Special Guest

aka: Guest Star

A star brought into a series, to star as himself or a character very similar to one he is famous for playing. In American television, this is common during Sweeps. Especially likely on a Very Special Episode. The technical term is "Stunt Casting." In a sitcom, always accompanied by a "Wooooo!!!". Pioneered on I Love Lucy. Run into the ground by Will and Grace.

See also: The Cameo, Celebrity Star, As Himself, Character as Himself, Celebrity Edition. Guest Fighter is a special version of this that only applies to video games. (Especially Fighting Games.)

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Angel: After the Fall (based on the Joss Whedon-created TV series), Gwen goes on a date with an actor named 'Nate', who bears a striking resemblance to actor (and comic book fan) Nathan Fillion—who starred in the Joss Whedon-created TV series Firefly (and the last few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    Film 
  • Ocean's Twelve: Tess pretends to be Julia Roberts at one point, but is found out when Bruce Willis appears, and receives a call from the "real" Julia Roberts.

    Live Action TV 
  • Hee Haw: While there were "special guests" every week, the one guest that producer/creator Sam Louvillo wanted more than anybody came during the early 1970s ... but he never got him because Col. Tom Parker found out and quashed the idea immediately. That special guest that never was, of course, was Elvis Presley. Additionally, Elvis wanted to be on the show and the negotiations were underway until Parker found out.
    • Incidentally, in 1978, just months after Elvis' death, a Tear Jerker moment came when Elvis' father, Vernon Presley, make a guest appearance on the show to talk about his son's musical influences and how Hee Haw was one of his favorite programs.
  • Full House, Michelle's friend Denise has a famous musician-uncle who turns out to be Little Richard.
    • The Beach Boys also made frequent appearances as themselves throughout the series.
  • Friends has more than you can shake a stick at. Particularly in later series, when it was hugely popular, though it's interesting to spot occasional guest appearances early on by actors who would later become famous.
  • How I Met Your Mother, which seems to have gotten its most fame ever from having Britney Spears on twice. Not the first (or last) the show did, but definitely the most infamous. And Katy Perry.
    • And Bob Barker was supposedly Barney Stinson's father for a while.
  • Just Shoot Me! featured guest appearances from various supermodels (most notably Rebecca Romijn, not as herself but as Finch's wife). Also, performers such as Robert Goulet and George Lucas have also appeared as one of Jack's old friends. Woody Allen appeared in an episode that featured a man who passed himself off as Woody Allen (the real Allen was only heard over the phone at the end), and Ray Liotta played himself as the cousin of Recurring Character Kevin.
  • Las Vegas brought Jean-Claude Van Damme on to the show playing himself — and then killed him off! In general, it had a star/celebrity every other episode it seemed.
  • The Nanny did this roughly every other episode. Once resulted in Fran Drescher meeting herself, this only shattered the fabric of reality a little bit.
  • NewsRadio: Subverted this by finding obscure people as writer in-jokes: Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert), Defender creator Eugene Jarvis and George "Goober" Lindsay (because they liked his autobiography). Then again, they did have their share of genuine guest stars (Jerry Seinfeld, James Caan, Bob Costas etc.), most of whose appearances went pretty awkwardly. (Interestingly, Seinfeld's own sitcom usually avoided such things, although even that had a few - Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei
  • Night Court had crooner Mel Torme show up and spend most of the episode just barely being missed by Judge Harry, who of course is a fanatical fan. This avoids being a Celebrity Star by virtue of the fact that this fandom had been long-established from the first episode of the series.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In episode "Descent", Data is playing poker with holographic depictions of Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. Hawking portrayed his own hologram for this episode. Apparently, he was just touring the set when the writers decided to put him in an episode and a few days later they filmed him. Giving Hawking the honor of being the only person to appear as himself in any Star Trek show.
  • Whos The Boss, "Hit The Road Chad": Ray Charles comes to the Bauers' to play a few songs.
  • The 1970s Toho-produced series Meteor Man Zone (known in the United States as Zone Fighter) had Gigan, King Ghidorah, and even Godzilla as guest stars.
  • EXTRAS: Ricky Gervais plays a professional film extra and meets at least one massive star each episode, always playing themselves. Lampshaded by the fact that every episode of the series was actually named after the main guest star of that episode ("Samuel L. Jackson", "David Bowie", "Daniel Radcliffe") and the fact that one episode revolved around the protagonist's disdain for Chris Martin having a far-fetched guest appearance on his Show Within a Show.
  • Arliss: Arliss is a sports agent that has many big name sports clients.
  • Entourage: follows the posse of a budding A-list movie star, who naturally shmoozes with some real-life A-list movie stars.
  • Will and Grace was quite annoying with this; it featured special guests almost every week and seemed like a vehicle for celebrities to proclaim their gay-friendly status. Arguably the least egregious was Taye Diggs' extended stint as Will's boyfriend, since it was a surprisingly complex story arc and gave Will his first onscreen kiss (albeit in the final season). Extra points since it was both a gay and interracial romance on primetime TV.
  • An episode of Moonlighting once featured Judd Nelson and Whoopi Goldberg as the special guest stars. If memory serves, they were actually quite good.
    • Ray Charles also guested on an episode. As did Orson Welles (introducing "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice," which aired after he passed away and was dedicated to him).
  • Stargate SG-1 is quite popular amongst the actual USAF, and not just because it is Backed by the Pentagon. Two consecutive Air Force chiefs of staff have appeared in the series, playing themselves. One episode featured O'Neill barging into General Hammond's office, loudly complaining (as usual) only to be introduced to General Michael E. Ryan, then-current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, whereupon O'Neill promptly quiets down. After filming was completed, Richard Dean Anderson asked General Ryan if he had any real Colonels as bad as Jack O'Neill, and Ryan responded that he had worse. In the later episode Lost City, the second half featured General John P. Jumper (again, the then-current Air Force Chief of Staff) as himself during the Goa'uld attack, speaking with the President and coordiating the counter-atack. Apparently, when General Jumper first became the Chief of Staff, the first question he asked his staff was "When do I get to be on Stargate?"
  • Law and Order and its spinoffs do this occasionally.
  • Most USA Network originals do it all the time. Take a look at the list of guest stars through the seasons of Monk.
  • Occasionally, a show will have a regular character's actor playing him- or herself (as the Special Guest) as well as the normal character. Usually this is accompanied by jokes about how similar they look.
    • Mork and Mindy had Mork meet Robin Williams in one episode.
    • Sanford and Son had an episode where Fred Sanford enters a Redd Foxx lookalike contest; his son Lamont doesn't see the resemblance.
    • Lucy Carter met Lucille Ball in an episode of Here's Lucy.
  • Detective Conan had the Detective League meet the Music-Duo Two-Mix, who sing the Opening Theme and Ending Theme of the series, and the female member of the group is the voice actor for Conan. Naturally, all the characters did some Lampshade Hanging on this similarity. The only difference between the two vocally is that Conan can't sing even if his life depended on it. This fact is especially evident when he has to fill in at a concert for her later on (Behind the scenes, of course).
  • Bones has an episode about dog fights featuring professional Fluffy Tamer Cesar Millan.
  • Castle:
    • Joe Torre, a baseball player and manager. Castle is fairly nonchalant, having met Joe before and not being overly interested in the game anyway, but Beckett can barely keep from Squeeing and immediately rushes off to call her dad to gloat.
    • Chef Rocco Dispirito appeared in "Food to Die For" during Castle's date with Beckett's high school BFF.
    • Richard Castle's poker game features real authors such as James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell; the latter's chair was left unoccupied after his passing ("No one sits there for at least a year").
  • The Incredible Hulk's Lou Ferrigno moved next door to the Heffernans in King of Queens.
  • Every episode of Police Squad! features a special guest... who would be killed before the opening credits were over. William Shatner lasted the longest, dodging a hail of bullets before finally succumbing to a poisoned drink.
  • One episode of Silver Spoons had Menudo attending the protagonist's birthday party as the entertainment.
  • Subverted in one episode of CSI: Miami: the suspect was a famous skateboarder who retired and made software games starring himself... but the Special Guest, Tony Hawk, instead played the Body of the Week. Also invoked, since Tony Hawk's character is also the CEO's Stunt Double for doing Motion Capture in the game, so he does skateboard in a flashback.
  • Chuck has taken stunt-casting to a whole new level, often having more than one guest star an episode.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was built around the concept of special guest stars who were actually historical figures. There are also several real stars who show up, several before the height of their fame. One episode features both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Daniel Craig before they peaked in popularity and movie star status.
  • Every episode of Batman had at least one "Special Guest Villain." While some, like Cesar Romero's Joker, Burgess Meredith's Penguin, and Frank Gorshin's Riddler, appeared often enough to almost be regular cast members, a great many were one-shot stunt castings of big-name stars (e.g., Milton Berle as Louie the Lilac, Art Carney as The Archer, Rudy Vallee as Lord Ffogg.)
    • Also, celebrities would pop out of the window when Batman and Robin were climbing the building to talk to them.
  • American Dreams seemed to exist solely for this trope. Many episodes had a famous current musician appear as a famous 60's musician (often having nothing to do with the plot)note  and NBC would often make this the focal point of the advertising. One probably wouldn't even know the show had a plot unless they watched it.
  • Hannah Montana: About one in every six episodes of features a special guest or two - Hannah's "aunt" is Dolly Partonnote , Mama is Miley's Mammaw. Lilly's mother turns out to be Heather Locklear, and as for Lilly's dad... as Lorelai Gilmore once put it, "And yes, that is the guy from Two and a Half Men." Their next door neighbor in season 4 is the half man from previous said show.
  • Doctor Who has done this a few times, with the likes of Sharon Osbourne and Richard Dawkins appearing in cameos as themselves, and even including stock footage of Barack Obama in one episode, then bringing in a body double to make him part of the story ("The End of Time"). Several attempts at having members of the Royal Family appear as themselves have been unsuccessful. Back in 1965, the episode "The Chase" featured a guest appearance by The Beatles (via stock footage), as well.
  • On Home Improvement, several sports stars appeared as themselves as guests on the Show Within a Show Tool Time, including George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, and Michael and Mario Andretti. Real life home improvement pioneer Bob Vila showed up several times. In one episode after Penn & Teller guest on Tool Time, Tim is called out on this in-show, being told by fans that his show is relying too much on Stunt Casting. Also, a few celebrities appeared as themselves outside of Tool Time, including The Beach Boys and Rodney Dangerfield.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: The ill-fated talk show called "It's" with singer Lulu ("To Sir With Love") and Ringo Starr as guests with the tattered and bedraggled "It's" man as host. (Neither guest said anything.)
  • The Muppet Show had a guest star in every episode. Justified, as the show is set in a theatre and revolves around a weekly presentation.
  • Typically at least one per episode on the Colgate Comedy Hour.
  • Martha Stewart in the first-season finale of 2 Broke Girls.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Subverted in "The Gang Gets Invincible," where Donovan McNabb is promised to appear at the the Eagles football tryouts, but instead an obvious impostor played by Geoffrey Owens arrives and delivers a sales pitch for McDonald's. The gang realizes the fraud and vaguely recognizes the impostor as that guy from The Cosby Show.
  • The Big Bang Theory often has guest stars playing themselves, which are either actors from shows popular amongst nerds (e.g. Wil Wheaton, LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner from Star Trek: The Next Generation; Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), or Summer Glau from Firefly and The Sarah Connor Chronicles), or popular Real Life scientists (e.g. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking or Bill Nye). In most cases, though, it doesn't amount to more than The Cameo, while Wil Wheaton is more or less a Recurring Character.
  • King Of The Nerds often has nerdy-fandom-related celebrity guests, usually to judge a competition. These have included George Takei, Tara Strong, and Bill Nye the Science Guy,

    Music 
  • Regularly happens nowadays where rap artists make guest appearances on other's records.
  • Carlos Santana resurrected his career through liberal use of this trope on the Supernatural and Shaman albums.
  • Soulfly's first few albums were built around this.
  • Nelly's album Brass Knuckles had a guest star on every song. Fans who had waited four years for a worthy follow-up to Sweat/Suit weren't pleased.
  • The Rolling Stones regularly have special guests join them onstage.
  • Steve Miller regularly has his opening act join him onstage during his concerts.
  • Captain Beefheart was the special guest on Frank Zappa's Hot Rats where he sang the only track with lyrics, "Willie the Pimp."
  • Radio entertainer Stanley Unwin narrates the tale of Happiness Stan in his own brand of idiosyncratic English on The Small Faces' Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake.
  • Almost every DJ ever uses a guest vocalist on a song-to-song basis.
  • New Orleans' Trombone Shorty often features as one, as many acts these days don't have a horn player at all. His first two albums, Backatown and For True, relied fairly heavily on guest spots.

    Pinball 

    Theatre 
  • The 1973 Broadway musical Seesaw brought on Mayor John Lindsay of New York City during the "My City" number for one performance in its first week.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Both The Simpsons and Futurama use this all the time, with "stars" as diverse as William Shatner, Stephen Hawking, Stephen Sondheim, the Backstreet Boys, and Gary Gygax. As well as Al Gore and Tony Blair. The Simpsons even got Reclusive Artist Thomas Pynchon, which was the only time his voice has been broadcasted in the media.
  • The practice is mocked by South Park. As the opening disclaimer notes, "All celebrity voices are impersonated... poorly." Parker and Stone are generally unwilling to allow celebrities to do guest spots on the show, and have avoided them since the very early seasons.
    • George Clooney provided the dog noises for Stan's gay dog in the episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride", and Jay Leno supplied the cat noises for Cartman's cat. Jerry Seinfeld contacted the show offering to do a guest spot, but his agent rejected the offer of performing as a turkey.
    • Parker and Stone have gone on record saying that they have only ever requested two celebrities to perform on their show: Robert Smith and Natasha Henstridge. In contrast to the other guest spots, their roles actually come with a few lines, though Henstridge is billed as "That Chick from Species."
  • A few episodes of Spongebob Squarepants include a special guest, who ends up being very minor. For example, one episode gives guest credit to someone who pops up as a surfer we see Pearl and her friends meeting for all of 10 seconds.
    • Exception: The episode guest starring Pat Morita had him playing the villain for one episode. This was one of his last performances before his death.
  • The late Dan Wheldon, two-time winner of the Indy 500, voiced himself on the Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 episode "Full Throttle".
  • Static Shock had a number of these in the third season.
  • This was basically the whole idea behind The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Some of the guests, like Dick Van Dyke, Sandy Duncan, and Sonny and Cher, played themselves; others, like Laurel and Hardy, didn't.
  • Transformers Animated had quite a few as well, such as "Weird Al" Yankovic in the episode that introduced Wreck-Gar (a Shout-Out to the movie).
    • Also George Takei as the cyberninja Master Yoketron.
  • Speaking of "Weird Al" Yankovic, he was in Batman: The Brave and the Bold in an episode where Batman and Robin team up with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy to fight against a couple of Batman rogues.
  • An episode of Arthur has Mr. Fred Rogers make an animated appearance.
  • The Flintstones, strangely, has Stone Age versions of Darrin and Samantha Stephens (voiced by guest stars Dick York and Elizabeth Montgomery) moving in next door to Fred and Wilma.note  Sooo — Samantha really is immortal, having lived from at least the Stone Age into the early 1970s.
  • In the 1980s version of Alvin and the Chipmunks, the episode "Urban Chipmunk" has the guest voice of Dolly Parton.
    • Mr. T also appeared on an episode, voicing himself.
  • The Rocko's Modern Life episode "No Pain, No Gain" features Richard Simmons as an aerobics instructor at the high-end health club Rocko and Heffer are trying to join.
  • In the "My Punky Valentine" episode of The Weekenders, one of the gambits Tino's friends use to get him to forget about a punky girl involves introducing him to Jennifer Love Hewitt. It doesn't work, but it does result in being one of the few episodes which doesn't end with Tino saying, "Later days!" - the Ghost Whisperer does it instead ("Hahaha!!! I feel like such a dork...").
  • While Clone High had a couple of Actor Allusion characters, like Luke Perry, the most emphasized is Tom Green who shows up as Tom Green to speak about ADHD.

Alternative Title(s):

Guest Star