredibly bizarre career.