Here’s how Weird Al Yankovic, the accordian-playing king of parody, would like you to think “Another One Rides the Bus” was written: At a pool party, the radio personality Wolfman Jack challenged him to devise a sendup of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” on the spot.
In a scene from “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” the true-except-when-it’s-not biopic now streaming on the Roku Channel, the title character (played by Daniel Radcliffe in a big curly wig) proceeds to knock out Jack’s challenge swiftly, then grabs his accordion to serenade 1970s and ’80s counterculture names like Andy Warhol (Conan O’Brien) and Divine (Nina West) with a fully formed rendition of the tune. (Probably the real story of the comedian carrying around a big, blue loose-leaf notebook to write down ideas, followed by hourslong trips to the library to research topics like ducks, wasn’t quite as exciting.)
How did all those starry cameos came together? Yankovic revealed at a New York Comic Con panel in October that he extended invitations to celebrities on his “holiday card mailing list.”
“I went through my address book, emailed a bunch of my friends, and said, ‘Hey, we’re shooting this crazy pool party in the Valley. Do you want to come out and spend half a day doing it?’” he said. “Thankfully a bunch of people showed up and we were able to pull it off!”
You probably spotted Jack Black’s Wolfman Jack at the front of the crowd — he’s hard to miss in a neon-pink-and-cheetah-print scarf and lusciously thick beard — and Salvador Dalí (that mustache!), but did you catch Pee-wee Herman and Tiny Tim?
Here’s a guide to nine of the famous faces at the fictional party, held by Yankovic’s real mentor, the radio host Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson).
Played by Jack Black
The Weird World of Weird Al
The musician has cracked the Top 40 for decades with his song parodies. With the sham biopic “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” he makes a joke of his own life.
- Review: “Like Yankovic’s music, ‘Weird’ is a note-for-note parody of a genre,” our critic writes of the movie. “Here, the target is the prestige biography.”
- Face to Face: The actor Daniel Radcliffe, an enthusiastic Yankovic fan, plays Weird Al in the film, while Yankovic himself is a co-writer. When the two met, they found themselves on the same wavelength.
- Getting Weird: The director Eric Appel discussed a scene in the movie featuring a college-age Yankovic as he comes up with his first parody.
- A Weirdly Enduring Appeal: National economies collapse, species go extinct, political movements rise and fizzle. But somehow, Weird Al keeps rocking.
The rock ’n’ roll DJ was known for his gravelly radio voice and wolf howls. He was part of a group of disc jockeys in the early 1960s who pioneered the genre known as border radio, because it was broadcast from just over the border in Mexico. (He died in 1995.)
This isn’t the first time Jack Black has shown up flamboyantly attired in close proximity to Yankovic. The actor previously appeared in the 2014 music video for Weird Al’s “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell Williams’s smash “Happy” (in a tie-dye pants-and-sequin-fanny-pack ensemble that makes his Wolfman Jack garb look tame).
Played by David Dastmalchian
It’s OK, we didn’t recognize his name, either. But his work speaks for itself: Deacon was the original bassist for Queen, seeing the British rock band through No. 1 singles like “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust” before leaving in 1997, six years after the death of the group’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Now retired, the 71-year-old, who has often been described as the quiet member of the band, has lived a low-key life out of the public eye, raising six children in the London home he bought with his first Queen paycheck.
Played by Conan O’Brien
It wouldn’t be a party without the king of Pop Art, whose works featuring presidents, movie stars, soup cans and other cultural icons are themselves iconic. He died in 1987.
It’s no surprise that Conan O’Brien, who portrays Warhol in a black turtleneck and white wig, is on Yankovic’s holiday card list — the two have been friends for years. Yankovic appeared during O’Brien’s weeklong Comic Con celebration in 2016 and was a guest on his “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” podcast in 2021.)
Played by Emo Phillips
The pioneering Spanish surrealist who explored subconscious imagery was the creator of the much-parodied 1931 painting “The Persistence of Memory” (think melting watches and swarming ants). By the time he died in 1989, he had become known as “an inveterate irritant, a tease who never gave up teasing and a prankster who made headlines for decades,” as his New York Times obituary characterized him.
The standup Emo Phillips has been opening for Yankovic on his tour this year.
Played by Nina West
The drag queen Divine became a cult favorite as the longtime muse of John Waters, who cast the star in “Pink Flamingos,” “Hairspray” and other films. Divine appears in “Weird” in — what else? — the red dress made famous in “Pink Flamingos.” (Divine died in 1988 at 42.)
For Nina West, a “RuPaul’s Drag Race” queen, Divine is her first film role, and it’s a fitting choice: She grew up a Weird Al fan and has become known for performing as Edna Turnblad, the “Hairspray” character Divine originated in Waters’s 1988 film.
Played by Jorma Taccone
The ’80s-greats party wouldn’t be complete without Pee-wee Herman, lounging poolside in his too-small suit. He’s the comedic alter ego of the actor and comedian Paul Reubens, who started out with the Los Angeles improv troupe the Groundlings in the 1970s and made a career out of playing the man-child character, most notably in the hit 1985 comedy “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” More recently, Reubens, now 70, starred in “The Pee-wee Herman Show” on Broadway in 2010, as well as in the 2016 Netflix film “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” which he co-wrote.
Played by Akiva Schaffer
Even though he’s at the back of the gaggle, we’d know those dripping, sad-panda eyes a mile away. Cooper, the godfather of shock rock who at 74 is still touring and regularly donning a full face of goth makeup, is known for his raspy voice and illusion-filled stage shows packed with pyrotechnics, fake blood, baby dolls, guillotines and reptiles.
Cooper and Yankvoic have met in real life — they wound up singing a rendition of the Beatles’s “Come Together” with Steven Tyler in 2012 when the trio found themselves together in Hawaii on New Year’s Eve. (While Yankovic and Tyler held their own, Cooper had to read the lyrics off a cheat sheet.)
Played by Demetri Martin
Yankovic has long been among the biggest fans of Tiny Tim, the falsetto-voice ukulele whiz whose “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” became a novelty hit in 1968. Yankovic even read aloud Tiny Tim’s letters and diary entries for a 2021 documentary about his life, “Tiny Tim: King for a Day.” (The musician died in 1996 at 64.)
Played by Paul F. Tompkins
If there were a Guinness world record for the most times a human has smashed a watermelon, the comedian Gallagher — and his oversize Sledge-O-Matic mallet — would certainly be the person to beat. The standup, known for his prop comedy, has starred in more than a dozen specials, occasionally mixing up the melon-murdering by subbing apples or oranges but always promising a smashing ending.