The Al Yankovic Story, Ranked

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a lot of things. It’s a biopic, it’s a parody of a biopic, it’s an incredible Daniel Radcliffe performance as the famed song parodist, it’s incredibly dumb, it’s very funny, it is a Roku Original Film (which in and of itself feels like part of the parody) . It’s also chock full of famous faces. Eric Appel has packed his history (adapted from his alternate 2010 Funny or Die sketch of the same name) of writer-director of Yankovic’s life — one in which he not only enjoys a meteoric rise to stardom worthy of a cheesy biopic but also apocryphally dates Madonna, kills a bunch of Colombian cartel members, and inspires Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (a parody of Al’s “Eat It”) — with cameos that are surprising, cheeky, and just plain weird.

Of course, weird, in the case of this movie, is good. The weirder the better, in fact. Not since anchorman 2‘s epic news team battle has a movie taken more madcap delight in trotting out famous people in the service of something this dumb. So in determining which of the cameos in weird rank highest, top priority really should be given to the dumbest ones. The ones where the marriage of performer (preferably someone you’d never have expected) and role (especially in the cases where they’re playing real people) is the most absurd. Honestly, the ideal vibe we’re going for here is Radcliffe himself: Having Harry Potter don first an American accent (he does a good one) and second an accordion to play the singer famous for turning songs like “My Sharona” into songs called “My Bologna” is exactly the vibe we’re going for here.

A note: We’re trying to hew as closely as possible to a faithful definition of “cameo,” so roles like Rainn Wilson’s Doctor Demento and Evan Rachel Wood’s fictionalized Madonna won’t count, even if Wood especially is a gum-smacking delight as the woman whose intense and dangerous love for Al inspired him to write “Like a Surgeon.” While actors and comedians like Thomas Lennon, Johnny Pemberton, Jonah Ray, Scott Aukerman, Eric Appel, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, David Dastmalchian, Seth Green, and more also make appearances in weird playing a variety of real and fictional people, this list will dive right into the 16 most deliciously moronic cameos, starting with …

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It takes a second to recognize McKean as the grizzled old promoter at a rock club where Al’s going to try out his song parodies for the first time. But it’s actually one of the weird least cameos on this list, if only because McKean makes so much sense in this world, given that This Is Spinal Tap puts him cosmically exactly at the nexus between silly parody and rock-music spectacle.

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Oswalt played the role of Doctor Demento in the Funny or Die short film version of this story, so it’s a full-circle moment to include him briefly as a heckler at the rock club. Initially, Al’s accordion and Hawaiian shirts don’t go over well with this rough-and-tumble crowd, and they sure let him hear about it. Is it really weird to see Patton Oswalt show up for a cameo somewhere, one might ask? between theboys other Eternals in the last few years, he’s kind of the cameo king.

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Perhaps the centerpiece scene for weird‘s cavalcade of cameos comes at a Boogie Nightsesque backyard party where Doctor Demento introduces Al to all of his friends, who turn out to be virtually every eccentric entertainer Hollywood had to offer in the 1980s, from Elton John to Grace Jones to Elvira to Pee-wee Herman. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins (in the black-and-white striped shirt above) dons the signature frizzy hair of the late watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher, an appearance that gets its weirdness 90 percent from the fact that it’s Gallagher and 10 percent from Tompkins , who is not exactly a surprise in a movie like weird.

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We knew this was coming from the trailer and promo images, so this loses some standing for the lack of surprise, but it’s still a delight to watch the Abbott Elementary star trot out her Oprah impersonation. Despite what must have been a strong temptation to do so, Brunson doesn’t really do an Oprah Voice, but what the performance lacks in vocal bombast, it makes up for in Brunson nailing ’80s Oprah’s talk-show vibe and particularly her solicitousness as to interviewer.

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It’s a little tough for Will Forte to stand out in his scenes as record-company executive Ben Scotti because of who his scene partner is (more on that below), but the MacGruber star makes up for it by tearing into his role as the real-life co-founder of Scotti Brothers Records, who for the purposes of this movie is the designated music-industry asshole. Forte’s Ben (pictured above on the left) goes off on Radcliffe’s Al in a stream of over-the-line insults that really start to hit below the belt. It’s not that weird that Will Forte would show up in a movie like this, but at the same time: He’s Will Forte. His entire comedic persona is “weird.” In this case, his 15-out-of-10 energy levels make him stand out.

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When Arturo Castro, the actor best known for his roles on Broad City other narcoticsreveals himself as the Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in weird, it’s one of those moments when the film levels up on the surreality scale. The weirdness of this cameo isn’t necessarily in Castro playing the part; he’s a talented actor but not quite yet a household name. It’s the Escobar character himself playing a role on the Al Yankovic story at all that bumps this one up the list.

glee‘s Dot-Marie Jones is definitely the kind of incongruous casting weird is going for. For better or for worse, anybody who is mostly associated with their time on glee is going to carry with them a touch of the kitsch. (This is why they make for great Secret Celebrity Drag Race contestants.) Jones plays a rock clubber who is among the first to change her tune on Weird Al’s music, eventually pumping a fist to “I Love Rocky Road” and letting its Joan Jett riffs and ice-cream-centric lyrics inspire her to demand some Rum Raisin for herself.

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You couldn’t have a Weird Al movie without including veteran alternative comedian Emo Philips. The falsetto-voiced performer who is currently touring with the real Weird Al (and also appeared in Yankovic’s 1989 movie UHF) shows up as the legendary Dali, complete with the Spanish artist’s signature thin, twisting mustache. Both Dali and Andy Warhol whisper about this intriguing new talent Al Yankovic and his accordion-based song parodies. Dali is the more enthusiastic of the two, which honestly makes sense if you think about it (don’t actually think about it).

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The ukulele-playing eccentric who was famously wed on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson was a perfect character to populate Doctor Demento’s backyard blast. Comedian Demetri Martin (pictured above on the right) assumes Tim’s snaggletoothed mantle in the film, and his awkwardness only enhances Tiny Tim’s. For a performance that lasts about three seconds, it’s an immaculate bit of casting, just enough to draw a quick laugh of recognition.

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We’re barely a minute into weird when we get our first cameo, and it’s a doozy, as Lin-Manuel Miranda pulls down a surgical mask to declare a boozed-up, hard-partying Al Yankovic dead on the table. (Don’t worry, he’s fine, we have a whole movie to go yet!) Miranda’s scene tells you everything you need to know about where the movie is headed, in terms of its Muppet Movie levels of celebrity casting. He doesn’t even need to be particularly funny, which is good because he only gets about three lines to speak; his mere presence is the joke.

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Obviously a backyard BBQ featuring the campiest eccentrics of 1980s pop culture was going to include Divine, the peerless drag queen who starred in John Waters films like Pink flamingos other hair spray. Ultimately, if a Divine impersonation is worth its salt, the impersonator is going to end up looking like Divine, so it might not be until the end credits that you realize RuPaul’s Drag Race fan favorite Nina West plays the legendary icon. Divine’s screen persona always trended toward the vicious, which is why it’s a little bit weird that a Miss Congeniality winner like Nina West would portray her, but it was a gag regardless.

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Late in the film, Al shows up at a televised awards show that is decidedly not the Grammy Awards, even though it’s the Grammy Awards. One of the presenters is a resplendent Diana Ross, a role that is far too A-list not to cast with a name. And while it might take a second to register who exactly is playing the illustrious Miss Ross, it is in fact Trenyce Cobbins aka Trenyce! From American Idol season two! The woman who, en route to a fifth-place finish, performed the Supremes’ “Come See About Me” during Motown week, and who also starred as Diana Ross in the North American tour of Motown: The Musical. But while she inarguably has the credentials for the part, it was still a deeply kooky blast from the past to see Trenyce back on a screen in 2022, nearly 20 years after Joshua Gracin robbed her of a spot on the top four.

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After the corridor of cameos in the backyard Boogie Nights scene, it’s capped off by Doctor Demento introducing Al to the bombastic radio DJ Wolfman Jack, played by the only logical choice to play such a character in such a film: Jack Black. It’s just heavenly casting, to which Black will always take the extra mile by making his performance as extreme as possible, thundering at Al like the final boss in an underworld demanding a parody on the spot. It’s the stuff you hire Jack Black to deliver, and he does.

Hey’s Josh Groban. Everything he does seems like it’s halfway in the direction of a bit. Remember when he starred in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway? Remember when he co-hosted the Tony Awards that same year along with Sara Bareilles and was great at it? The man is guileless well past the point where it seems believable, and yet there he is. Of course he’d be the perfectly weird choice to just show up as a waiter in a throwaway role. That is peak Muppet Movie cameo energy.

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Conan O’Brien, a brilliant writer, comedian, and talk show host. Not an actor! Which is why it’s always peak weird and inevitably gratifying whenever he shows up in an acting capacity. Take that whole Conan aura, then, and place it into the being of one of the most avant-garde, visually recognizable, camp icons of all time, Andy Warhol, and the result is a perfect piece of casting. Does Conan imbue the character with the appropriate Warhol energy? Absolutely not! He looks like a teenager who’s too old to be trick-or-treating dressing up like a guy he saw in an old magazine. But that’s what makes this the movie’s grand triumph of cameo casting. So why doesn’t this rank as No. 1?

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Look, this is a thumbs-on-the-scales ringer of a choice for the top spot, but it’s also undeniable. In a faked-up biography of the life and career of “Weird Al” Yankovic, the weirdest cameo can’t not be Weird Al himself playing Tony the record executive who is initially a brick wall of denial but who’s cold heart turns to such sweet Mush at the sound of Al’s ultimate breakthrough hit that you could just about … Eat It. In a list of weird cameos, Weird Al is the weirdest. Thank God he survived such an extreme and dangerous rise to fame in order to be here to play this role.

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