Balancing The Tone Of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story Meant Cutting Some Really Funny Scenes [Exclusive]

Director Eric Appel's "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" is a high-concept comedy that takes some scant facts from the real life of "Weird Al" Yankovic, but drastically alters them to fit into the often-used mold of a cliché Hollywood biopic. In real life, Yankovic was a nerdy kid who liked comedy records. His parents bought him an accordion from a door-to-door salesman. He took lessons. He recorded records in his room. In "The Al Yankovic Story," his parents treat his passion for the accordion and for comedy music as an unfortunate drug habit. "Your father wouldn't approve of this," Al's doting mom says as she clicks off "The Dr. Demento Show." Later, a teen Yankovic is arrested at a contraband polka party where accordions are passed around like bongs. "The Al Yankovic Story" is, like an Al song, a parody of the real thing. 

One of the secrets to Yankovic's parodies is the artist's impeccable musicianship. Writing funny alternate lyrics to established hits is one thing, but actually performing them, nailing the instrumentation, riffing on the music ever so slightly (Musical Mike's "fart noise" hands are heard throughout Al's first album), and singing passionately about Spam or leper colonies, is quite another. Once the music is skillfully presented, the silly lyrics serve as a deconstruction of the overall self-seriousness of all pop music. Al wasn't just making jokes — although he was — but also serving as a puckish cultural critic, lambasting the po-faced earnestness of a major art industry. 

That same earnestness is what drives most Hollywood musical biopics, and, like Al's songs, Appel sought to undo it with comedy. As such, the tone of "Weird" had to be just right, otherwise the central joke would fall apart. 

The storming-out scene

In a recent interview with /Film's own Ethan Anderton, Appel talked about how balancing that tone was vital, and came at the expense of some of the movie's funnier scenes. In order to maintain pace and attitude, Appel had to cut out a few notable gags. In the film's early scenes, Julianne Nicholson plays Mary, Al's mom, and Toby Huss plays Nick, his dad. Not true to life, Al's parents in "Weird" object so strongly to his passion for comedy that a teenage Al storms out of his house, hoping to never look back. Appel explains that the version of the storming-out scene was once longer and funnier, but the gag undercut the parody:

"The scene where teenage Al runs out of the house. 'I'm leaving.' He gets in the fight with his dad, and the dad's like, 'Good riddance.' We fade away from that. That's the end of the scene, right? You leave on this emotional note. We filmed a version where, after he leaves, the mom comes back in, and she's like, 'What is all this noise? What happened? Where's Alfie?' And the dad says, 'He's dead.' And she's like, 'What?' And then he goes, 'To me. He's dead to me.' And she's like, 'Oh, phew.' And it was so funny. We loved it. But it just didn't work in that moment."

That's very funny, but Appel recognized the need for actual sadness so that the comedy works better. Additionally, it mirrors a scene earlier when Huss savagely beats the door-to-door accordion salesman (Thomas Lennon) nearly to death. Repeating a joke will only be funny if it becomes a running gag. In "Weird," it did not. 

The Yankovic cut

Appel, however, would hate to see so many excised nuggets go to waste. Although not promising anything explicitly, the director does daydream out loud about the possibility of sharing those scenes with the public in the future. He said: 

"So hopefully there's a world in which, if the movie's popular enough, maybe Roku will let us release the Yankovic Cut, and we could put all these, because the movie, there are gags that are peppered throughout the whole movie that we filmed that we ended up not using."

Yankovic himself had previous written and starred in a feature film back in 1989 called "UHF," which was initially a box office bomb, but eventually became a cult sensation. When audiences finally showed enough interest — some 15 years later — the studio that owned the home video rights assembled DVD-ready interviews, recorded a few commentary tracks, and even culled up some of the scenes that had been cut from the film. Some of the gags were cut for very good reasons (there's a rather offensive fake TV show clip that wouldn't fly in 2022), but they are, regardless, available. 

Appel and Yankovic are likely hoping that "Weird" doesn't take 15 years to grow a cult. If the cult starts immediately, then the inevitable Blu-ray release of "Weird" will contain all kids of gems. Be sure to join a cult today.