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The Five: Great Simpsons guest stars

by Adam Finley, posted Jun 20th 2006 7:57AM

simpsonsThe Simpsons has been using guest stars since the very first season. Some have returned on several occasions, sometimes as different characters (Albert Brooks), sometimes as the same character (Kelsey Grammer), and sometimes as both (Jon Lovitz). By my calculations there have been exactly twelve thousand guest stars on the show so far, so obviously a list of just five is going to be lacking just a tad. Nevertheless, these are five guest stars who stick out in my mind. Got some more? That's what the comments are for. Here we go:

Albert Brooks: Brooks first appeared in season one as Jacques, the man with the fake French accent who tries to woo Marge away from Homer with his knowledge of bowling and women. He later appeared as Hank Scorpio, a rather paradoxical character who is both very friendly and yet extremely evil. I think my favorite Brooks episode, however, was the episode "The Heartbroke Kid" when he played Tab Spangler, a ticking time bomb of a coach who tries to coerce Bart back to health after Bart gains weight and suffers a heart attack. "Every sign is wrong!" He'll also be appearing in the Simpsons movie, which is very cool.

Kelsey Grammer: Fraiser was a decent enough show, but it just wasn't my kind of humor. Give the Simpsons writers and directors credit, though, for creating a character that fit Grammer's strengths perfectly. That baritone voice, the Shakespearean delivery, and the ability to go from calm and collected to stark raving mad all within the same second make Sideshow Bob one of the best reoccurring characters on the show.

Jon Lovitz: While he's know almost exclusively for his comedic performances, Lovitz originally wanted to do serious acting. With a voice that seems tailor-made for comedy, it's difficult to imagine him doing anything else. Still, while the characters he played were all zany and over-the-top (such as Artie Ziff, who has held a torch for Marge since high school), Lovitz brought a depth to them that went beyond simply gesticulating and doing a funny voice. Out of all the (still living) people on this list, I think Lovitz could have easily been a regular performer on the show.

Phil Hartman: Can you believe I almost left Phil off the list? Seriously, what kind of blasphemy would that have been? Of course, it has been almost eight years since his death, but he helped to give life to two of Springfield's best side characters, Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz. His radio announcer voice was perfect for animation, and both McClure and Hutz were responsible for some of the funniest moments in Simpsons history.

Joe Mantegna: There may have been one or two times when Joe Mantegna didn't play mob boss Fat Tony, but I think for the most part he played the character whenever the script called for it. I think what I love most about Fat Tony is the rhythm and cadence of his delivery, the way each word seems so calculated, almost snapping from his lips. "I don't get mad. I get stabby." 

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Phoebe

I think your list is really pretty good. Its terribly hard to choose the top five, as there have been so manly guest stars. Some whose roles were better than others. If I may, I'd like to add Meryl Streep. She did the voice of Jessica Lovejoy... and I think what's impressive is that you wouldn't even know its her! She gave that little girl the most perfect evil angel voice.

July 21 2006 at 1:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bdure

You mention Albert Brooks but forget "Scorpio," the employee-coddling boss who happens to be a James Bond supervillain on the side?

July 18 2006 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott Weinberg

James Woods at the Kwik-E-Mart is pure gold. I laugh every time I see it. I also liked Steve Martin as the sanitation commissioner.

June 26 2006 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TonyD

I hate it when celebrities appear as themselves. Imagine if McBaine first appeared as Arnold playing himself- so much less funny and not something that can be an ongoing joke. Maybe its just that I have no interest in celebrities as such.
Phill Hartman was the best, Kelsey Grammer too- but Alec Baldwin? Warren Sapp? Waste of time.

June 23 2006 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

Kathleen Turner and Kathy Griffin have distinctive voices and had distinctive roles, but otherwise, no, I couldn't easily identify any of the voices of the other women you mention. I did bring up the incredible Marcia Wallace. Looking through a list, I can also find Audrey Meadows, who did a great job as Abe's girlfriend. Cloris Leachman was on as the old woman Bart did all the work for, who then paid him a quarter or something.

But it's been at least 4 to 1 men to women in guest roles. Maybe even more lopsided.

June 21 2006 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Blooper

Linda McCartney is the only woman mentioned so far. Were there not more good female guests? Does anybody rate appearances by Sarah Gilbert, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathleen Turner, Winona Ryder, or Glenn Close? The one that stands out for me is Kathy Griffin, who was surprisingly good as Francine, the girl who bullied Lisa, until a symposium of geniuses realized she was having a reaction to "nerd smell" (and the antidote was salad dressing, of course).

June 20 2006 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent

Phil Hartmann is great, but he is like a regular. Lovitz and Grammer are good choices.

http://www.simpsoncrazy.com/information/lists/guests.shtml that is a list of the guests of the Simpsons. Of people playing themselves, I would pick James Woods. This was pre-celebs playing themselves on the show every week.

June 20 2006 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kerry

Three cheers for the U2 bit in Homer's "The Garbage Man Can" song. I love Bono's "He'll tell you when your arse is showing" line with that bit 'o coin slot hanging out. Brilliant.
The problem with these kinds of lists is that there's so much brilliance in so many arenas that you can't just say "best guest voices," you have to say "best musical guest voice" or "best celebrity as himself" or "best celebrity cameo" or "best recurring guest voice." It just goes on and on and on.
And, really, Richard Gere having the desire to kick Lenny and Carl's asses? Amazing.

June 20 2006 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Allen Mendelsohn

No one has mentioned the legions of musical guest stars that have not only sang, but often been hysterical. U2, The Who, R.E.M., Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Smashing Pumpkins, Spinal Tap, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Paul and Linda McCartney, etc, etc.

Summed up nicely in the following exchange:
Lisa: I got some great advice from Paul and Linda McCartney.
Homer: Rock stars. Is there anything they don't know?

June 20 2006 at 12:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jamie

I liked mark Hamell's appearance, although the scenarion of him being sick of Star wars fans was funnier in a Just Shoot Me episode. I also enjoyed the episode in which Mr. Burns hired MLB stars to work at the plant so they'd be eligible to play on the company softball team. That one never gets rerun anymore to my knowledge. Pity.

June 20 2006 at 11:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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