As we all know by this point, “The Simpsons” has been on the airwaves for a record-breaking 24 seasons and counting. And we also know that in that time, the show has had numerous guest stars voice characters. There have been so many, in fact, that they currently outweigh the number of episodes produced. Therefore, making a list of the 15, 50 or even 100 greatest and most notable would be quite the daunting task. However, we figured we could make a valiant effort if we didn’t take into consideration those guest stars who have lent their voices multiple times, as that would be unfair. So scroll through our list of the best one-time cameos, and let us know how we did.
No. 15 - Steve Carell, “Penny-Wiseguys” (Season 24, Episode 5)
Steve Carell is a hot ticket item right now, so it’s no surprise that “The Simpsons” would ask him to lend his voice to their series during the current season. His role as Dan Gillick, the timid accountant for Springfield’s seedy underbelly of Mafioso turned power-hungry man in charge not only packed on the laughs, but allowed Carell to show his range, basically changing into a completely different character mid-episode.
No. 14 - Randy Johnson, “Bart Had Two Mommies” (Season 17, Episode 14)
Look, not every guest appearance has to be a huge part. In this episode, Randy Johnson kept it short and sweet. It’s hard to imagine anyone else hating Ned Flanders more than Homer Simpson does, but Johnson at least gives him a run for his money, picking a fight with the Simpson’s neighborino almost instantly after meeting him. And who could blame him? Stupid Flanders.
No. 13 - Mark Hamill, “Mayored to the Mob” (Season 10, Episode 9)
We thought about leaving this one off the list for the sheer fact that Mark Hamill makes almost everyone’s list of notable guest appearances, but we just couldn’t resist, especially once we discovered that he not only voiced himself in the episode, but Leavelle, the man who trains Homer to be a bodyguard. The man is just a genuinely spectacular voice actor, as well as a sci-fi icon. He knocks both of his roles in this one out of the park.
No. 12 - Gary Busey, “On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister” (Season 16, Episode 11)
If you are going to have Gary Busey lend his voice to a kooky character on your animated series, he damn well better be playing himself, as no one gets kookier than that. As such, in this episode, Lisa puts a restraining order on Bart, and who better to host the video tutorial of how to deal with such matters than Busey? The craziness of his character is exposed right away, and never lets up, and that’s just the way we like it.
No. 11 - Ian McKellen, “The Regina Monologues” (Season 15, Episode 4)
Another very brief, yet memorable stint, Ian McKellen’s appearance on the show is not only funny throughout, as it deals with the ramifications of saying the name of the play he is starring in (“Macbeth”), but also ends in his demise, as so many “The Simpsons” guest spots do. Tony Blair and J.K. Rowling also make notable appearances in this episode, but McKellen’s is by far the standout.
No. 10 - Katy Perry, “The Fight Before Christmas” (Season 22, Episode 8)
Had Katy Perry actually been animated in her guest appearance, perhaps she would not have made this list. However, in this Christmas-themed episode consisting of four short stories, the segment in which she guest starred had “The Simpsons” characters turned into puppets a la “The Muppet Show” or “Sesame Street.” Therefore, Perry was their celebrity guest. And let’s just say she didn’t go light on the sex appeal, as she never does.
No. 9 - Ray Romano, “Don’t Fear the Roofer” (Season 16, Episode 16)
This episode parodies the film “A Beautiful Mind” and deals with Homer hiring a roofer (Ray Romano) named Ray Magini to fix a hole in his roof. What makes this such a notable appearance is not just a great voice acting job on the part of Romano, but the episode's overall cleverness. While everyone else seems to think that Homer has made Magini up (even pointing out to him that “Ray Magini” is an anagram for “imaginary), he is finally exposed to be real and explained through a series of hilarious misunderstandings that amounts to the stereotype that contractors are unreliable.
No. 8 - Dustin Hoffman, “Lisa’s Substitute” (Season 2, Episode 9)
One of two guest stars to have used a pseudonym in the credits instead of his real name (the other is coming up), Dustin Hoffman, aka Sam Etic, played a role very early on in this series that is still looked upon quite fondly to this day as one of Lisa Simpson’s greatest role models. That is reason enough to make this list, considering the show has gone on to do 22 more full seasons and a movie since then.
No. 7 - Meryl Streep, “Bart’s Girlfriend” (Season 6, Episode 7)
The whole point of the role of Jessica Lovejoy, who is Reverend Lovejoy’s seemingly sweet daughter, was to make her an even more troubled youth than Bart Simpson, which would not be easy to pull off. Luckily, the extremely versatile Meryl Streep filled the role, and everything fell into place perfectly.
No. 6 - Michael Jackson, Stark Raving Dad (Season 3, Episode 1)
As we mentioned, Dustin Hoffman used a pseudonym for his guest appearance in season 2. The only other star to do that, and the last, was Michael Jackson. Under the name John Jay Smith, Jackson performed the speaking voice of Leon Kompowsky in the season 3 premiere. Interestingly, he did not perform the singing in the episode, as that was done by an impersonator named Kipp Lennon. He did, however, write the tune "Happy Birthday Lisa" that was featured. At the time, producers were legally prevented from even confirming that Jackson had guest-starred, although media sources assumed he had and it was eventually verified.
No. 5 - The Ramones, “Rosebud” (Season 5, Episode 4)
This appearance is so short and hilarious, it would make more sense for us to just show it to you in full. So click here for The Ramones singing "Happy Birthday" to Mr. Burns. We think you’ll agree after seeing it that if anything, it probably deserves to be higher on this list.
No. 4 - John Waters, “Homer’s Phobia” (Season 8, Episode 15)
“The Simpsons” is a show that, for the most part, hasn’t been particularly controversial in a long time. However, this episode not only dealt with the very taboo subject of homosexuality at the time, but was also originally deemed unacceptable for broadcast. It’s quite a relief that that decision was overturned, though, because John Waters pulls off a knockout performance and the episode as a whole could be deemed one of the funniest the show has ever produced.
No. 3 - Mel Gibson, “Beyond Blunderdome” (Season 11, Episode 1)
Mel Gibson was one of the few guest voices to record his lines with the rest of the cast. That is probably why his performance in this episode comes off as so organic, where other guest spots can be stale or feel less natural. The fact that Gibson himself is a huge fan of the show didn’t hurt. He even came in on three separate occasions to do retakes of his lines because he knew his family would be watching.
No. 2 - Rodney Dangerfield, “Burns, Baby Burns” (Season 8, Episode 4)
There are very few characters that you wish had become regular members of a series after just one guest appearance. But that is exactly the feeling you’ll most likely walk away with after viewing this episode. Rodney Dangerfield was the perfect choice to play Mr. Burns’ bastard son, even though he basically played himself with a different back story. What separated him most from other guest stars is the fact that the writers designed his lines specifically for him, and it payed off in a big way, right down to its “Caddyshack”–style ending.
Next: 10 Futurama Episodes That Will Make You Laugh and Cry
No. 1 - MLB Baseball Players, "Homer at the Bat" (Season 3, Episode 17)
This crop of guest stars tops our list for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it consisted of baseball greats Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey, Jr., Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, José Canseco, Don Mattingly, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Scioscia. And the plot was so simple (Mr. Burns hires ringers for his company softball team) that it left nothing but room for an excessive amount of jokes involving each guest star individually. That being said, it was impossible to pick which one stood out, as none of them were underutilized. It also gave us this classic Simpsons tune to play our list out.