Fox’s The Simpsons is the longest running American animated sitcom in history. The series just started its 28th season in September, 2016 and in this time, the show has had some very historic moments. Aside from the main cast of Homer and Marge Simpson, along with their three kids Bart, Lisa and Maggie, the show has become a regular stop for celebrity guest voices. It has become quite an honor to be asked to provide a guest voice on the show. There’s no doubt that in 28 years on television, they’ve had dozens of guests stop by to cement their place in the show’s history books. But while there are some obvious celebrity voices that everyone remembers clearly, there are also some that would surprise just about anyone.
So after nearly three decades of making us all laugh, The Simpsons have the distinct privilege of entertaining multiple generations of fans. So with over 600 episodes of viewing available, people are more fascinated than ever about this show that just won’t quit. How much do you know about the show and do you think you know every celebrity that has provided their voice? Regardless of what you think you may know, here are 15 guest stars that you might be shocked to learn actually provided a voice for a character on The Simpsons.
15. J.K. Rowling
The billionaire author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling, provided her voice for the cartoon version of herself in season 15. During an episode titled “The Regina Monologues,” Rowling had the unique opportunity to voice herself, as did some other well known British people of interest in this episode. Reportedly, Rowling recorded her part at her home in Scotland. So, it wasn’t even necessary for her to travel to get the job done. I think the production staff of the show have gotten the guest voice work down to an art, in order to make it as easy as possible for their guests. This particular episode actually did get Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister to voice himself as well. But the idea of the very private and reserved author J.K. Rowling to do voice work for this show is quite surprising!
14. Buzz Aldrin
One of the first two people to land and walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin is known as a pioneer in the space exploration movement in the United States. He is seen as a true American hero and has long been regarded as being larger than life. But despite all of this, he still made time to lend his voice for the hit show The Simpsons. In season five, Aldrin voiced himself in an episode titled “Deep Space Homer.” This was still in the early years of the show, but was already making a name for itself and getting some big celebrities and public figures to be a part of the show. At this point, the show had only been interested in having celebrities on the show, but now, they had legendary historical figures, the first of which was Aldrin.
13. Johnny Cash
The late Johnny Cash is known as one of the top selling recording artists of the 20th century remembered for his songs that reflected country, rock and roll, gospel, folk and more. Johnny Cash has long been remembered as completely legendary, so when he agreed to lend his vocal talents to The Simpsons in the 8th season of the show, it was unreal. His character in the episode titled “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)” was that of the Space Coyote. The show was the highest rated program on the Fox network for the entire week and the appearance by Johnny Cash was seen as one of the strongest guest spots the show had done to that point. The show has gone on to have many other amazing guest stars, but having such an icon of music on the show was truly remarkable.
12. Betty White
It may be safe to call Betty White an American treasure. She got her start in the earliest days of television and has gone strong well into her 90s. Whether you know her as Sue Ann Nivens from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rose from The Golden Girls or possibly as Elka from Hot in Cleveland, Betty White is a household name. On two different occasions, Betty had the great fun of adding her voice to The Simpsons. Her first time was in season 11 in the episode titled “Missionary: Impossible” where she played herself, and then again in season 18, airing in 2007 in the episode titled “Homerazzi”, where she also played herself. Betty is in high demand and her willingness to come and have some cartoon fun just speaks volumes about this legend of television.
11. Stephen Hawking
Perhaps the most famous scientist alive and possibly the smartest person on the planet is the brilliant Dr. Stephen Hawking. Part of the intrigue about Hawking is how he has managed to survive so many years while suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Hawking cannot move, let alone speak on his own. He has a special speech processor that he uses to communicate in a very computerized sounding voice. Hawking has a wonderful sense of humor and has given his voice to the show not once, but four different times! The voice you hear is actually him speaking through his speech processor. It is pretty amazing that such a brilliant and gifted mind would take time and effort to have some fun with a funny cartoon show. But we are definitely so glad that he did!
10. Janet Reno
Janet Reno is remembered as having been the Attorney General of the United States of America during the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Sadly, Reno passed away in 2016, but she is remembered as a dedicated public servant and as a legend in the Justice Department. She was frequently parodied by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live as being somewhat robotic with a very dry personality. Reno actually had a very humorous personality that came through when she did brief cameo appearances on Saturday Night Live. But did you know that in 2013, Reno was a guest star on The Simpsons? In the episode titled “Dark Knight Court” she stopped by, showing the world that she is a good sport. Thanks for having such a great personality and being willing to make us laugh, Janet.
9. Tina Fey
Known for her amazing comedic and writing talent on Saturday Night Live, Mean Girls, Date Night and more, Tina Fey has become a huge name A-Lister in Hollywood. Most of the celebs of her level of fame voice themselves on the show. Tina is a little different though, in that she preferred to voice a different character, flying a bit under the radar. In the 24th season episode titled “Black Eyed Please”, Fey plays Mrs. Cantwell who fills in for Ms. Hoover. This episode shows how Tina Fey, at the height of her career, just wanted to have a good time and contribute however possible to the show. Fey seems to be pretty down-to-earth and laid back, which makes her even more appealing as a guest star on the show.
8. Rudy Giuliani
The famed Mayor of New York City during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Rudy Giuliani found himself more celebrity than he ever thought he’d have politically. Generally regarded positively for his handling of the situation in New York City, Giuliani maintained a high level of public interest years after he left office. In the 18th season of The Simpsons, in the episode titled “Stop! Or My Dog Will Shoot” which aired in 2007, Giuliani voiced himself in the episode. Few high ranking public officials have guest starred on the show, but Giuliani’s willingness to cut loose and have a little fun with viewers was a great idea. He helped New York through a very difficult time and will always be respected for that reason. He also knows the importance of comedy to the healing process.
7. Conan O’Brien
In the fifth season of The Simpsons, an episode titled “Bart Gets Famous” featured a young Conan O’Brien as a guest star. In the show, Bart finds 15 minutes of fame as a result of a catchphrase that Krusty the Clown turns into a viral sensation. Bart goes on Conan’s Late Night Talk Show as a result of this fame. Conan had been a writer and one of the producers on The Simpsons until he was given his own late night talk show, succeeding David Letterman on NBC. At the time, his stardom was somewhat new and with a limited audience. It’s arguable that the guest spot on The Simpsons helped give him and his show even more validity. Conan is now hosting a wildly popular late night show on TBS and is seen as one of the leaders in late night television.
6. Dustin Hoffman
Regarded as one of the finest actors of this or any generation, Dustin Hoffman is a two time Academy Award winner and has done a wide variety of work. He’s played incredibly serious and important roles, as well as lighter and hilarious roles. In just its second season, there wasn’t anything necessarily groundbreaking about The Simpsons yet, but Hoffman wanted to lend a helping hand. You may not have noticed anything by looking at the credits, because Hoffman used the name Sam Etic. He played the part of Mr. Bergstrom in the season two episode titled “Lisa’s Substitute.” Getting an Academy Award winning actor to voice a character in an animated cartoon at the time was a huge undertaking, so Hoffman must have seen something very special in the series and its writers.
5. Johnny Carson
The king of late night television, Johnny Carson spent decades as the host of The Tonight Show on NBC. He has been revered ever since his retirement in 1993 as the greatest of all late night hosts. After he retired, he stayed almost completely out of the public eye, but not before stopping by The Simpsons, to have a little fun portraying himself in the fourth season episode of the series titled “Krusty Gets Kancelled.” The show featured several guest stars, but Johnny’s was incredibly iconic. By this point in the series, it was clear that The Simpsons was something very special and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Johnny’s appearance was something of a validation to the work they were doing on the show and was both a lot of fun and a powerful statement.
4. Elon Musk
Yes, The Simpsons have had more than a couple billionaires on the show over the years. So much that it kind of seems like it’s one of the things you do when you add a tenth digit to your net worth. The most recent of these perhaps is Elon Musk, who voiced himself in the 26th season of the show in the episode titled “The Musk Who Fell to Earth.” Musk is known as the developer of the Tesla electric automobile and CEO of Tesla, Inc. He is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX, and is affiliated with a variety of other companies. With a net worth of over $11 billion, he doesn’t need the check that comes with a guest appearance on the show, nor does he need the publicity. But it is a ton of fun and a great stroke of the ego!
3. John Oliver
Over the last few years, John Oliver’s HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has become a huge success. He has become a master of taking difficult political concepts and making them both simple and incredibly humorous. In 2014, for the 25th season of The Simpsons, Oliver was asked to do a guest spot on the show. In the episode titled “Pay Pal,” Oliver plays the part of Booth Wilkes-John. Oliver made a name for himself on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and was just about to start his HBO series at the time of his guest role on The Simpsons. With his quick witted humor and very distinct accent, Oliver was a great guest star for the show and may very well portray himself in upcoming episodes.
2. Bryan Cranston
Best known as Walter White on the AMC series Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston guest starred on an episode of The Simpsons as the character Walter White. But few realize that in the 23rd season of the show, he guest starred again as a different character. In the episode titled “The Spy Who Learned Me,” Cranston plays the character Stradivarius Cain. Cranston has been known to be a fun guy with a great attitude. Breaking Bad is often called the greatest show in the history of television. Having starred as the main character in such a series, it would be very easy to get snooty and selective on roles. But Cranston enjoyed being a part of The Simpsons and welcomed that opportunity to do it again. Voice over work isn’t exactly easy, but it can be a whole lot of fun.
1. Zach Galifianakis
This guy is everywhere! The hilarious co-star of The Hangover trilogy has done multiple movie roles as well as television. He’s one of the biggest names in Hollywood these days and can pretty much write his own ticket for any role he wants. As mentioned before though, getting to do a guest role on The Simpsons is a privilege that most celebrities completely understand. They see the opportunity as an honor and Zach Galifianakis clearly gets it as well. Playing the role of Lucas Bortner on the season 25 episode titled “Luca$,” he was a major part of the episode. In the real world, Zach is a pretty grounded guy with a great personality. These are the kinds of people the producers of The Simpsons like to have around. If it wasn’t fun, the show couldn’t have lasted 28 seasons!