SELF MONITORED: Kaprielian lights up like an eighth-grade science teacher on camera, and he enjoys his own act.
It's the coldest day of the winter so far and Al Kaprielian is excited. "Near 15 below in Cheshah County, New Hampsha!" the long-time WNDS-turned-WZMY (MyTV) meteorologist shouts as he hustles down the hallway of his Derry, New Hampshire, studio. "Yes!"
Later that afternoon, answering questions about his career and the cult of personality that's developed around him during the past 25 years, Kaprielian will seem shy, casting his eyes downward and offering soft-spoken stock answers.
But standing on a soundstage, about to record one of the many updates he films for the station each day, he brightens. Because Kaprielian loves the weather. And here (so to speak) he's in his element.
"Crazy business, huh Petah?" he says to his producer as he shuffles in front of the green screen. "Gotta watch Sunday into Monday . . . right now it does not look like a big storm, but you nevah know in this business!"
Waiting, he paces. He fidgets with the four-button control box he uses to change the map. He's dressed up in a slate-gray sharkskin suit. Unseen out of the camera shot, he's wearing loosely-tied tan construction boots.
Through his earpiece, Kaprielian gets his cue, and, on a dime, he's on. He lets loose with a fast-talking, seemingly un-punctuated fugue:
Here is the snowfall amount south of Boston snowing on the Cape and it's coming down pretty good. . . . Wwwwe're headed down into the freezer for a while! . . . It could be 15 below zero in the Monadnock region and then we're gonna snow Sunday there's gonna be a storm in the Gulf of Maine a secondary coastal low we'll have to watch it Sunday night Monday especially near the coast we'll see you next hour.
Not at all like the smooth-talking and self-possessed meteorologists on the air here in Boston, Kaprielian looks more like an eighth-grade science teacher as he springs to life, a gusting late-March gale of exclamations and geeky tics.
Camera off. A deep breath.
"What a business," he says again to himself.
And then, to me: " 'We're in the freezer.' That was a good line."
On January 4, Kaprielian's Wikipedia page was deleted. A note left in its stead explained that one of that site's administrators had decided he showed no evidence of meeting the site's "notability criteria."
Kaprielian's fans thought otherwise. As one soon wrote on Wikipedia's discussion page, in a post pocked with righteously angry typos: "he's been on the air for decades for gods sake . . . how more notable does he need to be?"
Within days, the Wikipedia page was back up.
Kaprielian has been broadcasting the ever-changing weather to millions of viewers in southern New England — from New Hampshire, down the Merrimack Valley into Greater Boston and even back up to Kittery/Elliot/Berwick in Maine — since 1983. And in that quarter century, he's amassed a passionate and gleefully irreverent fan base for which most mere weathermen could only dream.
It isn't just the ease with which he explains frontal passages and amplitudinal jet streams that's earned Kaprielian his fervent following, or seen him laurelled with august honorifics such as "Best Weather Forecaster" in the Nashua Telegraph's 2004 Readers' Choice Awards, or made him famous enough to lend his inimitable voice to a new line of Al Kaprielian ring tones. (Download yours at mytvstation.tv!)
A large part of Kaprielian's strange appeal is his voice. He has a chirpy, gravelly, adenoidal, marble-mouthed, Natick-accented way of speaking that often finds him running his words together excitedly, so that the greeting "good afternoon everyone, this is MyTV meteorologist Al Kaprielian" becomes a pace-quickening verbal torrent: Goodaftnoonevywonethisizmytvmeterologisstalkaprillion!
But viewers love him for more than his voice (think Tom Menino with a lung full of helium). It's the way he gesticulates emphatically, peppering his forecasts with exclamations from the Three Stooges — woopwoopwoopwooopwoooop — and moving his diminutive frame in front of the virtual map, waving his arms over undulating jet streams with awkward but weirdly balletic precision, like a happy hobbit dancing to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. It's the impish grin, the pumped fist, the impassioned exhortations. ("Let's give Mother Nature a round of applause!") It's his guilelessness, coupled with his evident snow-pure reverence for the vagaries of New England's climate.
People stop him on the street for an autograph. They request his impromptu catch phrase (High presha!). They log on to the Web to discuss him on message boards, to post clips of him on YouTube, to make MySpace tributes, to be part of the Al Kaprielian Fan Club on Facebook. On the Internet, Kaprielian discussion runs wild.
"I believe that they time Al's commercials to come on at the exact moment the Sun and Earth align with Saturn or something, which is why Al's always in such a good mood," writes the founder of the Facebook club.