A star brought into a series, to star as themselves or a character very similar to one they are 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.
Anime and Manga
- Lucky Star had several seiyuus who were involved in Suzumiya Haruhi guest star as themselves. Minoru Shiraishi and Daisuke Ono were co-hosts on the "Lucky Channel" section of the show. Aya Hirano (sort of) and Yūko Gotō guest starred in the show itself. Interestingly, in the English dub, they were voiced by the actors that portrayed their characters in the Suzumiya Haruhi dub. It's kind of funny hearing Johnny Yong Bosch introduce himself as Daisuke Ono on Lucky Channel.
- JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki appears As Herself in episode seven of Rocket Girls, where she welcomes the fictional Yukari as a fellow astronaut.
- 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).
Live Action TV
- Full House, Michelle's friend Denise has a famous musician-uncle who turns out to be Little Richard.
- 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.
- News Radio: 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.
- Who's 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 US 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 surprisngly 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.
- One episode suggests the show is set in an Alternate Universe, where George Takei was still in the closet until publically outed on TV by Jack.
- 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 military of the USA, 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 Hammonds office, loudly complaining (As usual) only to be introduced to General Michael E. Ryan, then-current Chief of Staff of the United States 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.
- For example, Lewis Black once played a Howard Stern-esque radio host.
- And Candice Bergen guest starred in Law and Order Trial By Jury as Judge Amanda Anderlee.
- The show also loves to cast comedians as the criminals, usually of the highly intelligent variety, including Martin Short, Robin Williams, and Stephen Colbert.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. As I recall, 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 was climbing the building to talk to him.
- 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) 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 grandmother is Dolly Parton, 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."
- 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.
- Parodied in Community with Jack Black wanting to join the study group after coming back from a mid-season break.
- 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.
- 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 would be easier to list the major Canadian politicians who did not appear as themselves on at least one episode of Royal Canadian Air Farce when that show was on the air.
- 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 felt cheated and it destroyed his career.
- Fight Club: The Video Game: Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit is a bonus character.
- Michael Jackson in Space Channel 5.
- the thrid-person shooter, Infected for the PSP has Mark Hunter, lead singer of Chimaira, and the members of Slipknot.
- Deus Ex Invisible War has the lead singer of Kidneythieves as a 2070's popstar.
- Kate Modern: A number of celebrities (of varying degrees of fame) cameo as themselves, including actor Jamie Bell; bands The Days and Scouting For Girls; film director Mike Figgis; presenters Tim Westwood, Nick Grimshaw, DJ Dre and Michael Underwood; journalist Gordon Smart; and Joanna Shields, the CEO of Bebo. None of them has significant impact on the plot.
- The boys from Unskippable tapped Ben "Yahtzee" Crosshaw for their Star Ocean episode. And one of them appeared on Zero Punctuation to return the favor.
- Kyle Hebert reprised his role as the narrator for the second Dragon Ball Abridged movie (in the Abridged Series itself, LittleKuriboh narrates), while Chuck Huber made an appearance in the Yu Yu Hakusho Abridged movie as one of the villains (and provided an Actor Allusion—he was Hiei in the dub).
- Muggle Cast has had several with people from the Harry Potter industry. Oh, and Rubeus Hagrid. Not Robbie Coltrain, but Rubeus Hagrid. The other Harry Potter podcast PotterCast has also had plenty. Including J. K. Rowling herself.
- The Nostalgia Critic actually got Christopher Lloyd to say "I was frozen today".
- In Taco Man: The Game Master, video game characters make apperences, This includes Dirk form Dragon's Lair.
- In EPICMEALTIME:
- With Freddie "freddiew" Wong in "Epic VFX Time" and "West Coast Burger Pile" (alongside Corridor Digital).
- With DJ/producer Deadmau5 in "Cheesy Grilled Cheese Tower" and "Meat Cthulhu".
- With synthpop singer/songwriter Lights in "Fast Food Meatloaf".
- With FPSRussia in "Russian Meal Time" and "Meat Shield".
- With professional skateboarder Tony Hawk in "Fast Food Pizza Cake".
- With the Smosh duo in "Super Pastry Cake".
- With as many as they could get in "Turbaconepicentipede", both old and new.
- Both The Simpsons and Futurama use this all the time, with "stars" as diverse as William Shatner, Stephen Hawking, 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." When actual celebrities are brought on, they're usually given ridiculously small roles—a famous example being George Clooney voicing Stan's gay dog in the episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride", or Jay Leno playing Cartman's cat. South Park today rarely has guest stars.
- A possibly apocryphal story comes from Jerry Seinfeld's role in a Thanksgiving episode. Trey Parker and Matt Stone were going to have Jerry play a random mutant turkey; this editor forgets what the actual number, so let's call him Turkey #7; and Jerry's agent kept negotiating with Parker and Stone to try and get Jerry to play Turkey #1 instead.
- In case you haven't seen the episodes in question, it's worth noting that none of these were talking animals. The actors were making animal noises the entire time.
- A few celebrities that were impersonated (such as Michael Dorn) would have actually voiced their character if they had only been asked to.
- Rare aversion came when they got Robert Smith to voice Robert Smith, the Mothra expy charged with stopping Barbra Streisand from destroying the city. Supposedly his lines were given to him with no context, but is one of the very few times when a celebrity is not just not mocked, but praised.
- 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 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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...").
- and some of them better known for things other than singing, like Hilary Duff (as one of The Shangri-La's), Jennifer Love Hewitt (as Nancy Sinatra - the future Ghost Whisperer was one of the few to appear more than once) and TYRA FREAKING BANKS (as one of the Marvelettes)
- Miley Cyrus's godmother in real life
- Both The Flintstones and Bewitched aired on ABC, and the former was distributed at the time by Screen Gems, which produced the latter.