I’ve always found celebrity cameos to be an interesting dynamic when they are used in movies, TV shows, cartoons, and even music videos. They can become the theme of an episode, or add an element of surprise and whimsy to a name that we see accustomed to playing other roles (imagine Robert De Niro voicing a fish in Spongebob Squarepants). Celebrities can come in for a scene or even appear for a glance, and they’ll leave a lasting impression for the rest of the show. Some of the biggest names in the business make appearances in otherwise mundane (compared to their A-list lives) series, and viewers miss them entirely if they’re not paying close attention.
But it isn’t easy to make an effective cameo. A surprise appearance for no reason isn’t particularly useful, as it leaves the show’s audience, and even fans of the guest star, wondering “why?” A good example of a strong cameo would be (SPOILER ALERT) Steve Carell reprising his role as Michael Scott in the final episode of The Office. Carell’s character leaves in the 7th season but makes a comeback in time for Dwight’s wedding, a move that was well-received by fans of the show. His appearance didn’t steal the spotlight, but it enhanced the emotional deluge and completed the picture that cemented its place in sitcom history.
From Academy Award winners to Grammy-nominated superstars, here are 25 A-Lister Cameos you totally missed in kids shows.
25 Chris Kirkpatrick: Fairly Oddparents
Fairly Odd Parents was a staple of my childhood. It contained such zany and peculiar humor that would remedy the bad feelings from a difficult day at school. If you’re a seasoned viewer of the show, you’re probably familiar with the character Chip Skylark, who was voiced by Chris Kirkpatrick, best known for being a member of the former boy band NSYNC. Chip Skylark is your typical heartthrob who is a supposed parody of today’s boy band singers, but also has a passion for dental hygiene. I suppose it’s only appropriate to be voiced by one of your own brethren. The character appears in a few episodes, in which he usually performs a few musical numbers, and has made cameo appearances in later seasons, but without the voice of Kirkpatrick.
24 Nicki Minaj: Steven Universe.
Nicki Minaj’s larger-than-life personality is emulated in the Cartoon Network production Steven Universe. This is a cartoon about magical guardians known as the Crystal Gems: A group of extraterrestrial figures known as Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst. Along with Steven Universe (hence the name of the show), the half-human half-gem protagonist, they seek to protect the earth from evildoers. Yes, I realize that sounds a bit overwhelming, but it’s a great coming-of-age story with intriguing underlying themes and a wonderful cast of characters.
In the episode “Coach Steven”, Minaj plays Sugilite, a giant resulting from the fusion of Garnet and Amethyst. Borrowing from Minaj’s charismatic nature, Sugilite is known to be bold, unwavering, and extremely powerful. Minaj is familiar to the world of voice acting; she played a woolly mammoth in Ice Age: Continental Drift, and voiced herself in an episode of The Cleveland Show.
23 Michelle Obama: iCarly
When the former First Lady of the United States wasn’t busy performing her usual First Lady duties, she made a cameo on the teen sitcom iCarly, guest starring as herself. Usually a guest star of this magnitude needs a special episode concerning them, perhaps even tying in actualities from their real life. This is one of those cases. Obama had an initiative called Joining Forces, which gave veterans better access to employment opportunities, wellness, and other tools to make it out in life after their service. In the episode titled “iMeet The First Lady”, Obama praises Carly, Freddie, and Sam, the trio of protagonists, for the love and support they’ve shown to Carly’s father who is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
22 Johnny Depp: Spongebob Squarepants
Johnny Depp is known for playing a plethora of bizarre and fantastical characters throughout his film career. Anytime Depp is cast in a film, he carries the movie’s visibility and overall interest. Depp is also known to take on these off-center or peculiar roles that would have most actors terrified, so I’m sure it comes to no surprise that he wound up voicing a surfing fish named Jack Kahuna Laguna on Spongebob Squarepants in 2009 in an episode titled “SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One.” Depp’s character is a mellow, easy-going fish who seems to do nothing but sleep and surf. His wisdom is sought out by Spongebob, Patrick, and Squidward as they try to make their way back to Bikini Bottom after being stranded on an island. While Depp’s character doesn’t say much, you can feel the weight and depth of Depp’s voice being brought out.
21 Larry King: Gravity Falls
Sometimes, when animated adaptations of real-life counterparts are created, they aren’t always voiced by those same people. You’ll hear a character’s voice for the first time, and you’ll think to yourself “Wow, they sound so similar compared to the real person.” Often times it is actually them, but it usually isn’t in the network’s budget to afford such high-profile individuals. However, Larry King was generous enough to lend his talents in an episode of the Disney production Gravity Falls.
In this episode, wax figures of distinguished personalities come to life at night. Some of the notable figures include King, who voices his wax counterpart, and others such as Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, and even Coolio. In addition to a fruitful career as a talk show host on Larry King Live, King has also made a number of television and movie cameos, so he is no stranger to the world of acting.
20 Donald Glover: Sesame Street
I don’t think there needs to be a reason why a celebrity shouldn’t appear on one of the most ubiquitous educational cartoons to exist. Donald Glover is primarily known by his rapper persona Childish Gambino but has also starred in Dan Harmon’s Community, playing the nerdy but lovable Troy Barnes. Glover has also done some work with the sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy, and has also written for the NBC series 30 Rock.
While Glover may not make music catered towards a child audience, he was able to channel a different persona by playing a musician named ‘LMNOP’, a parody of the real-life music group ‘LMFAO’. Glover’s character wanted to perform on Sesame Street, but he lost his entire entourage, leaving it up to the gang at Sesame Street to put on his show.
19 Gordon Ramsay: Phineas And Ferb
Television networks have sensationalized Gordon Ramsay’s persona for years. We’ve seen it on The F Word, Hell’s Kitchen, and Kitchen Nightmares. But, if you’ve ever watched the original British version of Kitchen Nightmares, you might see Ramsay in a different light. We’re used to seeing Ramsay giving chefs a hard time, but this time he takes his attitude to a different dimension, voicing a chef on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb.
On the episode “Thanks But No Thanks”, Ramsay only appears for a brief scene. What might appear strange is that Ramsay seems amiable to be speaking to his guests. However, in just a few moments, he resumes his usual disposition and says that he must go back to firing a member of the staff.
18 Jay-Z: Secret Millionaires Club
This animated series stars Warren Buffet as a mentor to entrepreneurial kids regarding business and financial decision-making. The show itself is kind of mediocre with its poor and unrefined animation, but it does teach kids about the basics of good financial planning, and an understanding of basic economics. Now, Jay-Z doesn’t have the chops to be a voice actor, but then again, he’s Jay-Z. He’s a worldwide superstar, and with all his accolades, he doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.
In the debut episode titled “Be Cool to Your School”, Jay-Z praises a group of kids for the work they’ve done at their school, and offers them encouragement and business tips before sending them out of his office to explore New York City.
17 Stephen Colbert: Rick & Morty
Before taking over Jon Stewart as the host for The Late Show, Stephen Colbert performed a ton of voice roles and has taken part in many comedic ventures. He’s played various characters on The Simpsons, American Dad!, and BoJack Horseman, just to name a few. The creators behind Rick & Morty have produced some peculiar and weird-looking characters throughout its three seasons.
In the episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”, Colbert takes on the role of Zeep Xanflorp, an arrogant, prideful, but also highly intelligent alien formed in one of Rick’s microverses. Xanflorp shares many of Rick’s characteristics, which is perhaps why Rick hates him. The character is an interesting dynamic juxtaposed with Rick, and it feels like Colbert’s natural charm and witty nature seem to fit in ideally as someone who’s trying to take Rick down a peg.
16 Shaquille O’Neal: Johnny Bravo
Shaquille O’Neal has had a distinguished career as an NBA superstar, winning multiple championships with multiple teams. While “Shaq” has made a name for himself in the basketball world, he is also known to be quite an eccentric character. He has ventured into a short-lived rap career, provided his voice for various cartoons and video games, and made cameo appearances in movies and TV shows.
In this episode, which also guest stars Seth Green, Shaq finds out that Johnny Bravo, the titular character, brings him good luck. He then proceeds to strap Johnny to his back. This occurs up to Shaq’s showdown match with Green, in which Green uses Huckleberry Hound as his own good luck charm. Whatever Shaq stars in, the audience will always be in for a treat.
15 Kesha: Victorious
You might know her as the singer of the single “Tik Tok”, which garnered a ton of success in 2010. In 2011, she starred in an episode on the teen drama Victorious. In this episode, characters participated in a contest where they had to piece together Kesha’s name from letters they find at the bottom of ice cream containers. The winner of the contest earns a private concert from Kesha. In the episode, she performs her single “Blow.” This was the first time on Victorious, a show that is centered around a school of performing arts, that they featured a successful pop star. Kesha has recently taken a different approach to music, where partying and debauchery are no longer the flavor, but rather, strength and positivity.
14 Larry David: Hannah Montana
There’s no way anyone over the age of 18 hasn’t seen an episode of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. If you haven’t, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. They’re both up there in top ten sitcoms of all time. These two shows are polar opposites compared to Hannah Montana. The latter is a show aimed at kids, whereas the former two are aimed at people with a sense of humor. Just kidding.
In the episode “My Best Friend’s Boyfriend”, Larry David appears as himself alongside two other girls who happen to be his real-life daughters. If you watch the scene, you’ll find that it might be a call back to a certain scene from Seinfeld. David and his daughters can’t get a seat, but Hannah Montana, shows up after them, gets a table immediately. David is baffled, and hilarity ensues.
13 Snoop Dogg: Sanjay And Craig
Sanjay and Craig is an animated comedy TV series about 12-year-old Sanjay Patel and his anthropomorphic snake, Craig. Snoop Dogg appears on a special episode as Street Dogg, a rap icon and the characters’ new neighbor who wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of L.A. life. Of course, being the rapper that he is, he does drop a verse and takes part in a rap battle.
Snoop Dogg has come a long way since his days with Death Row Records. Now, the rapper enjoys hanging out with Martha Stewart on the variety show Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, where they cook meals and make drinks for celebrity guests. If you think those two have nothing in common, remember that they’re both ex-cons.
12 Dwayne Johnson: Transformers: Prime
Dwayne Johnson is best known for his days in the ring as a professional wrestler under the moniker “The Rock.” Since he retired from wrestling, he blossomed into the world of Hollywood with various acting gigs and voice-over roles. In 2010, Johnson voiced an autobot named Cliffjumper for the Emmy Award-winning animated TV series Transformers: Prime. Cliffjumper appears as a red Dodge Challenger with bull horns on the hood. Seems fitting for someone as built as Johnson. Unfortunately, the character is killed off in that same episode but makes appearances later in the season, however, without Johnson’s voice prowess. It seems strange to use a figure of such popularity for such a brief scene, but I suppose announcing that a Hollywood star will make an appearance in the debut would boost ratings and viewership.
11 Jennifer Love Hewitt: The Weekenders
The Weekenders is an animated series about four ethnically diverse teens and their adventures on the weekend. While these kids do go to school, it isn’t the main driving force behind any of the plot lines. The characters live in California, so it’s possible to run into celebrities once in a while, like Jennifer Love Hewitt. The actress voices herself in an episode and appears unexpectedly – and only for a brief moment in this scene and at the end – when one of the characters asks “you know who we need? Jennifer Love Hewitt.”
Hewitt was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the mid-2000’s, before being upstaged by the likes of the Kardashians and other reality TV stars. She was definitely the bombshell we all had a crush on in the 90s, however, she hasn’t been involved in much since 2015.
10 Backstreet Boys: Arthur
This episode is a special treat for the seasoned Arthur viewers. In this special one hour-long episode, we are greeted with performances by The Backstreet Boys, featuring exclusive and original songs performed by the band themselves. Of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of Arthur if the band didn’t receive the treatment of being morphed into animals, complete with ears and snouts. While Arthur and Buster take a backseat in this episode, Muffy and Francine stand as the driving forces of the story. In this episode, Francine forms a band to try and prove that sellouts like The Backstreet Boys, as she calls them, can strive in the music industry, whereas Muffy takes a different approach to the industry by trying to be the manager for the “boys”.
9 Meryl Streep: King Of The Hill
Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep is an esteemed superstar on film, television, and the stage, and is perhaps one of the greatest actresses of our time. She has received over hundreds of nominations across many distinct categories through her work in various genres, such as drama, comedy, romance, etc. She has done voice roles for various animated works such as The Simpsons, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Ant Bully, so we know she is no stranger to the world of voice acting. Streep makes a cameo on an episode of King of The Hill and plays the role of Esme Dauterive. Her abilities on the voice-over role are excellent, providing a masterful take on a Southern accent. Do we really expect anything less than perfection from one of the greatest of our time?
8 Dustin Hoffman: Liberty’s Kids
Liberty’s Kids is an animated educational TV series that aims to teach kids about the history surrounding the American Revolution told from different perspectives. The characters consist of Benjamin Franklin; an English teen named Sarah Phillips; apprentice journalist and patriot James Hiller; Henri Richard Maurice Dutoit LeFevre, an orphan from France, and Moses the former slave. These characters travel the country, and report their findings to Franklin. The show originally aired on PBS and PBS Kids, but has also aired on CBS, and The History Channel.
In the episode Benedict Arnold, Dustin Hoffman plays the role of the titular character, who fought for the American side until later on in the war when he became a loyalist and sided with the British. Hoffman wasn’t the only celebrity to lend his talents to the show. Others include Liam Neeson, Maria Shriver, Sylvester Stallone, and Ben Stiller to name a few.
7 Robert Downey Jr: Family Guy
The best part about this voice role is that Robert Downey Jr. sounds nothing like himself. He embraces a completely different persona that really shows off his skill as an amateur voice-over artist. Downey’s son is a huge fan of Family Guy, so Downey reached out to the producers to see if he can help out on an episode, and they decided to create a character just for him. Downey plays the role of Patrick Pewterschmidt, Lois’ brother, who was released from an insane asylum. He was sent there by his parents after seeing his mother having some grown-up fun with Jackie Gleason. He concluded that Gleason was evil because he was fat, hence his hatred for fat people. While I usually find fat jokes to be in poor taste, I found that this scene from the episode was quite amusing.
6 Dolly Parton: The Magic School Bus
This episode of The Magic School Bus was a holiday special that featured Dolly Parton as Katrina Eloise “Murph” Murphy, Ms. Frizzle’s cousin and operator of Murph’s Recycling Plant. The episode features some original musical numbers about recycling that are themed to some holiday songs, such as “Jingle Bells”; “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”, and “12 Days of Christmas.” It seems weird to pair ‘recycling’ and ‘holiday’ together, but when a show is dedicated to teaching kids about the wonders of science, they’ll take any opportunity to do so. The famed “Jolene” singer is no stranger to the world of voice acting, as she’s taken on roles in the 1983 film Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Simpsons, and Gnomeo & Juliet. While Parton has enjoyed her share of success, she continues to produce music today.
5 Don Cheadle: The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has a lot of light-hearted moments, and sometimes it actually depicts some deep underlying themes about race and class issues. Take the character Ice Tray (possibly a spoof of the rappers Ice T or Ice Cube), played by Don Cheadle, as an example. He’s a friend of Will’s from back in Philadelphia, and he’s carelessly obnoxious and seems to think that everything is a joke. In this one episode that he appears in, we learn a lot about Will as a character, and how his troubled past was relieved by the presence of Ice Tray who protected him from bullies trying to jump him for his books. While guest stars might not always add to the show, this is an example where we learn more about the main character through the guest.
4 Amy Adams: Smallville
While Amy Adams now plays the role of Lois Lane in the DC cinematic universe in films such as Man of Steel and Justice League, she once played a role on the teen drama Smallville, which follows the adventures of a young Clark Kent in the town of Smallville, Kansas. Adams’ character, Jodi Melville, is a kryptonite-powered villain that has the ability to absorb fat. Though she first appears as an obese classmate of Kent’s, she eats kryptonite and becomes skinny. The episode, titled “Craving”, features Adams’ character unhinging her jaw in the manner something out of a horror movie to eat some roadkill. The scene is a bit uncomfortable to watch, and fans did not take a liking to the character. I suppose you have to start somewhere before raking in Oscar nominations.
3 Rashida Jones: Freaks And Geeks
Rashida Jones has starred in various TV sitcoms, such as The Office and Parks and Recreation. Seeing her in the former roles gives us an unlikely impression that she once played a rebel teenager on Freaks and Geeks. This teen drama lasted for only a season, but it was a hit nonetheless. It received an early cancellation due to having horrible time slots and an inconsistent schedule. But, the show did feature some pretty cool guest stars, one being Rashida Jones. On the episode “Kim Kelly Is My Friend”, she plays the role of Karen Scarfolli, a bully and Kim Kelly’s friend who writes the word “Geek” on a victim’s locker. Currently, Jones plays the lead role in the American comedy TV series Angie Tribeca.
2 Tim Curry: Regular Show
Tim Curry is a renowned English actor who’s known for voicing Nigel Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys, and portraying Pennywise in the 1990 miniseries of Stephen King’s It. If you take a look at Curry’s filmography, you’ll see a lot of voice roles, but you’ll also see that he has won a Daytime Emmy Award for his performance in Peter Pan and the Pirates. Curry is no stranger to the world of voice acting, and to see him appear on Regular Show as the leader of a pack of evil hot dogs seeking revenge on humans for eating them is hilarious. Perhaps the role is a call back to his days as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture show. Maybe the call back isn’t to the role so much as it is to the name.
1 Jon Hamm: Wander Over Yonder
While we know Jon Hamm best for playing the role of Don Draper on the period TV drama Mad Men, he has also taken part in a variety of voice roles, such as on Family Guy, Big Mouth, and even Spongebob Squarepants where he voices a spoofed version of his Mad Men character. Since 2010, Hamm has also done voice-over for Mercedes-Benz commercials.
In Disney’s Wander Over Yonder, Hamm plays the role of Cartoon Lord Hater in the episode “The Cartoon.” Lord Hater is supposed to be menacing, but like most of Disney’s villains, appear somewhat silly and nonsensical. In this episode, Lord Hater demands his henchmen to make an action cartoon about him, but they end up making him look kind of lame. Hamm sounds unrecognizable in this role, showing how adept he is in his skills as a voice actor.