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"Weird Al" Yankovic Takes Comedy Music to the Top
by Alex Cosper (7/28/14)


It's not often that a comedy album hits number one on Billboard's Top 200 album chart. In fact, it had not happened in over 50 years until "Weird Al" Yankovic's best seller in July 2014. His comeback album called Mandatory Fun sold 104,000 units its first week, according to Nielsen Soundscan. While the music industry is suffering from about a 15 percent drop in sales from 2013, the parody artist represents a refreshing change of pace from the industry's carefully concocted cookie-cutter approach to music marketing.

Yankovic has been making parody records since the seventies. His career blossomed with a hit called "My Bologna," a parody of The Knack song "My Sharona." The latest release marks his 15th album that mocks popular songs and artists. It has also helped that he's made numerous television and film appearances, which has made the 54 year old comedy act a household name. Some of the songs that have attracted instant attention from the album include "Tacky," a parody of the Pharrell hit "Happy," and "Word Crimes," a parody of the controversial hit "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke.

His latest album on Sony/RCA was cleverly promoted with a series of videos leading up to the album's release. Since his label refused to fund videos to promote the album, the artist found funding elsewhere. He partnered with eight media entities to finance the videos. Each day over an eight day period starting Monday, July 14 with "Tacky," he posted videos exclusively on Nerdist.com. "Tacky" went viral on day one with over 5 million views and accumulated 12.8 million views the first week.

The singer stated in an NPR interview that he did not plan on releasing any more "conventional" albums due to YouTube and other internet sites making it easy for anyone to make their own parody songs. To show that he's not just a parody artist, the album includes the original composition "Sports Song," which lampoons fan behavior at sporting events. Mandatory Fun outsold Yes! by Jason Mraz, which sold 81,000 units. The last time a comedy album hit the top of the Billboard album chart was My Son, the Nut by Allan Sherman in 1963.

The success of Mandatory Fun comes at a time when the music industry struggles to come up with answers on how to weather the storm of falling sales of recorded music. The album may be a wake up call for the industry and is certainly generating a lot of buzz in the press. When a comedy album tops the chart for the first time in over half a century it could indicate that the public finds satire more entertaining than redundant formulas meant to be serious.

His first major break came when novelty music radio host Dr. Demento visited his high school in 1976. The 16 year old Yankovic gave the radio star a tape. Dr. Demento liked the song and began to play it on his nationally syndicated radio show. His next major break came when the band The Knack visited his college campus Cal Poly in 1979 after their song "My Sharona" became a big hit. He had already recorded a parody of it called "My Bologna," and gave it to the band. Singer Doug Fieger liked it and gave it to an executive at his label, Capitol Records. The rest is history.

"Weird Al" Yankovic Timeline

1959 Alfred Yankovic is born October 23 in Downey, California.
1965 Young Alfred begins to take accordion lessons.
1976 Dr. Demento airs 16 year old Yankovic's song "Belvedere Cruising."
1978 Yankovic enters Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo
1978 His first official single called "Take Me Down" is released under the name Alfred Yankovic.
1979 He records "My Bologna" as The Knack's "My Sharona" is the summer's biggest hit.
1979 He introduces himself to The Knack at a campus show. Singer Doug Fieger tells Capitol Records.
1979 Capitol signs "Weird Al" Yankovic for a 6 month recording deal.
1980 Yankovic makes a live recording on the Dr. Demento Show of "Another One Rides the Bus."
1981 He gains his first national TV exposured on NBC's The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder.
1981 He goes on his first tour with the Dr. Demento Stage Show and develops a full band.
1982 "I Love Rocky Road" becomes a radio hit and Yankovic is signed to Scotti Brothers Records.
1983 His first self-titled solo album is released. The single "Ricky" gets exposure on MTV.
1984 "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D album is relased featuring the near top ten hit "Eat It."
1984 Yankovic becomes host of the MTV show Al TV, which runs through December 2006.
1985 Starring in a "mockumentary" about his life, Yankovic's The Compleat Al airs on Showtime.
1985 The Authorized Al is a book released about the firlm The Compleat Al.
1985 Dare To Be Stupid album is released and becomes his second straight Platium record.
1986 Polka Party! album is released.
1987 Opening for The Monkees, Yankovic goes on tour.
1988 Yankovic plays himself in the film Tapeheads.
1988 Even Worse album is released and goes Platinum.
1988 He narrates "Peter and the Wolf" recording for Wendy Carlos.
1989 UHF is released as a film that spoofs the entertainment industry, starring Yankovic.
1991 Yankovic appears in the film The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.
1992 Off the Deep End album is released and goes Platinum.
1993 Alapalooza album is released and goes Gold.
1994 Permanent Record: Al in the Box is a box set that contains unreleased tracks.
1994 Yankovic appeas in the film Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.
1996 He appears as himself in the film Spy Hard.
1996 Bad Hair Day album is released and goes Platinum.
1997 The Weird Al Show starring Yankovic runs on CBS television.
1997 He appears as himself in the film Safety Patrol.
1998 Running with Scissors album is released and goes Platinum.
1999 No longer on Scotti Brothers, he now appears on Volcano Records.
1999 "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! album is recorded in San Rafael, California.
2000 Yankovic appears in the film Nothing Sacred.
2001 Suzanne Krajewski and Yankovic are married.
2002 Yankovic appears as himself in the film Desperation Boulevard.
2003 Daughter Nina is born.
2003 Poodle Hat album is released.
2003 He appears in the film Haunted Lighthouse.
2004 In April his parents died in a fire at their home in Fallbrook, California.
2006 Straight Outta Lynwood album is released and goes Gold.
2006 The single "White & Nerdy" becomes his biggest hit to date, reaching the top ten.
2009 He appears as himself in the film Halloween II.
2011 Alpocalypse album is released.
2014 Mandatory Fun album is released and becomes his first chart topper.

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