Fact vs. fiction: Here’s the truth behind ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’

The new Daniel Radcliffe film is a loopy parody of musician biopics, but it still contains some nuggets of truth.

Christian Holub

WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.

Hopefully no one takes Weird: The Al Yankovic Story at 100 percent face value. The brilliant conceit at the heart of the new film from director Eric Appel is that it parodies popular musician biopic films in much the same way that “Weird” Al Yankovic himself parodies pop songs. Weird, which stars Daniel Radcliffe in the title role, gets quite outlandish and cartoonish by the end of its runtime. But there are nuggets of truth embedded within the surreal tapestry. 

Allow us to help you separate fact from fiction when it comes to Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 01: “Weird Al” Yankovic and Daniel Radcliffe attend the “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” New York Premiere at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on November 01, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

‘Weird’ Al Yankovic with ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ star Daniel Radcliffe.

| Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty

Was Yankovic pressured by his parents not to pursue music?

Yes and no. As played by Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson in the film, Yankovic’s parents are hilariously restrictive — at one point, Huss’ character smashes his son’s beloved accordion to bits. That’s all a bit exaggerated, but Yankovic said in a recent L.A. Times interview that his parents really were conservative and disapproved of him listening to goofy novelty music. 

Yankovic’s dad never went so far as to smash his beloved accordion, but the musician really did acquire said accordion from a traveling salesman, like the one played by Thomas Lennon in the film. In that L.A. Times interview, Yankovic explained that the salesman actually presented him with a choice between an accordion and a guitar. Thankfully he chose the former, and the rest is history.

Is Dr. Demento a real person?

Yes! Barry Hansen, a.k.a Dr. Demento, really is a radio DJ specializing in novelty songs who gave Yankovic his start by playing “Belvedere Cruising” — an ode to the family station wagon — on his syndicated radio show. Yankovic went on to become the most-played artist in the history of The Dr. Demento Show.

Did ‘Weird’ Al really have a relationship with Madonna?

No, Yankovic never actually dated Madonna. But they did have an interesting connection. Unlike any of the other artists Yankovic has parodied over the years, Madonna came up with the concept for his parody herself. As Yankovic recounted at the film’s New York Comic Con panel, Madonna wondered aloud to a mutual friend about when he might transform her hit “Like a Virgin” into “Like a Surgeon.” When Yankovic heard about this, he agreed that the idea was a good one and went through with it.

Does ‘Weird’ Al really make original music?

Yes, though they don’t appear in the movie. Radcliffe’s version of Yankovic is tortured by the popularity of his parodies, and after a certain point strives to make original music instead. Weird pulls a goofy sleight of hand here, pretending that Yankovic came up with “Eat It” before Michael Jackson recorded “Beat It” (which is, of course, false). But in real life, Yankovic does have plenty of original songs — usually a few per album. In fact, Yankovic’s most recent tour was dedicated to playing these originals live.

Was Yankovic really assassinated by Pablo Escobar’s cartel?

No! Thankfully, Yankovic is alive and well today.

Related content:

WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Daniel Radcliffe stars as “Weird Al” Yankovic in a satirical biopic about the parody musician’s life and heightened versions of his runnings-in with celebrities like Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Demento, and more.

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