Kaprielian attended Lyndon State College in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom — students would chant "Al! Al!" when he'd enter the dining hall — earning a BS in meteorology. The summer he was graduated, he applied for a job as a weatherman at WNDS — which, in 2004, was taken over by Fox affiliate WZMY, a/k/a MyTV — and got the job the same day.
"They wanted someone who grew up in New England," he explains. "Someone who knows the topography, the ocean, the storm tracks." Yes, the crazy-quilt of the region's weather, where it's not unheard of to have rain on Cape Cod concurrent with a blizzard north of Boston, demands a native more attuned to local fluctuations, not a smooth-talking stuffed shirt from, say, "Arizona, where it's sunny and 70s and a lot more quiet."
It's also hard to imagine the reverse: affably, spastically ebullient Kaprielian delivering the five-day forecast to the beautiful people of fairer-weather climes.
Kaprielian fan Robin Thomas goes to school at sunny Stanford these days, but in 2008 he was living in the Granite State for a year-long stint with Americorps. He noticed the big glasses, the hyperactivity, the corny ad-libs right away. He'd been unwittingly initiated into the Kaprielian kult.
Al had him at Good Evening!!!
"I was struck by him," says Thomas. "That's a pretty good way of putting it. He's pretty hard to miss. I thought, 'Is this real?' I'm from Ohio, and all our weathermen and -women are very boring. This happy-go-lucky, maybe a little crazy-seeming guy was kind of a new thing for me."
"The first time you see him, it's like, 'How can you not love him?' " says Nick Lorenzen, a communications professional from Dorchester who's a member of Facebook's Kaprielian Fan Club. "Over time, you just embrace his earnest behavior and his genuine love for the weather. You feel like you're rooting for the underdog."
In New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley, Lorenzen points out, Good Evening!!! has "become a colloquialism." Indeed, that kind of thing can happen in an area where "we're on a first-name basis with our weathermen."
Think about it. In a city/region that lionizes its local news anchors (Chet and Nat) and its sports reporters (Bob Lobel), it's the Boston weathermen who seem to enjoy especially exalted status: Don Kent . . . Bruce Schwoegler . . . Dick Albert . . . Harvey Leonard.
All are beloved. And all are also sharp-suited, conventionally good-looking men. Yet short, rumpled Kaprielian, flitting manically across the map, has engendered an affection that, like him, seems sui generis.
Chalk it up to the New England affinity for "the real deal, the genuine article," says Lorenzen. "Here you have this guy who is just raw. Warts and all. Just lovin' the weather. The real-deal, no-bones, 100-percent real thing that New Englanders just embrace."
"He's a tradition," says WZMY creative director Gene Steinberg. "New Englanders love their history and tradition. We changed the call letters, we became a network affiliate, we changed the programming, we changed everything. But the one thing that remains the same, that we can't change, is Al."
In these dark and cold winter months — indeed in this historical moment, when weather is the least of most people's problems — Kaprielian, with his costumes and goofy green-screen switcheroos, says he simply aims to bring some levity to the screen.