Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

August 10, 2023

To have been alive in the ‘80s was to know that for every hit song, there would be a hit parody. Beat It? See Eat It. Like a Virgin? How about Like a Surgeon? Those were the days when Weird Al Yankovic, the king of musical parody, ushered in an era of fun, and no hit song was safe. Yankovic’s
songs were every bit as much a part of the zeitgeist as the hits he parodied. And his songs became the hallmark of a generation’ssense of humor, wacky  humility and goofy good-nature.

So when Roku’s Weird: The Al Yankovic Story came out in late 2022, it might not be surprising that it found a welcoming\ audience. An upbeat, funny film with hilariously committed performances, the movie makes all the right moves to be a crowd pleaser. From the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al, to the numerous cameos from great comedians as well as Weird Al himself, the film knows its audience and gives us what we want, winks and all.

But what may have been surprising was that it became a runaway critical hit, garnering a dozen award nominations and an impressive nine wins including a Critics Choice Award for best movie made for television and the 2023 Eddie Award for best edited, non-theatrical feature film. The Eddie went to the
trophy case of editor Jamie Kennedy, ACE, whose previous work includes Love, Victor and The Summer I Turned Pretty. Kennedy’s path to editing Weird has been an organic one, built on relationships and shared fandom. She began in scripted as a post PA on Modern Family, eventually getting the opportunity to work closely with editor Tony Orcena.

“I was mentored by the best people [on Modern Family]. They all knew I wanted to cut and everyone was literally like a family. My editor, Tony Orcena, who I followed to other shows, gave me co-editing credits.”

From there, she moved up to editor on Flipped for the short-lived Quibi, which led her to work on Die Hart where she worked with Eric Appel and discovered,  of working side by side, that he’d made one of her favorite Funny or Die videos of all time – a fake trailer for a movie that looks a lot like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Kennedy told Appel how much she loved that video and she couldn’t believe she was working with the creator. He told her he’d been trying to get the feature version off the ground and, as Kennedy tells it, “I told him, ‘Eric, you ever make the feature version, you have to call me!’”

And in 2022, he did. It was a tight schedule, but Kennedy took the feature editing job between seasons on The Summer I Turned Pretty. “I basically slammed right from the ending of Summer into Weird, which shot for 18 days, then the editor’s cut was due 10 days after that!” It was all said and done by the middle of  Summer I Turned Pretty. What resulted from that tight schedule is comedy gold. Great actors and comedians came together on a fantastic script. Frankly, when confronted with great material performed by great actors, just how did she keep any scene from running an hour?

In a huge ensemble moment in Weird, a group of comedians including Jack Black, Conan O’Brien and Emo Philips to name just a few, gather at a pool party in a critical scene plot-wise, that’s stacked with jokes, comedy references and physical humor. According to Kennedy, she tackled that scene the way she handled the humor in the whole film by adhering to a central question: “The first question we were always asking was ‘is this joke serving our purpose or is it too wink-wink, nudge-nudge at the audience?’” The key was keeping the humor – as outlandish and broad as it could be – grounded. “That’s the genius of it,” explains Kennedy, “when we were looking at the humor (because all of it was so funny) when we were winnowing it down, we made sure that the specific jokes would always live within the realism of the movie that we were trying to show.” It came down to the tone, and never wavering from treating the subject like a serious one.

The tone remains hilariously straight, completely serious despite all the comedy swirling around the screen. And that decision was the north star throughout the edit: “In the editing room, there was a credo that Eric and I always followed – we have to keep the movie grounded.” And strange as it sounds, it worked. “It’s ridiculous when you think about it.

This is a completely fictionalized account of Weird Al Yankovic. Right? But we knew that the humor was going to come from basically playing all of the tropes straight and playing it as close to a real musical biopic as we could. The humor would come from subverting those expectations.” It was that grounded style that helped the film go the outlandish places it went, according to Kennedy: “I feel like when you play things that grounded, then once things start to get a little bit more ridiculous, it’s kind of like a frog in boiling water slowly builds up on everyone’s tolerance to like, the kind of story we’re telling. When the truly ridiculous Pablo Escobar shootout starts happening, you’re like, ‘Well this was the natural progression of this all.’”

According to Kennedy, “A lot of the credit goes go to phenomenal performances and just an amazing script. A lot of people ask, because there were so many comedic actors in the movie, how much of it was improvised. And the truth is, none of it. It was scripted and it didn’t need any like punch ups.”

Kennedy gives credit to Appel’s work – as well as Weird Al, who co-penned the script. As Kennedy cut the film, she also sought to match the style of cutting to the genres that the film moves in and out of. That pivotal pool party scene was inspired by Boogie Nights, so she mimicked the cutting in that film. “Although in Boogie Nights it was one continuous camera move,” Kennedy explains, “which we didn’t have, I was still trying to evoke that kind of cutting pattern to get to that idea in the scene.”

In another moment where the look and feel of the movie shifts, Kennedy brought in friend and additional editor Peter Dudgeon, whose work includes many features like Zero Dark Thirty and Argo. He knew how to cut dramatic, action-packed scenes. So for Weird, he cut the Pablo Escobar sequence. “Every time we got to that scene in the room with Eric, we’d swap out and he would run the show,” says Kennedy. “He took that series of scenes to it from beginning to end.”

Another group that Kennedy praises in their work on the most challenging parts of the movie was the VFX team. Together, they tackled what became the film’s most challenging sequence to edit. Late in the film, Weird Al takes an LSD trip that takes him to the depths of hell and to the inside of a giant egg – all shot on greenscreen, and featuring a lot of actors.

Putting it together was complicated, recounts Kennedy: “The LSD trip was the last thing I cut because I was like definitely like, I’ll get back to you.” The footage came in on a rolling basis, as different actors were available. To help wrap her head around the twists and turns of the lengthy and trippy sequence, Kennedy searched for comps, including the Toy Story 3 furnace moment. It ended up inspiring a hilarious shot of a shredder in the sequence. Kennedy and Appel worked to get the sequence’s timing right before passing the footage off to Bruce Allen and his VFX team at BOA Cinema to add the 3D elements and build the atmosphere. In the end, it’s a fantasy sequence worthy of an already way-out-there film.

The result of all these sequences, fantasy, parody, melodrama and deadly serious comedy, combine in a way that is magical. It isn’t just wonderful. It’s Weird


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