Chart Watch: 10 Weird Facts About ‘Weird Al’
"Weird Al" Yankovic's Mandatory Fun becomes the first comedy album in more than 50 years to reach #1 on The Billboard 200. The last comedy album to head the chart was Allan Sherman's My Son, The Nut, which wound up an eight-week run on top in October 1963. How long ago was that? John F. Kennedy was in his last weeks as president, Peter, Paul & Mary was the hottest music act in the country and little Al Yankovic was just turning four.
Mandatory Fun, which sold 104K copies this week, is the first comedy album ever to debut at #1. The previous fastest-rising comedy album was Vaughn Meader's The First Family, a spoof of the Kennedy family, which shot to #1 in two weeks in December 1962.
Between 1960 and 1963, five comedy albums hit #1: three by Sherman (My Son, The Folk Singer; My Son, The Celebrity and My Son, The Nut), two by future sitcom legend Bob Newhart (The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart and The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!) and the aforementioned political spoof by Meader.
Yankovic has said that this may be his last full-length album. If that’s the case, he’s literally going out on top. (Of course, the unexpected chart-topping success of this album may prompt him to reconsider.)
To mark the occasion, here are 10 facts about “Weird Al” that you may not know.
1. Yankovic, 54, is the oldest artist ever to reach #1 with a comedy album. The previous oldest was Sherman, who was 38 when he did it. (Yankovic seems younger. I guess finding the humor in things keeps you young.)
2. Mandatory Fun is Yankovic’s third album in a row to crack the top 10. It follows Straight Outta Lynwood (#10 in October 2006) and Alpocalypse (#9 in July 2011). Yankovic is the first comedy artist to amass three top 10 albums since Cheech & Chong, which had three top 10 albums (also in a row) from 1972 through 1974. Just four other comedy artists have landed three top 10 albums (none has had more): Shelly Berman (1959-‘60), Bob Newhart (1960-‘61), Allan Sherman (1962-‘63) and Bill Cosby (1966-‘68).
3. Yankovic landed his first top 20 album ("Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D) in April 1984. That gives him a 30-year span of top 20 albums, unprecedented for a comedy artist.
4. Yankovic first cracked the Hot 100 in April 1983 with “Ricky,” a Lucy-themed parody of Toni Basil's #1 hit “Mickey.” Over the years, Yankovic has amassed 10 Hot 100 hits—not counting songs of his that may well enter the chart today. That's more than many of the acts whose works he has parodied over the years, including Nirvana, Coolio and Robin Thicke.
5. Yankovic’s 1996 album Bad Hair Day sold 1,317,000 copies that year, which remains the calendar-year sales record for a comedy album in the Nielsen SoundScan era. The key track was “Amish Paradise,” a parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
6. Yankovic titled his 1987 album Dare To Be Stupid, but his current song, “Word Crimes,” makes being smart seem like the coolest thing in the world. If I were an eighth grade English teacher, I’d play the video in class every day for a week.
7. “Weird Al” is the second artist named Al to land a #1 album. Al Jolson had three #1 albums in the late 1940s. (And that doesn’t even count Alan Jackson or the aforementioned Allan Sherman.)
8. Yankovic owes a debt to Michael Jackson, who gave him permission to parody his #1 hits “Beat It” and “Bad” (as “Eat It” and “Fat”). At the time “Eat It” was released, Yankovic had cracked the Hot 100 just once (with “Ricky”).
9. As noted, this may be Yankovic’s last album. “I think that digital distribution is more the way for me to go: putting out a single at a time, possibly two or three tracks or an EP,” he told NPR’s Tamara Keith. “I don’t know that putting out 12 songs at once in this day and age is the best way for me to get my music out there, because if I’m waiting that long, chances are a lot of the material is going to be somewhat dated by the time it comes out.”
10. To build buzz for the new album, Yankovic released a video a day for eight straight days, echoing Beyonce's campaign for her Beyonce album in December (when she suddenly dropped 14 new songs and 17 videos, via iTunes). But Yankovic told NPR he wasn’t copying the superstar. “You know, a few people have said that,” he said. “(For) my last album, which came out three years ago, I had a video for every single song, and they all came out at once. And nobody said to Beyoncé, ‘Hey, you’re doing a Weird Al, aren’t ya?’”