The obvious highlight of last night’s 66th Emmy Awards was, of course, when “Weird Al” Yankovic gave lyrics to a few of today’s most popular instrumental TV theme songs. It’s no surprise the pop-culture parodist nailed it; he’s been making songs funnier for three-plus decades now, and his most recent album “Mandatory Fun” debuted at Number 1.
But you may not have realized that last night’s TV theme medley wasn’t Weird Al’s first foray into this arena; he actually has a long history of improving the little ditties that play when your favorite shows start.
During 30 Rock’s sixth season, Weird Al appeared in an episode called “Kidnapped by Danger.” His cameo centered around him doing a couple of parodies of songs Jenna wrote, and those songs are obviously great. But at the end of the episode, Weird Al stuck around, and offered some fresh lyrics to the show’s normally wordless theme.
Conan’s talk show on TBS has a lot of great things going for it: The Masturbating Bear, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and sidekick Andy Richter. But there’s one thing the show DIDN’T have: words to its theme song. Until, that is, Weird Al paid a visit to the show back in 2011.
Weird Al’s 1989 cult classic UHF (finally coming to Blu-ray later this year!) featured, of course, a theme song written by Weird Al. But the movie also featured a classic TV theme that was reworked as a Dire Straits parody.
And that wasn’t the only blast-from-the-past theme song Weird Al has done an alternate version of. There’s ‘The Brady Bunch,’ his Men Without Hats’ ‘Safety Dance’ parody that gives the 60′s show an 80′s synth-sound. And on his classic 1985 album, Dare to be Stupid, Weird Al recorded a cover of the theme song to George of the Jungle, a cartoon that ran for a few months back in 1967. In 1997, when the show was turned into a live-action movie starring Brendan Fraser (who else?), Weird Al’s version was featured on the film’s soundtrack.
And speaking of short-lived TV shows, in the glorious fall of 1997, Weird Al had his own show on CBS. It was a Saturday morning kids’ show, and it didn’t last very long – 13 episodes to be exact. Apparently there was a lot of back and forth between the network and Al as to what tone the show should have, and things ultimately didn’t work out. The good news is that you can buy the series on DVD, and that Weird Al wrote himself a pretty amazing theme song.
In the mid-90′s, Weird Al combined two of the era’s most popular TV shows. In a song he never released, but performed live on tour, he did a version of the Friends theme song that he said would have worked as a theme to Home Improvement. Two decades before his Iggy Azalea parody ‘Handy,‘ this is ‘I’ll Repair For You.’
Of course, Weird Al has recorded many other songs inspired by TV shows. There’s ‘Ricky,’ a parody of one-hit wonder Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey,’ that’s also an homage to I Love Lucy. There’s ‘Bedrock Anthem,’ which spoofed not one but TWO Red Hot Chili Peppers songs while honoring The Flintstones. The Soup on E! started off as a show called Talk Soup, and it featured highlights from talk shows (this was before reality TV because the behemoth it is today). Guess who wrote a song that would have made an amazing Talk Soup theme? You really should be able to guess. On a similar note, ‘One Week’ by Barenaked Ladies became an ode to Jerry Springer. ‘I Lost on Jeopardy‘ features a cameo from the late, great Don Pardo (who used to be the announcer on Jeopardy long, long ago.) And while we’re talking about men with famous voices, we have to mention ‘Here’s Johnny,’ Weird Al’s tribute to Ed McMahon, who was Johnny Carson’s sidekick on The Tonight Show.
HONORABLE MENTION (Since it’s a movie theme) In 1996, Leslie Neilsen starred in a James Bond parody movie called Spy Hard (a whole year before Mike Myers did it – more succesfully – with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery). The movie itself is largely forgettable, but it did have a memorable opening theme song, sung by the master parodist himself.
And just in case you missed it, here is Weird Al’s show-stopping performance at the Emmys, where he added lyrics to the theme songs of Mad Men, Scandal, Homeland, Modern Family, and Game of Thrones.