When it comes to the Super Bowl, you better go big or go home. That rule applies to the television shows that air episodes after the big game ends, and none of them took that adage more seriously this year than New Girl, who recruited legendary musician Prince for a guest starring role. But while some loved his television debut, and all of the funk that he brought with him, others felt that there was something missing from his small screen moment.
Of course, Prince is not the first celebrity to play himself on a sitcom, and he likely won’t be the last. We’ve rundown the best celebrity sitcom appearances, and graded them, based on their ability to be a good sport, their place in the sitcom’s universe, and most importantly, whether or not they were actually funny. So, who were the best, and who were better off sticking a sock in it?
Prince, New Girl
Role in Story: After Jess and Cece almost get run over by a car, the driver invites them to a fancy party at her boss’ mansion. Her boss: Prince. While there, Jess undertakes Prince’s montage of spiritual training to figure out why she’s so afraid to tell Nick she loves him.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: No. It’s f**king nonsense.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 5/5. The whole episode is everyone fawning over Prince (including Prince). They even retconned high school-era Nick as a Prince fan, which doesn’t really add up to his curmudgeonly, feelings-hating ways.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 3.5/5. To be fair, he did come off as quite an oddball.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 3.5/5. Prince actually can handle a joke better than you’d think.
Overall Grade: A purple stain on the record of the music artist and this once clever show.
Adam Sandler, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Role in Story: Sandler was a guest at an auction of Greek antiquities that Peralta and Santiago infiltrated to locate a jewel thief. They found the thief, but not before Peralta and Samberg exchanged some witty banter, and Samberg got the rest of the guests to bid on stuffing his dirty sock into Peralta’s mouth. Charming.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: Sort of. It makes sense that Peralta and Santiago would run into some powerful people at an art auction, but the fact that it was Sandler made it feel random.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 2/5. He was definitely shown to be cooler than Peralta and smarter than people would assume, but mostly he was there to pick on Peralta and be picked on himself.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 4.5/5. One of the best jokes came when Peralta asked what role Kevin James was playing in Samberg’s upcoming film about the Russian Revolution, to which Sandler replied: “Oh, ha ha. It’s a serious film … Trotsky.”
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 4/5. He’s famous for being funny, and he was, but it was all pretty one-note.
Overall Grade: Better than That’s My Boy, but not quite as good as Happy Gilmore.
James Franco, 30 Rock
Role in Story: Franco was pretending to date Jenna Maroney in order to keep paparazzi from finding out about his true love, a body pillow named Kimiko. Later in the episode, Liz shares a wild night with James and his “lady,” one that she very much regrets in the morning.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: Perfect sense, as weird as that sounds.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 3/5. He wasn’t fawned over, but he wasn’t completely dismissed, either.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 4/5. What better way to poke fun at how weird Franco is than by revealing that he’s dating a body pillow?
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 4/5. He’s best known for his comedy, whether its scripted or not.
Overall Grade: Almost as funny as him releasing a new edition of As I Lay Dying with a photo of himself on the cover.
Jean Claude Van Damme, Friends
Role in Story: Van Damme was starring in a film, and the gang sneaks onto the set to help Ross track down his former pet monkey, marcel. Rachel and Monica compete for the action star’s attention, until he proposes they have a threesome with Drew Barrymore, at which point, they promptly dump him.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: A little bit. Do we believe that Ross would go on a city-wide search for a monkey? Yes. Do we believe Rachel and Monica would compete over a guy? Sure. But do we believe anyone would ever let these people anywhere close to a movie star? No way. Not even Joey.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 4.5/5. It was a plot all about how good looking he was.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 2/5. He was a little cocky, but it was mostly about how good looking he was.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 2/5. Granted, he only had about two lines, but it wasn’t particularly comedic.
Overall Grade: Nowhere near as epic as the viral wiveo where he’s doing the split.
Stan Lee, The Big Bang Theory
Role in Story: Thanks to their friend Stuart, the gang gets to meet Stan Lee and have him sign their comic books – everyone except for Sheldon, who has to appear in court on a traffic summons. To make it up to them, Penny takes Sheldon to Stan’s house, uninvited, and when he sarcastically invites Sheldon into his house, Sheldon enthusiastically accepts, resulting in a new restraining order that he can hang next to the ones from Leonard Nimoy and Carl Sagan.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: Yes. Sheldon would completely overreact about missing the chance to hang out with his hero, and Stan Lee would definitley have a restraining order taken out against him.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 4/5. He’s treated like the god he is to comic book fans.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 3/5. It’s mostly Sheldon who gets mocked, but having him get frustrated by the “fanboys” who won’t leave him alone was a nice touch.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 3.5/5. He doesn’t have a lot to do, but he’s good at what he does.
Overall Grade: Better than a gift basket, not as awesome as an autographed napkin from Leonard Nimoy.
Jon Voight, Seinfeld
Role in Story: George purchases a car under the pretenses that its previous owner was none other than Jon Voight (knowing not that the real previous owner was John Voight, a dentist). Later on, Kramer accosts Voight in order to find out the truth behind the automobile’s ownership, only to have his arm bitten by the angry film legend.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: It’s Seinfeld, so… sure.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 2/5. George was thrilled that he was in possession of Voight’s car, comparing him favorably to the likes of (pfft!) Liam Neeson. But
Self-Mockery of the Role: 5/5. Voight’s small onscreen appearance made him out to be a lunatic.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 5/5. Nobody bites Michael Richards like Joe Buck.
Overall Grade: One of my personal favorite Seinfeld episodes, which is saying a lot.
Luis Guzman, Community
Role in Story: Dean Pelton wants to make a new commercial to help boost enrollment at Greendale, so he recruits the school’s most famous alum, Luis Guzman, to star in it. Unfortunately, by the time he shows up on campus, the commercial has gone from Apolocalypse Now to Hearts of Darkness.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: With a show this weird, anything’s possible.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 2/5. One the one hand, he’s Greendale’s most famous alumnus. On the other, he’s Greendale’s most famous alumnus.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 5/5. Although the joke was on Dean Pelton and Greendale, Guzman’s allowance of his likeness as a Greendale Community College alum is something that only someone with a great sense of humor would do (case in point: Mark Hamill said ‘no’ to Dan Harmon and co).
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 4/5. Even before he shows up onscreen, we’re already laughing.
Overall Grade: As awesome as a Kickpuncher marathon.
Andy Richter, Arrested Development
Role in Story: Unfortunately, he can’t stop running into the Bluth family wherever he goes. Eventually, he gives in, and helps Michael attempt to get the Bluth family bopic off the ground.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: Yes, but weirdly, his four brothers are a better fit for the Bluth family’s antics.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 1.5/5. He’s famous enough to get into the Ealing Club, but not so famous that people can’t tell him apart from his brothers.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 5/5. One point for each Richter quintuplet.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 4/5. He’s Conan’s sidekick, and don’t you forget it.
Overall Grade: Like the Bluth’s chicken dance: weird, nonsensical, and delightful.
Sinbad, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Role in Story: After Dennis checks into rehab to help the sales of his erotic memoirs, he is forced to share a room with Sinbad and Rob Thomas. And Sinbad doesn’t like him. Not one bit. Of course, like most things on this show, it all turns out to be a drug-induced hallucination.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: Without the drugs? Not really. But as a terrible hallucination? Totally.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 4/5. He runs that rehab center, and he will make everyone his b**ch.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 4/5. Nobody was expecting Sinbad to be the foul-mouthed bad boy of the rehab center.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 4/5. And if you don’t think he’s funny, he’ll have Rob Thomas beat you with a slipper.
Overall Grade: Solidly on par with the rest of the gang’s get-rich-quick schemes.
Joe Biden, Parks and Recreation
Role in Story: Through his campaign work in Washington, Ben is able to introduce Leslie to her biggest crush: Vice President Joe Biden. For once in her life, Leslie is speechless.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: It’s a little hard to believe Ben would be connected enough to meet the VP, but there’s no ay that Leslie would not have met Joe Biden eventually.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 4/5. There is nothing on this planet that Leslie loves more than Joe Biden. Nothing. Not even waffles.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 1/5. Leslie shows him a little too much respect, if anything.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 3/5. He doesn’t have any funny lines, but Biden’s a naturally funny guy. Just Google him.
Overall Grade: Better than a waffle tower.
Stevie Wonder, The Cosby Show
Role in Story: Denise and Theo get into a car accident with Stevie Wonder’s chauffered limo. As an apology, he invites the Huxtables to the studio for a jam session.
Does That Make Any Sense in the Show’s Universe: That doesn’t make sense in any universe, let alone this one.
Self-Aggrandizement of the Role: 3/5. The Huxtables are understandably starstruck, but he’s pretty humble and down-to-earth.
Self-Mockery of the Role: 1.5/5. He cracks a few jokes, but neither he nor the show actually mock him.
Celeb’s Comic Ability: 2/5. Those few jokes a pretty good, but he’s not there for the comedy.
Overall Grade: Not nearly as iconic as Dr. Huxtable’s collection of sweaters.