Madonna, “Eat It”, Yankovic’s origins, Oprah interview, more.

Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic opens with the film’s subject, “Weird” Al Yankovic himself, promising that what viewers are about to watch is a “totally 100% true, not at all made up biopic” about his life and his career. And it’s not like Yankovic would lie about something like that, is it? So… I guess we’re done here. It’s time to call it a day. Mimosa, anyone?

But wait, not so fast. In the first minutes of Weird (Which one is stream for free on Roku), it becomes clear that the film is not Actually interested in telling us faithfully the true story of the parodist. Instead, the whole movie is itself a parody, a parody that pokes fun at the predictable formula of musical biopics. But while some plot points in the screenplay, written by Yankovic and director Eric Appel, are obviously made up, there are several moments where the line between fact and fiction isn’t so clear. We’ve done our best to answer the most pressing questions about Weird‘s veracity, below.

Did Weird Al’s parents really disapprove of his career?

Although they were strict in other ways, Yankovic’s parents didn’t forbid him to get into the polka – in fact, they bought an accordion from Yankovic before he was seven (presumably without beating the bloody salesman, as Yankovic’s father does in the movie). His father worked at a steel mill, likely the inspiration for the “factory” repeatedly referenced as his mystery job.

Did Yankovic’s Roommates Really Become His Bandmates?

While Steve, Jim and Bermuda are all based on real, longtime members of Yankovic’s band – bassist Steve Jay, guitarist Jim West and drummer Jon Schwartz, all of whom worked with Yankovic for over four decades – he is not true that they were all roommates. The film nods to this practical revision of history when the three housemates suddenly start supporting Yankovic during a performance of “I like the rocky road: Al asks why they never mentioned they could play an instrument before, and one of them replies, “Guess that didn’t seem relevant until now.”

Was “My Bologna” really recorded in a bus station toilet?

Bathroom, yes. Bus station, no.

Did Weird Al really become famous like he does in Weird?

Somehow, though the film fudges the details, in its winking, self-aware way. In WeirdYankovic sends a tape of “My Bologna” to the Captain Buffoon Show, making him an instant celebrity. (This comes immediately after Bermuda spoke at length about how much hard work and time it takes to be successful in the music industry.)

Left: Barret Hansen, better known as Dr. Demento. Right: Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento in Weird.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images and ROKU.

In fact, it was radio host Dr. Demento who first played Yankovic’s music, when Yankovic was only 16, and it was an original song, “Belvedere Cruising,” not a parody. Yankovic wasn’t an instant star, but his fame grew in college and beyond, with Dr. Demento continuing to showcase his music on the radio, including “My Bologna.” Dr. Demento plays a major role in Weirdwhere he is portrayed by Rainn Wilson, but in the film he discovers Yankovic at a concert and becomes more of a manager.

Did Oprah Winfrey really interview Weird Al?

Winfrey's face lights up and she waves.  Brunson smiles at an unseen figure off camera.  A row of brightly patterned shirts and a shelf with shoes can be seen behind her.
Left: Oprah Winfrey. Right: Quinta Brunson as Oprah in Weird.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Jim Smeal/Getty Images Plus and ROKU.

She did it, in 1984, on AM Chicagoalthough the film deliberately exaggerates Yankovic’s fame and success, so the real interview is very different from what we see in Weird.

Did Weird Al really write “Eat It” before Michael Jackson released “Beat It”?

Maybe it should be obvious, but many viewers seem really uncertain: No, “Beat It” was released in 1982 and “Eat It” was released in 1984, with Yankovic also imitating Jackson’s music video.

That’s the joke: the movie claims that “Eat It” is the original song and “Beat It” is the parody. “What kind of sick freak changes the lyrics to someone else’s song?” an indignant Yankovic asks, and he’s even more perplexed when he learns that “Beat It” isn’t even about eggs or anything weird like that, it’s just an ordinary song.

So you could say that in the reality version of the movie, Weird Al got “Normal Al”-ed?

You could indeed say that.

Alright, but did Weird Al really date Madonna?

Both women have teased dirty blonde hair and wear headbands adorned with large bows.  They wear short jackets and many sets of overlapping collars.
Left: Madonna Ciccone. Right: Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna in Weird.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Mondadori via Getty Images and ROKU.

No, and according to him, they only met once, in 1985. “I spoke to him for about 45 seconds backstage,” Yankovic says Jimmy Fallon during promotion Weird. “So that’s the extent of the relationship.”

In the film, Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) seduces Yankovic and manipulates him into parodying her song “Like a Virgin” so she gets a boost in sales. In fact, Yankovic says Madonna got him to write “like a surgeon– but only indirectly. Like him says NPR: “From what I heard, she was just thinking out loud about a friend of hers one day. “Oh, I wonder what Weird Al is going to do – “Like a surgeon” – because that seemed like the obvious thing to do. And her friend knew my manager, and the word got back to me. And I thought, well, not a bad idea.

Did Weird Al really have a drinking problem? Did he really take LSD?

A performer abusing drugs and alcohol only to eventually hit rock bottom is an essential part of the musical biopic’s formula, and of course, the film shows Yankovic finding inspiration for “Eat It” while accidentally tripping. He also gets drunk several times during his downward spiral. In reality, Yankovic is – as he tells Madonna in the film before falling into the trap – not really a drinker. He once said in an interview with Paul F. Tompkins that he drinks about once a month and that he claims to have never used recreational drugsout of respect for his parents.

Did Weird Al really win a Grammy for “Perhaps not technically the best but arguably the most famous accordion player in an extremely specific genre of music”?

While Yankovic appears to be a lock for this category, unfortunately he does not exist. He did, however, win five real Grammys: Best Comedy Record for “Eat It” in 1984, Best Concept Music Video for “Fat” in 1988, Best Comedy Album for poodle hat in 2003, best comedy album for Compulsory fun in 2014, and Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package for Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic in 2018. He has been nominated a total of 16 times.

Was Coolio really crazy about Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise”?

Coolio can be seen fuming in the audience, if only for a few seconds, as Daniel Radcliffe’s Yankovic performs the song towards the end of the film. It’s true that the rapper took issue with Weird Al’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” parody, saying he never authorized the parody. However, the two eventually reconciled, with Coolio later calling the song “actually funny as fuck” after finally listening to it. Yankovic posted a photo of him hugging Coolio on Instagram in September after news of the rapper’s death has fallen.

In a grayscale photo, Pablo Escobar smiles at the camera.  In color, Castro's forehead is furrowed and he has a thick mustache.
Left: Pablo Escobar. Right: Arturo Castro as Pablo Escobar in Weird.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Colombian National Police and ROKU.

Was Pablo Escobar really a fan of Weird Al? And did he really lure Weird Al into performing at his birthday party by kidnapping Madonna? And did Weird Al really travel into the jungle to save her and then kill Pablo Escobar and his cronies? And did Madonna really propose that they take over the drug cartel together? And did she really order the assassination of Weird Al at the Shrine Auditorium in 1985? And did Ronald Reagan really speak at Weird Al’s funeral? And did Weird Al really rise from the grave like in the after-credits sequence?

Yes, all of it definitely, absolutely, really past.

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