Music

A (Mostly) Complete History Of ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic’s Television Career

Al Yankovic, or “Weird” Al Yankovic as he likes to be called, is as culturally relevant as ever, despite the fact that he’s been making music for more than 30 years. His most recent album, Mandatory Fun, was his first to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, perhaps owing in part to all the delightful music videos he made. When you are an institution like Weird Al, and when you’ve been around as long as he has, you are going to appear in other mediums here and there. Inspired in part by his recent appearance in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, here is an incomplete history of Weird Al Yankovic being on television.

We say “incomplete” because it does not include all the various VH1 shows he has popped up on, or his late night appearances. It also doesn’t include his voiceover work, of which he has done a lot. Although, if you want to read about him appearing on The Simpsons, we’ve got you covered. This is about Weird Al actually showing up on the screen in a scripted part, usually in a small role, but delivering nonetheless. However, we are also skipping over The Weird Al Show, his kids show that aired for one season, because that’s a story for another day.

IMDb would have you believe that Yankovic had an uncredited role as a keyboard player in a 1983 episode of Laverne & Shirley entitled “The Rock and Roll Show.” It’s somewhat plausible, but, upon further investigation, we’re skeptical. This guy looks more like Frank Zappa than Al Yankovic.

As such, it would seem that his first acting role was that of “The Cabbage Man” in an episode of the anthology series Amazing Stories. In this particular episode, The Cabbage Man comes to Earth to tell the man behind the Miss Stardust beauty pageant that he is the rightful holder of the title, and threatens to destroy the Earth. Video of the episode is tough to come by, unfortunately.

This brings us to Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, where Weird Al popped up in 1991. If you don’t remember this show, it was basically a warmed-over version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with Parker Lewis always scheming and what have you. In this particular episode, “The Human Grace,” Parker is trying to make a love connection between two people. Weird Al shows up as part of the plan, playing “As Time Goes By.” It’s brief, but it’s fun.

Yankovic then made two appearances on the educational program Square One TV. Once, he played a song called “Patterns,” which isn’t terribly different than any of the late night appearances we excised. However, being that he later showed up in a different episode during the Mathnet segment, it got included anyway. Mathnet is a bit of a cult classic, a mixture of math and police procedural, wherein Weird Al once appeared as Murray the Mouth.

In 1998, The Drew Carey Show did a multi-episode arc in which Drew joined a hotel band. There was an episode where a bunch of famous musicians showed up to try out for the band (Joe Walsh of The Eagles, in character as “Ed,” got the gig). However, Drew is eventually replaced in the band himself. Can you guess who replaced him? Here’s a hint: Drew played accordion in the band. That’s right, it was Weird Al!

Do you remember V.I.P.? It was Pam Anderson’s show between Baywatch and Stacked. It was a goofy show on which Anderson played Vallery Irons, who was a bit of an Inspector Gadget type at a bodyguard company. This was an excuse for getting a lot of celebrities on the show. One of them was Weird Al. The IMDb summary of the episode is delightful enough that anything less than repeating it verbatim would be a crime against nature:

During Argentina’s junta rule in 1951, two Neo-Nazis hide the prototype of a devise meant to revive the Third Reich in a booby-trapped cave of Patagonia’s extinct Diaquita tribe’s lost city Camarena. They accidentally trigger it and die in the explosion. Decades later, an archaeological team digging there hires Nikki as explosives expert, with VIP to protect the treasures. Ukrainian general Koyla Trofimov is on the trail of the ‘hyper-dimensional’ device. Tasha and Quick stay home to install Kay’s state of the art security system for composer ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, but Val accidentally took the control device with her.

Over the run of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Weird Al appeared multiple times as a character called “Uncle Muscles.” Also, one time, he played somebody named Simon. While Yankovic may have the word “weird” in his moniker, he has nothing on the truly upsetting weirdness of Tim and Eric. His general demeanor made more sense in his role as The Ringmaster on an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! In 2010, he spent a lot of time on TV shows with exclamation points in the title.

How I Met Your Mother had an ignominious slouching toward its finale, but, in 2011, people didn’t generally hate it yet. You know what people also don’t generally hate? Weird Al Yankovic! He made an appearance in the episode “Noretta.” The next year, though, he had a much larger role in an episode of 30 Rock entitled “Kidnapped by Danger.” Yankovic plays a pretty important role in a secondary story involving Jenna Maroney. Jenna has recorded a song to promote the upcoming movie Kidnapped By Danger, the tale of Jack Donaghy’s wife’s kidnapping, that Weird Al parodies, as is his wont. Jenna then proceeds to try and create an unparodyable song, at which point Yankovic parodies it by creating a very serious, somber song. It’s just Weird Al doing what he does, making humorous music, but he’s excellent at that. It’s a fun little storyline.

Then, Yankovic got back in that Yo Gabba Gabba! frame of mind by appearing twice on The Aquabats! Super Show!, once as Super Magic Power Man!, and once as President Stuncastin. That show really loved exclamation points. The year 2014 was a big one for Yankovic’s acting career. He also appeared on WWE Raw, which has a little less to do with acting, but is worth noting. He also appeared as himself in the Garfunkel and Oates episode “Third Member,” which just makes sense, considering Weird Al’s stature in the comedy music world.

Weird Al appeared on Drunk History as a little figure you may have heard of called Adolf Hitler. That’s what they call “ironic juxtaposition” in the comedy circles. He appeared as “Cliff Bonadenturo” on Hulu’s Real Housewives parody The Hotwives of Orlando. Yankovic also made a notable appearance on Comedy Bang! Bang! Weird Al has appeared a few times as himself, both on the couch and otherwise, but, in one episode, he plays Mike Cankers, an inventor of some impressive skill. It’s a particularly ambitious episode of the show, so spoilers shall be withheld, but check out “Eric Andre Wears a Cat Collage Shirt & Sneakers” sometime.

Whether or not you watched Galavant, the musical comedy limited series, you probably saw Weird Al dressed as a monk in the advertisements. After all, if you are making a comedy show with songs in it, you get Weird Al Yankovic. Both Hotwives and Comedy Bang! Bang! are from a similar comedy enclave, an enclave that clearly has an affinity for Weird Al, so it is not surprising he has also been on Children’s Hospital a couple of times. Then, he also appeared as Steve, a student in Tom Lennon’s yoga class, in the remake of The Odd Couple. Lastly, of course, there is his role as Jackie Brazen, the famous hypnotist on the Wet Hot American Summer prequel.

This is but a fraction of the pop culture impact Weird Al has had with his acting career. While music is his game, when you ask him to be silly and broad as an actor, or ask him to play himself, he can do it.

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