Top Ten: "Weird Al" Yankovic Song Parodies

My fave Al record, "Dare To Be Stupid" (1985)
My fave Al record, "Dare To Be Stupid" (1985) | Source

Weird Al Rocks!!

In his more than three decades (!) as a recording artist, funnyman "Weird Al" Yankovic has elevated himself to the position of High Priest of Pop Music Parody. When he first achieved prominence in the early '80s thanks to Doctor Demento's radio show, Al's shtick - accordian-laced parodies of current hits (i.e. Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" became "Another One Rides the Bus," the Knack's "My Sharona" became "My Bologna") - seemed destined for a quick trip to "one hit wonder" land ala "Disco Duck," or even worse, permanent "novelty item" status. But if you want to call him a novelty act, then Weird Al has become one of the most successful "novelty acts" of all time, selling over 12 million albums and earning numerous Grammy Awards over the course of his career. In fact, Al has outlasted many of the one-hit wonders whose music he's parodied!

Al's not a one trick pony. Parodies of other people's songs aren't all he does, and each of Al's studio albums contains its share of hilarious original songs (some of my favorites include "Dare To Be Stupid," the brilliant "Nature Trail to Hell," and "This Is the Life," the theme song to the cult comedy film "Johnny Dangerously") but parodies remain his bread and butter. Here are my ten favorite Al parodies, many of which were made successful thanks to his trademark irreverent music videos. Each is well worth investigating, even if you aren't familiar with the song he's making fun of.

#10: "Jurassic Park" (1993)

Richard Harris' late '60s chestnut "MacArthur Park" is widely considered to be one of the worst songs ever recorded (who can forget that tear-jerking, overwrought chorus about someone leaving the cake out in the rain?), which made it ripe for a parody. In Al's version based on the dinosaur-movie hit, he laments that "someone turned the fence off in the rain," and that he thinks the dinosaurs "are out to harm me, 'cause they sure don't act like Barney." The track was accompanied by a hilarious Claymation video in which "Barney" gets his head bitten off by a T-Rex, and after a cartoon Al gets swallowed by a dinosaur, he discovers a souvenir stand inside the beast's stomach, where a grinning employee tries to sell him a "I Got Eaten Alive at Jurassic Park" t-shirt.

#9: "Amish Paradise" (1996)

Al's 1996 take off on Coolio's hit "Gangsta's Paradise" turned a gritty tale of the urban streets into a lighthearted treatise on the simplicity of Amish life ("As I walk through the valley where I harvest my grain, I take a look at my wife and realize...she's very plain.") This song also represents one of the rare times that Weird Al courted controversy with a parody. As a rule, when Al wants to do a take-off on a hit song, he contacts the songwriter/composer for permission. In the case of "Amish Paradise," someone at Coolio's management apparently gave Al the idea that it was OK to take on "Gangsta's Paradise," but Coolio himself never approved of the idea and was very vocal about Al's "desecration" of his song. The two eventually mended fences, but Al has been very careful ever since about making sure to speak to the artist directly to get permission, rather than going through their management or record label

#8: "I Lost On Jeopardy" (1984)

This parody is probably better known nowadays than the original song - "Jeopardy," by early '80s one hit wonder Greg Kihn. While Kihn's original was a tale of love gone wrong, Al's version tells the story of his disastrous experience as a contestant on the famed game show. Al finds himself up against "a plumber and an architect, both with a Ph.D." and is quickly crushed in the game ("Well I got the Daily Double now... and then my mind went blank!"). The song came complete with a guest voice appearance by original "Jeopardy" announcer Don Pardo telling Al what he didn't win ("You don't even get a lousy copy of our home game!") before dismissing him as "a complete loser." Along with Pardo and original "Jeopardy" host Art Fleming, Greg Kihn himself made a cameo in the song's music video. Fun fact: the current long-running TV revival of "Jeopardy," hosted by Alex Trebek, premiered three months after this video.

#7: "I Love Rocky Road" (1982)

Al takes on Joan Jett's "I Love Rock N Roll" in this accordian-filled ode to his favorite ice cream flavor. The ultra-low-budget video for this track is a hoot, with a leather-jacket-clad Yankovic appropriating all of Jett's tough-gal moves in an ice cream parlor, sneering out lyrics like "Chocolate's gettin' old, vanilla just leaves me cold." I bet even Joan Jett herself would gladly sit down and "have a triple scoop" with Al for his fine work on this track.

#6: "The Saga Begins" (1999)

"The Saga Begins" wasn't Al's first song to be inspired by the "Star Wars" saga (see my #1 pick for that), but it was definitely his most ambitious. Ingeniously blending the storyline of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" with the music of Don McLean's "American Pie," Al re-tells the story of a "small fry" who "left home and kissed his Mommy goodbye, saying soon I'm gonna be a Jedi." Both Don McLean and George Lucas have professed their love for this parody, with McLean admitting that he occasionally slips into Al's version while performing "American Pie" in concert.

#5: "Smells Like Nirvana" (1992)

Al had been out of the spotlight for a couple of years after the disastrous response to his movie debut, 1989's "UHF," but he entered the 1990s in fine style and scored a major hit with this takeoff on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Using the same sets as Nirvana's video and a lot of the same actors and crew, the clip caused many MTV viewers to do a double-take when it aired! Al's version got a rabid "thumbs up" from the Nirvana band members, who said that being parodied by Weird Al was a sign that they'd truly "made it."

#4: "Eat It" (1984)

Nobody was bigger than Michael Jackson in 1984, and Al wisely chose to hitch a ride on the M.J. bandwagon with this takeoff on "Beat It." Once again, a song about a serious topic - street fights between gangs - became an ode to foodstuffs once Al got through with it. The video for the song was a pitch-perfect copy of the "Beat It" video, with Al sporting an MJ-style red leather jacket with multitudes of zippers on it, and a pair of street toughs battling it out in an old warehouse - with forks and spoons rather than switchblades. Al would continue his Jackson association with 1988's Even Worse album, which featured "Fat," the classic parody of MJ's "Bad."

#3: "Gump" (1996)

The Presidents of the United States of America were a goofy pop-grunge band whose (thankfully) lone hit, "Lump," was quite possibly the most irritating song of the mid 1990s. Al took the tune and turned it into an ode to Tom Hanks' film "Forrest Gump," complete with a Hanks lookalike passing out chocolates on a park bench for the accompanying video. I still can't stand the original "Lump" but I have to give Al credit for taking the track and turning it into something entertaining and listenable!! Wherever The Presidents of the United States of America are now, I bet they wish they'd had half of Al's knack for writing memorable humorous, goofy songs!!

#2: "Ricky" (1983)

I first saw "Ricky" - Weird Al's first music video - on MTV sometime in 1983 and at the time, I wasn't quite sure what the heck I was witnessing. "Ricky" was a pretty bizarre sight for a 13 year old who was used to seeing Styx, Motley Crue and Loverboy videos on the channel - a Ricky Ricardo impersonator playing an approximation of Toni Basil's irritating hit "Mickey" on the accordion while a Lucille Ball lookalike cavorted around, whining and begging "Ricky" to let her "be in the show." My reaction was probably something along the lines of "What the $%#! is this?"... but just like the original "Mickey," "Ricky" was almost Satanically catchy, to the point that before long I found myself humming the tune (and singing along in a bad impression of Ricky's voice). Fun fact: "Lucy" was portrayed by actress Tress Macnelle, who now provides a multitude of voices on "The Simpsons."

#1: "Yoda" (1985)

This ode to the diminutive Jedi Master of the "Star Wars" saga, set to the tune of the Kinks' classic "Lola," is my favorite Al parody and has been since I first heard it way back in 1985. Al's band totally nails the flavor of the original and the lyrics are gut bustingly inspired. ("I know Darth Vader's really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him then you'll be unemployed...") To be honest, I know the lyrics to "Yoda" better than I know the ones for "Lola," and if "Lola" comes on the radio in the car, I've been known to belt out the "Yoda" lyrics over it on more than one occasion...which has caused me to get some strange looks from fellow motorists when I'm stuck in traffic!

And the Hits Keep On Comin'!

Weird Al Yankovic has showed no signs of slowing down in the 21st century. His 2011 album Alpocalypse, featured parodies of songs by current favorites like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus and his concert tours continue to draw faithful crowds of devotees. My only problem is that as I get older, I don't always keep track of who's in the top 40 so many times I'm not always familiar with some of the songs Al's making fun of! 2013 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Al's debut album, and his newest CD, Mandatory Fun, became his first #1 album on Billboard when it was released in July 2014. Not bad for a guy that many in the record industry predicted would be a "one hit wonder!"

Between the constant flow of new material and his frequent appearances on TV, in movies and other media, it looks like Weird Al doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. Long live the Crown Prince of Comedy Pop, and keep it Weird!

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Comments 39 comments

hecate-horus profile image

hecate-horus 4 years ago from Rowland Woods

I've been a Weird Al fan since "Eat it" and never looked back. But my favorite isn't listed here: "White and Nerdy." The part with Donnie Osmond just kills me!

Interesting and voted up!


SonQuioey10 profile image

SonQuioey10 4 years ago from Williamston NC

I love Weird Al, he's an comedic icon. I loved his latest one and the video, Party in the CIA, that was fun. He's got fun videos and songs.

One that came back to me was when he wrote a song for the movie, Spy Hard. It was a rip-off done by Leslie Nielsen in the form of a 007 movie. Such a funny guy.


dylmyster12 profile image

dylmyster12 4 years ago

it was a funny movie though


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanks h-h... you're already the second person to tell me that I should've included "White & Nerdy" in this list, haha... It's a cool tune but I guess I haven't "lived" with it as long as the others I mentioned. Thanks for your comment.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Yeah, I have vague memories of "Spy Hard" -- Al's song and the Bond-style opening credit sequence must've been the best parts of that flick, cuz I honestly don't remember anything else about it! Haha


SonQuioey10 profile image

SonQuioey10 4 years ago from Williamston NC

Honestly, of all of Leslie Nielsen's movies, me either : D

That song is what I enjoyed the most of that one.


TheHeavyReview profile image

TheHeavyReview 4 years ago

Oh wow this is hilarious! Great hub FFC! I think "Yoda" might be my favorite, too. I'd never heard "I Love Rocky Road" before. I would also add "Fat" and "Like a Surgeon". Those were pretty good. Definitely voted up and funny!


theJOKERiv profile image

theJOKERiv 4 years ago

Great hub as always!!!! I saw Weird Al years ago and it was a lot of fun! BTW - UHF is now a cult classic, I tend to watch it anytime it is on TV


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Son, THR, and Joker!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Funny stuff Freddy. Thanks for putting these together. What's the Priest of pop Music Parody up to nowadays days?


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Alastar - Al's most recent album "Alpocalypse" was released in 2011 and he's on tour right now. In fact, someone at my office is going to see him in concert in May...and I'm jealous. Haha.


RichZ 4 years ago

Al did A PArody of offspring's "Pretty Fly For a White Guy" titled "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi". There was no official video release for it, but I thought it was one of his best.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Haven't heard that one, RichZ - but I'm gonna have to check it out now, thanks for the tip!


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland

He's a living legend, very witty interpretations. I love the Nirvana spoof.

Sometimes the songs go on too long, I find that with all musical spoofs. It's hard to keep the joke going. Good videos help though. But no doubt he's a funny guy.

Cheers FatFreddysCat. Marked up


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Shinkicker, glad you enjoyed!!


spartucusjones profile image

spartucusjones 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

Thanks for the hub!

I love Weird Al! He is the clown prince of rock n' roll, and he deserves to be in the rock n' roll hall of fame. There is also an online campaign right now to get Weird Al to play the 2012 Super Bowl half time show. That would be awesome. Here is the link if anyone wanted to sign the Super Bowl Half time Show petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/the-national-footb...


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

I would LOVE to see Weird Al in the RNR Hall of Fame, I'd say he definitely deserves the honor.

It would also be cool to see him play the Super Bowl, though I gotta tell ya, I tried starting a campaign on Facebook to get Motorhead on the Super Bowl a couple of years ago and it never really went anywhere... hahaha. Thanks for dropping by.


James 4 years ago

just one correction. the song American Pie is by Don Mclean not Henley for THE SAGA BEGINS.

as always great hub


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Woops, thanx for the catch James... wow, where the hell did Don Henley come from? I named Don McLean in two other places in the same paragraph.... damn brain farts, haha. Will fix!!


James 4 years ago

Yeah, I noticed after I sent the first one that you did have it correct 2 other times. Hey, I've worked with Fred and Jeff for 22 years and every blue moon I will walk by Jeff and say "hey Fred". crap happens we can't control. LOL


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanks for noticing though. Now that I'm middle aged I can't always trust my self-editing skills...hahahaha


duckbrador profile image

duckbrador 4 years ago from Canada

I got to this hub a little late. I think 2 songs are missing from this list, Huey Lewis and the News' I Want a New Drug, called I Want a New Duck and Cyndi Lauper's Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun, called Girls just wanna have lunch. Both are off Dare to be Stupid.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi duckbrador... I can't argue with either of those picks, love'em both ..."Dare to Be Stupid" is my favorite Al record... it just goes to show how many good parodies Al has done over the years, it's hard to compile a "definitive" list. Thanx for reading.


Steve 4 years ago

Where is "Fat"? The opening scene where he is confronted by the obese gangsters in the video is absolutely hilarious. Who could forget the memorable lyric "When you're going up for seconds, I'm going for twenty-thirds. When I'm going for a shoeshine, I've gotta take their word!"


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Steve... If this had been a top 15 or top 20, "Fat" definitely would've made the cut....as you can see, he's had so many good songs that it's tough to boil it down to just ten!!


Geekdom profile image

Geekdom 4 years ago

I love Weird AL. The guy is a genius. Not only are his songs funny but because they cross genres you get to have a variety of music on every album (that might have dated me) you listen to.

Hard to pick a top 10 but I would add

Amish Paradise

Dare To Be Stupid

White and Nerdy.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Geekdom. I swear you're about the dozenth person who's recommended "White and Nerdy," if I ever expand this list to a top 20, it's gonna have to be in there!!


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

FatFreddysCat,

Ah, I can't believe you have a hub dedicated to Weird Al; how awesome! The guy used to scare me as a child, but once I understood him I couldn't stop laughing. I think you did quite a job listing many of his songs, some I didn't even know about. I didn't see anyone mention his parody of Crash Test Dummies "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm". If you haven't seen it you should check it out, it's even funnier if you are familiar with the original song. Thumbs up and Awesome


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Cantuhearmescream - I am indeed familiar with Al's Crash Test Dummies parody ("Headline News"), that one actually almost made the cut for this piece... glad you enjoyed, thanx for stopping by!


Keava the Diva 3 years ago

Lump was not the Presidents' only hit. Peaches was on the radio approximately every 5 minutes somewhere during my childhood. That being said, I love Al's original works that are stylistically influenced by different artists. You Make Me comes to mind as a great original in DEVO style. My absolute, hands down favorite is "Everything You Know is Wrong" for originals of his.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Keava - you're right, I had forgotten about "Peaches" ... mainly because I hated that song...haha!!


Muttface profile image

Muttface 3 years ago from Portugal

Love 'Eat it'! Never heard of any of the other ones.


oldiesmusic profile image

oldiesmusic 2 years ago from United States

I have his CD "Running With Scissors" which contains "The Saga Begins". I love many of his songs in your list. "Smells Like Nirvana" and "Amish Paradise" are my most favorites there. Like that guy much, not only he makes funny songs but he also transcends all genres, he's a very versatile artist. :)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Weird Al is among our favorites when we need a good laugh. I love "Amish Paradise" and "Gump". What a great sense of humor he has.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Right on, PegCole17. Al's now got 30 years in song parody under his belt, and he's still the man!!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 22 months ago from The Garden State Author

Updated!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 22 months ago from United States

Though I grew up in the late 80s/early 90s, most of the songs Al was parodying, I had never heard. So, I also find myself hearing Al when those songs come on a radio. He's definitely an inspiration, considering he turned what was otherwise a niche punchline into a lucrative career. More power to him!


Meggan Dunn profile image

Meggan Dunn 22 months ago from Winnie, TX

My favorites "Just Kidding" "You Don't You Love Me Anymore"

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