Name: Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic
Born: October 23, 1959
Occupation: Actor, comedian, singer, songwriter, musician, author
Alfred Matthew Yankovic is the son of Nick Louis and Mary Elizabeth Yankovic and developed his love affair with the accordion at a young age. His father was a native of Kansas City, Kansas, with Yugoslavian ancestry and his mother an Italian/English woman from Kentucky who met in California after Nick Yankovic returned from military service during World War II. Weird Al, their only child, was born in Downey, California, in 1959.
Much of his success is in life he attributes to his father who told him the key to success in life was to do what made you happy. Weird Al began his musical studies at six years old when a door-to-door salesman offering guitar and accordion lessons sold his wares to Yankovic’s parents. Though he is not directly related to the famous accordion player Frankie Yankovic, his parents opted for accordion lessons instead of guitar.
Yankovic was a studious and shy student, earning his place as valedictorian of his high school class and then going to college to study architecture. While at California Polytechnic State University, he had show on the university’s radio station. When listeners dubbed him Weird Al, Yankovic decided to take the name as his stage name and run with it.
Despite his inner shyness, Yankovic’s love of performance asserted itself early. His first brush with fame came at just 16, when he handed radio personality Dr. Demento a poorly-recorded cassette of “Belvedere Cruisin,” a parody song written about his family’s car. Yankovic considers the artists showcased on Dr. Demento’s radio show among his inspirations and has said that if not for the show, he might have gotten a real job.
He released a first recording in 1978, but it was in 1979 just before his senior year of college that Dr. Demento once again made Weird Al famous. He recorded his parody of The Knack’s song “My Sharona” and sent the tape once again to Dr. Demento. “My Bologna” got good fan reaction and when Yankovic introduced himself to the band after a show, they helped him get a record contract for the song.
A year later, Weird Al was at it again with his parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and Dr. Demento was once again his proving ground. His commercial success came years later when Yankovic proved to be a master of both the visual and lyrical parody with hits like “Ricky” and “Eat It.” Many of the recording artists that Yankovic spoofed delighted in his work, even going so far as to supply him with the same sets as the original music videos.
Most recently, Yankovic has garnered much love from writers across the world with his newest release “Word Crimes,” a sort of grown up version of Schoolhouse Rock, appealing to all the grammarians out there. Yankovic himself has proven to be very adept at the written word as well as the sung one, writing and staring in the movie “UHF” and staying fresh long after the pop stars he parodied have left the scene. His earnings are modest in comparison, but $16 million for laughs isn’t half bad.
How much is $16 million?
More than enough to find his own “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Yankovic famously mistakenly thought he had Coolio’s blessing for the parody, “Amish Paradise,” only to later discover the rapper was upset by the Yankovic release. Regardless of the dispute, Yankovic has plenty of money for whatever paradise he chooses.
Yankovic is a strict vegan who supports several animal rights charities and all the proceeds from his parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” were donate to human rights charities.