Weird Al turned down a $5 million beer endorsement deal for ethical reasons

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This is an older story that picked up some steam on Reddit earlier this year, but it’s new to me and I wanted to talk about it. Weird Al Yankovic, 59, once turned down a $5 million beer endorsement deal, I believe in 1990 when that was even more than it is now, because he thought it would be the wrong choice for his young fans. I learned about this because I follow his wife, photographer Suzanne Yankovic, on Instagram and she reposted a story about it. Here’s the post.

View this post on Instagram

❤️ #tbt

A post shared by suzanneyankovicphoto (@suzanneyankovicphoto) on

I couldn’t find the original source for this, but there are quotes online from the interview:

“I don’t have a whole lot of regrets. A number of years ago a beer company offered me five million dollars, back when that was a lot of money, to be their commercial spokesperson”.

He said he turned it down because, “a lot of my fans were young and impressionable, so ethically I believe I did the right thing, but not a day goes by when I don’t think, ‘Hmm, an extra five million dollars would really come in handy’.”

[From undercover.fm]

A commenter on reddit also mentioned that Weird Al was friends with actor Trinidad Silva, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1988. Another commenter puts the year Weird Al turned down the deal at 1990, although I can’t confirm that.

Years ago I was talking with a company that wanted to buy Celebitchy and have us still work here. The deal was close to seven figures, it was incredible and I could have bought a house, retired from this and gone on to something else. However I didn’t trust them, I thought they weren’t genuine about not changing our voice, and subsequent meetings with their editorial team confirmed this. I backed out of the deal. (Reading about the way The Superficial, Pink is The New Blog and IDLYITW were handled after they were acquired has made me feel better about this decision.) The last couple of years have been a little leaner than usual and we’re trying to supplement that by doing affiliate posts. We’re also considering doing a podcast like Dlisted and Lainey Gossip. Reading stories like this makes me feel pretty good about everything.

Here’s Weird Al and his family at the Halloween premiere. His wife, Suzanne, is best friends with Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m putting it on my bucket list now to have dinner with both of them.
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Also Weird Al is friends with Lin Manuel Miranda and was at his star ceremony at the Walk of Fame!
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Photos credit: WENN

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83 Responses to “Weird Al turned down a $5 million beer endorsement deal for ethical reasons”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    I love Weird Al. He’s funny and has always been true to his own sense of weird creativity (minus the Coolio thing, which I genuinely believe was a misunderstanding on his part.) This makes me like him even more.

    • kellybean says:

      What is the Coolio thing you are talking about?

      • Becks1 says:

        He did a parody of Gangstas Paradise – Amish Paradise – that was actually really funny (raised a barn on Monday, soon I’ll raise another!) but apparently he thought they had gotten permission from Coolio to do it, but when they asked coolio he said no, because he thought it was an important topic/song and didnt want a parody of it. somehow no one ever told Al that, so Coolio was pretty ticked about it. The only reason I believe Al (that he thought coolio said yes) is because as far as I am aware, that is the only issue like that in Al’s history of parodies.

      • Lightpurple says:

        Coolio himself heavily sampled Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. Did Al’s people get permission from Stevie’s people and think that was sufficient.

      • Aren says:

        @Lightpurple, when I heard Stevie’s song for the first time I thought Coolio had completely copied it. To me that’s not sampling, that’s a blatant rip-off.
        And considering the importance of the topic, I wished Coolio had done something original and creative, not just change some of the lyrics to another song.

      • tealily says:

        Yeah, from what I’ve heard he only does songs he has permission to use. I think it’s more about the spirit of it, rather than the legality (although I’m sure that’s an issue too).

      • Milla says:

        Pastime paradise is an amazing song, never got real exposure.

        Weird Al is anything but weird, cos this is admirable and he has nice parodies of songs, like a surgeon is my fave. And amish paradise, with a video, is awesome. It’s light-hearted fun.

    • kellybean says:

      Thanks, I had no idea. I loved that song. Both Coolio’s and Al’s.

    • Weird Al is FAMOUS for never ever satirizing anyone’s work who didn’t give him permission, so it HAS to have been a misunderstanding. I have seen so many interviews with him where he explains this. (He never ever did Prince songs for instance, because Prince gave an adamant NO) Al is known as one of the truly nicest, most ethical people in the business. His band is still all the people he started out with-how many people can say this?- I have always loved him because I have heard so many great things about him from crew, etc.

      • Tiffany says:

        Yep, Al went through all the channels and Coolio was gamed….until the song became a huge hit and then it was a problem.

      • Some chick says:

        Cosign. Al is well known to always get permission.

        To answer the “his band is all the people he started with” question… Tom Petty. RIP. Much respect to both!

      • Marianne says:

        And he originally got permission from James Blunt to parody “You’re beautiful” and James later revoked it so Al just released the song for free and never made a video for it.

      • Matt Keeley says:

        WIth “You’re Beautiful,” Blunt himself was always okay with it, it was Blunt’s label, Atlantic Records, that balked. (There’s also a brief joke in the “White & Nerdy” video — which ended up replacing the Blunt cut as the debut single from the album — where Al’s character edits the Atlantic Wikipedia page to read “YOU SUCK!!!!”)

  2. CommentingBunny says:

    I unabashedly, wholeheartedly love Weird Al. Have ever since I was one of those young impressionable fans. He’s one of the only public figures I would legitimately be astonished and heart-broken about if he turned out to be predatory. Hell, I’d be floored if it simply turned out that he was a jerk!

    He’s a musical and comedy genius, seems like such a decent person, and is forever on my laminated hall pass list ❤

    • Celebitchy says:

      I saw him in concert a few years ago and he’s touring again this summer! He puts on a great show and I also would be heartbroken if we ever heard a bad word about him.

      • BlueSky says:

        @celebitchy, please do a podcast!!!!

      • L84Tea says:

        I second that. I commented down below that he puts on a fantastic show. So much fun. And I love that he still works with all the same guys since way back when he started.

      • cannibell says:

        He does an incredible show. Somewhere in my ancient box of clip files, I have a review I wrote during his 1998 tour, which I vividly remember because it was the first time I reviewed something for the big daily in our town and wrote right up to deadline, overhearing someone say something to the effect of “our new reviewer doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘deadline’” or some snarky comment to that effect.
        Time was called.
        The editor started reading. He looked up at me. “This is a pleasant surprise.” #Asshat

        All that to say I have a special place for Weird Al – and you. Thank you so much for posting this story. Thank you for your integrity and for putting stories out every day and giving us a place to gather and talk about things that really matter and about things that maybe don’t matter as much but still make us happy and interested and curious. Thank you especially for monitoring the political situation in a way that makes it possible to stomach.

        All good things upon you, on Weird Al and everyone else like you who understands that at the end of the day, the person you really have to answer to is the one whose face looks back at you I’m the mirror.

        If there’s anything I can ever do to help make sure the site is making enough to support your and the rest of the CB crew’s families, feel free to reach out. I’m great at other peoples’ lives.* (I only wish I was as good at my own!)

        ( *Good enough to have spent 11 years getting paid for it.)

      • Celebitchy says:

        @cannibell we aren’t doing patreon or anything and don’t need help that way! It just took me awhile to come around about sponsored posts and more ads but that seems to be the way to go. It’s all good and I really appreciate the support.

      • jan90067 says:

        Celebitchy, I LOVE this site. It’s been my first “go to in the morning” site for *years*. I tell *everyone* I know about it all the time.

        Thank you!! You, and Kaiser, and Hecate always start my day off in the very best way!

      • Trashaddict says:

        This site has saved me so much money that would have gone into therapy….
        Thanks for sticking by your principles.

      • Lady D says:

        I have learned so, so much participating on this site, it’s like reading a book daily. Thank you CB for sticking to your principles, and thank you for the political coverage, it’s greatly appreciated.

    • If it helps, I live in LA and I have heard from crew, people in the business, etc etc that he is GENUINELY as nice and funny as you think he is.( rarely ever happens, lol) I never give a damn meeting stars at premieres, etc ( I work tangentially in the business and my family and friends ALL do) , but I would be so chuffed to meet Al. I love him too.

      • lucy2 says:

        I’ve always heard that too, that he is just the nicest guy.

        $5 million in 1980s money is a lot more in today dollars too!

  3. Gutterflower says:

    He was the first concert I ever went to when I was a kid. Loved him.

    • Laura says:

      That’s a fantastic first concent to go to! I’m a huge fan of Weird Al and was finally able to see him a few years ago. It was such a great show and I’d absolutely see him again!

      I’m jealous, as my first concert was a Kenny G show my parents dragged me to. I’m okay with his music now, but at 12, I was just mortified to go to a Kenny G show when all my friends were going to proper rock concerts. Woe the life of a pre-teenager :-)

  4. Franny Days says:

    I’m sorry about the leaner times celebitchy. I have been coming to this site for over eight years. I have some suggestions but will keep them to myself ❤️

    • Celebitchy says:

      It’s not that bad I just have to switch up some things. It’s always a balance, but I don’t want to sell out, which is why I liked this story.

      • Alarmjaguar says:

        Thank you for not selling out! I love this site, it is such a breath of fresh air in the mostly awful world of gossip blogs. You guys are fantastic.

      • Anners says:

        Agree – thank you for not selling out. I know it’s a tough decision sometimes, but there is nothing of greater worth than integrity. I love this place – it’s the only site I visit regularly.

      • IMUCU says:

        Glad you didn’t sell either bc I read about what happened with The Superficial a few months ago.

        Also, husband is a HUGE Weird Al fan & I’ve come to really enjoy him too — his new tour starts in our city, so we’ll probably go! We were just talking hypotheticals last night and it was “Who would you want to play at your inauguration if you were elected president?” (bc we’d just read an article about the Oakridge Boys & the Bushs relationship) and one of his top answers was Weird Al (other was Sophie B. Hawkins). :-)

      • Melly says:

        What did happen to The Superficial? I use to go on that site all the time, that’s how I first discovered Celebitchy! Now the superficial is just terrible.

      • Nicole says:

        Podcast!!! (Jumping around and my hubby is giving me side eye) we need this!

      • Meg says:

        Yes-thank you for not selling out. This site is a daily read for me so i would not be happy if it ended or sold out. I dont think more ads would be bad?

    • BearcatLawyer says:

      This is one of the smartest and most entertaining sites out there. Stay strong, CB!

  5. kellybean says:

    His wife is truly a beautiful woman and his daughter looks adorable.

  6. smcollins says:

    Weird Al, his wife Suzanne, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Guest and Lin Manuel Miranda. Now *that* would be a dinner party! The pain in my face & stomach from smiling and laughing so much would totally be worth it.

    Edited to add: I loved him as a kid and have had a soft spot for him since he lost both his parents to carbon monoxide poisoning. His humor and positive outlook never wavered (at least not publicly) and he just kept moving forward not letting it drag him down (again, at least not publicly). His strength & perseverance is something to be admired.

  7. Tiffany says:

    I will like to suggest you look up his interview with Questlove. It is so good. I have always liked him but I did not realize what a musical background the man had.

    Time to go listen to Trapped in the Drive Thru.

  8. CharliePenn says:

    He’s such a wholesome fella. It was fun to have his music growing up in the 90s, lots of laughs!

  9. Mere says:

    I also have been reading this site for years. It is the one thing I read when I wake up. Every day. (Newspaper comes later, after the coffee gets absorbed.) I can count on one hand the number of times I have clicked an ad. Please feel free to do a different advertising strategy. I don’t mind buying something once in awhile to subsidize all the amazing free content I get here! I really appreciate the thoughtful approach to ads, but the war has been lost. No need to fall on that sword.

  10. L84Tea says:

    I love Weird Al. He came to my city a few years back and I surprised my husband with tickets to see him. He puts on an amazing and entertaining show.

  11. mom2two says:

    Weird Al is one of my favorite people on this planet. All the love to this man!

  12. Dorothy#1 says:

    I would totally listen to your podcast!!!

  13. Arpeggi says:

    I love Weird Al! His was one of the few shows we’d watch as a family when I was a kid and we all thought it was hilarious. Plus it helped us to learn English (alongside The Simpsons). When my mom still worked at a copyright agency, she got a call from his agent and totally fangirled him! She was so excited she called me right away to tell me. I went to see his show about 3-4 years ago during Just for Laugh: it was cold, it was raining (it was outside) but I was beaming through all of it.
    And he is the kindest, most decent, dorkiest person ever. What’s not to love?!

  14. Jane Does says:

    There is precious little to laugh about these days and I love this man’s silly humour. He’s a gift.

  15. Kitten says:

    Wow that’s quite a story, C/B! I think I speak for most of us here when I say that we are very grateful that you didn’t sell out.

    • Celebitchy says:

      They might have screwed me on the money but I did have a lawyer. Like I said I know for a fact they would have ruined the site. Also to everyone saying they’ll help, we’re doing pretty well and you don’t have to buy anything from us! It’s not dire straits it’s just obvious sh-t is changing in the online ad world. We’re getting new ads and we doing sponsored posts now. I feel weird about it but many other sites do it.

      • Cee says:

        Not weird at all. This is a job for all of you and we benefit from this site. At least I have learned a lot and enjoy spending time here. Can’t say the same thing about other blogs.

    • Esmom says:

      Indeed. And I’m here for whatever changes need to be considered and made!

  16. SlightlyAnonny says:

    Everything about a Lin Manual Miranda/Weird Al Yankovic friendship just feels right.

    And definitely do a podcast! I like “Show Your Work” (even though I have to listen to it on double speed ((Canadians are slow talkers)) because it gets into the nuts and bolts of showbiz. Some of this stuff on this blog, I don’t always get, like the Brad/Angie stuff, how you know there are all these levels being played, so I’d love to hear about that behind the scenes stuff.

  17. Lala11_7 says:

    Weird Al is one of my FAVORITE POP STARS! A magnificent talent and someone that intuitively…I KNOW I will never have to fear will do anything to be intentionally cruel….this story only quantifies what I’ve always known…

    And Celebitchy…

    If things EVER get too rough…you let us know…we come here for escape and to commune…THAT HAS VALUE….and if you need us…TELL US!

    • SJhere says:

      I completely agree! I’d be happy to make a $ contribution to keep this site as is. I check it throughout my day, during my “generous” 15 minute work breaks, and I enjoy this site very much. Good work from you team Celebitchy. And to all my fellow commenters too. Interesting to see comments, and generally without nasty/snotty attacks. That’s getting rare on the Net.

      Weird Al-wise, this guy has talent. No 2 ways about it, his parodies are very funny, clever and clean enough that everybody can enjoy his work. That’s also becoming rare.

  18. Erin says:

    I love this story and Weird Al. First tape I ever owned! I’m so appreciative to have a site like this to come to. I remember the old Saving Face board from like 2005 and have been coming to Celebitchy since it was discussed there. Y’all are thoughtful and a real source of comfort in these weird, weird times.

    • Laura says:

      Weird Al was my first tape cassette too! I got to see him live for the first time during his last tour, and I actually involuntarily shed a tear *lol* It was so cool to see someone you’ve listened to since you were little – and his show was SO much fun :D

  19. Eden75 says:

    Weird Al is one of my fav’s, always has been, always will be. My daughter knew all the words to The Saga Begins before she knew them to American Pie. He’s still on my play list and will stay there. White and Nerdy is my anthem baby! He has always come across as a genuine, nice guy. I’m hoping to get to see him in concert one of these days!

    Edited to add: If you watch the video for The Saga Begins, it’s a bit shocking what Al looks like for the first little while you watch. First time I saw it, I was like “who’s the cutie?” Then I was like, OMG!

  20. kgeo says:

    If you have kids, check out Story Bots. Weird Al produces it and it is incredible. I have a M Sc/job in a subject that requires me to be kind of good at a lot of different STEM disciplines and I gained a better intuitive understanding of some very basic STEM concepts from this show.

  21. greenmonster says:

    This makes my day. My week… well actually that is the best thing I’ve read in 2018.

  22. Ms says:

    You definitely did the right thing, CB. this is the only gossip blog I read specifically because is different from the others. The quality of stories here is distinct, and it’s the only site where I can stand to read the comments section, which I usually look forward to just as much as the original posts.

  23. Sparkly says:

    Love Weird Al! This just makes me love him more.

    I’m very grateful that you didn’t sell this site. I go to other ones every now and then, but this is the only gossip site that I come to daily and enjoy being a part of. I can’t even remember how many years I’ve been here now, but you have been a part of my life for a long time now, and I really appreciate this site and all the hard work you guys put into it!

  24. KidV says:

    Back in the 90′s before an MTV music award show, they had one of their reporters stalking the talent entrance to the theater to interview whoever they could catch going in. I don’t remember the whole premise of this, I just remember this part: Weird Al went to the talent door but the security guard wouldn’t let him in. He didn’t know who Weird Al was. Instead of throwing a “Don’t you know who I am!?” fit, Weird Al politely walked around to the front of the theater to see if he could get in that way. The reporter intervened, told the security guard who he was, the security guard was very embarrassed and kept apologizing and Weird Al was so gracious and nice. He’s genuinely a class act.

    And holy crap is his wife gorgeous! I’ve never seen her photos before.

  25. Usedtobe says:

    His parodies are absolutely genius! I always wonder how he comes up with the stuff it’s so impressive.

    He’s coming to my town this summer but I’ve held off on tickets because it’s at the time of an annual vacation but if I’m not going on vacay, I’m going to the show!

  26. AE says:

    I would freak out if you guys did a podcast. It would be awesome.

  27. Insomniac says:

    I adore Weird Al; doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s the genuine article. And while we’re talking about Keanu being a vampire, can we add Al to that conversation? He’s been doing these parodies since I was a kid in the 80s, and he looks MAYBE ten years older now.

    And thanks, CB, for not selling the site. This is an oasis of sanity for me and if there ever *is* a time you need help, say the word.

  28. tealily says:

    Thank you for doing what you do, CB! This is a great site and a great community. I’ll follow whatever your new projects may be.

  29. Jessejane says:

    Weird AL should host the Oscars. I saw him live a couple of years ago- he’s a great entertainer.

  30. SJhere says:

    If Weird Al did host the Oscars…I would watch the Oscars.
    I hope WA is pulling in the money. I always like to hear about a nice guy doing well.
    ( Especially these days, goodness)

    I might need to head over and YouTube some Weird Al now. :)

  31. Mrs. Smith says:

    I work in TV. Several years ago I was backstage at a popular daytime show and needed to take the “talent” elevator to bring my clients upstairs. The elevator stopped at the next floor and WEIRD AL got on–I had to seriously choke back my fan girl reaction. I simply said Good Morning and he returned the gesture. I was so astounded–I have loved him for decades! But, I had to maintain my professional demeanor and “be cool.” He’s a class act all the way! He’s also quite tall. That’s all I got on Al. As for CB–this site is my all-time fave. I read it every single day. I appreciate that there is no selling out. It’s so easy to do and I love it that you’re doing right by the site writers and fans to stay true to your mission!! XO!

  32. Mollie says:

    Loyal reader for several years now. I would definitely listen to the podcast.

  33. CheckThatPrivilege says:

    I’ve always liked him so much. So nice to read that my affection wasn’t misplaced and that he’s just a really good man.

  34. NotoriousMCG says:

    Fun Weird Al story – I was a house manager for a venue where he stopped on his last tour, and was the person in charge of taking pictures for fans during the meet and greet. He does have an extremely dedicated fan base, so they did keep things moving but Al would always stop everything if he could sense that someone was having *a moment*. One person asked Al to sign his arm and said he was going to get it tattooed the next day. Al took nearly five minutes holding a busy line to test and find the newest sharpie possible so that it could have the cleanest lines before he very carefully signed where the guy asked him to (and repeatedly asked the guy if he was sure). It was touching.

  35. paddingtonjr says:

    I am so here for a Lin-Manuel Miranda-Jamie Lee Curtis-Christopher Guest-Weird Al-and-Suzanne Yankovic dinner party!! I have enjoyed Weird Al’s songs since “Like A Surgeon” and love to dance around to his songs while doing chores (or just when I feel like dancing!). He is such a great singer, songwriter and over all entertainer. He has quite a devoted fan-base and he shows such love and respect for them. His unwillingness to endorse a beer or any other product because of his beliefs just increases my respect for him.

    He also has a great reputation in the entertainment industry; even though he legally doesn’t need to, he always asks permission from artists he wants to satirize and won’t do the parody without permission (I also believe the Coolio situation was a mis-understanding). It is considered a honor to have one of your songs parodied by Weird Al and many artists see an increase in sales of the original song after a parody.

    Celebitchy, I also wanted to say how much I respect you for not selling the site. I come to this site every morning because I know there will be a nice mix of stories and a real community feel. I like that readers feel comfortable enough to share advice and personal stories on this site. Keep up the good work!!

  36. jenn says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Weird Al personally doesn’t drink (or smoke, or even touch “kind greens”) — and he’s a lifelong vegetarian, to boot. I went to one of his concerts in 2010 or ’11, and it was SO high-energy, SO breathlessly nonstop, I definitely consciously thought to myself “whoa, clean living looks awesome!”

    Much respect to a living legend.

  37. Hoot says:

    “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” – Bob Marley

    Who’d have ever thought Bob Marley and Weird Al Yankovic would have the same life philosophy?

    My brothers and I had parents who encouraged us to learn an instrument. Oddly enough we all chose the accordion (our Czech heritage probably had a lot to do worth that), NOT the most popular instrument, lol. So I have this close connection to Weird Al, who is also of Slavic descent (Yugoslavian). My siblings’ obsession with Dr. Demento in the late 70’s (Weird Al’s musical inspiration), and the fact that my husband grew up in Fallbrook, CA, where Al’s parents lived when they perished from carbon monoxide poisoning, also make me feel slightly related. I’m glad he’s maintained the strength to stay true to himself in a profession that has no qualms about backstabbing a fellow artist.

    Celebitchy, you have created a site that is a diamond shining among rhinestones. I appreciate the quality of your work so much, as well as the level of intelligence your commenters/followers exhibit. If you ever do feel that things are going south, please reach out to us. I for one would want to contribute in whatever way I can.

  38. LynnB says:

    I believe that Lin-Manuel and Weird Al were actually having a meal together when they both learned they would get Walk of Fame Stars…?