The comedy cameo is an artform in itself. Done right it can become a scene-stealing performance, the one you remember most of all about the movie it appeared in. Cameos are not key to the film, nor are they worthy of praise outside the confines of their own sphere. They are one-off moments of hilarity, often where you least expect it.
We’ve centred mostly, barring one entry, on cameos from the 80s onwards as a celebration of the modern comedy cameo and we trust you’ll recognise all on this list as being worthy of inclusion. If you have any of your own, there’s always the comments box.
Chuck Norris – Dodgeball
We start with an example of the kind of comedy cameo that hits you right between the eyes. This is, in many ways, the ideal cameo formula. Have one well-known celebrity appear in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in a comedy that wears its silliness on its sleeve, give them a simple one-liner and sit back as the audience smiles, laughs and nods in appreciation of the simplicity of what you’ve just done.
Step forward, Chuck Norris.
Tim Robbins – Anchorman
Another film from the same year as Dodgeball and with similar comedic sensibilities, Anchorman is also a film that packs in one of the finest modern cameo sequences in a moment of true genius. The movie has so many off-the-wall moments that it’s managed to stake a claim in our hearts for best comedy of the millennium, but it’s perhaps the fight scene between the rival news channels that has us in stitches more than anything else (Afternoon Delight aside).
Cameos a-plenty here with Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller lapping it up, but it’s Tim Robbins whom we’re most pleased to see.
Unexpected and played with gay abandon, Robbins adds his considerable acting chops to a sequence that deserves to be watched again and again.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Airplane!
Who knew basketball players could do comedy? The appearance of Abdul-Jabbar, by then a huge star in his chosen sport, in one of the funniest movies of all time is a little like seeing David Beckham crop up in Shaun Of The Dead. Totally unexpected, the shock factor gives way to some fine deadpan delivery as a seemingly uncomfortable Abdul-Jabbar does his best to keep up with the comedy talent around him. He doesn’t quite manage it, although scenes like this are comedy gold.
What’s your vector, Victor?
David Hasselhoff – The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
Comedy cameos don’t get much stranger than this. Spongebob and Patrick need to get back to Bikini Bottom but have no way to get there. What to do, what to do? No matter, for who’s that in the distance? That’s right, it’s David Hasselhoff. In Baywatch gear.
Fair play to Hasselhoff, never one to shy away from being able to laugh at himself. The sight of him bombing through the water like a dolphin is hilarious, and then the Hoff uses his ample chest to send Spongebob back home. It’s one of the oddest movie moments you’re likely to see, and a brilliantly realised cameo.
Tom Cruise – Austin Powers In Goldmember
Never let it be said that Tom Cruise isn’t a versatile actor. Nor that the man can’t have a little fun once in a while.
The reason his cameo in the third Austin Powers movie works so well is that it’s completely unexpected. Wrung out to just the right level of anticipation, we get to see Austin Powers doing all manner of action sequences until the camera pans up to reveal Cruise as he then delivers the killer line: “Yeah, baby!”
Of course, we then get fantastic cameos from a stunning Gwyneth Paltrow as Dixie Normous, Kevin Spacey camping it up as Dr. Evil and a brilliant Danny DeVito as Mini Me – showing the finger just is funny.
But it’s still the big name draw of Cruise that makes his appearance stand out above all.
Tom Cruise – Tropic Thunder
An extended cameo for sure, but a cameo nonetheless, Tom Cruise’s turn as Len Grossman in Tropic Thunder is quite possibly the finest thing he’s ever done. Playing the role for big laughs, his over-the-top, expletive-ridden performance is right up there with his ‘respect the cock’ speech in Magnolia.
The following clip isn’t for those of a nervous disposition. For the rest of us, lap it up.
Oh, and hunt down the clip of him dancing over the end credits too, while you’re at it. Talk about throwing yourself into a role.
Martin Sheen – Hot Shots: Part Deux
Hot Shots: Part Deux isn’t the funniest film you’ll ever see. Heck, we doubt it would make it in your top 20. It does, however, feature one of the funniest cameos ever. It’s largely down to the unexpected nature of it, seeing Martin Sheen crop up in son Charlie’s ode to Airplane!, ina scene that itself is a spoof of Apocalypse Now!
It’s also because it’s wonderfully realised, taking up just 40 seconds of screen time and giving father and son an opportunity to share a moment. “I loved you in Wall Street”. Says it all.
William Shatner – Airplane 2
While the first film opted to use an unexpected star, Airplane 2 decides to use a man who is known for being able to take the michael out of himself. There are several moments of pure comedy to be found in his appearances here, but it’s his flashing, bleeping light breakdown that stands out for us.
Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World
Another one to add to the ‘where did that come from’ pile, rock legend Alice Cooper turns out to be a glorious choice for a cameo.
Playing on his wild man image, the sight of Cooper relaying historical information about Milwaukee is a clever scene, turning the notion of debauched rock tours on its head.
It’s a shame that Myers’ career would eventually turn into the comedic cul-de-sac that it now is, as Wayne’s World still stands up as a strong piece of work.
Spike Milligan – Monty Python’s Life Of Brian
Spike Milligan’s influence on Monty Python is well documented, so it’s little surprise to see him turn up in their greatest ever creation.
Life Of Brian‘s take on organised religion is a masterstroke and still holds up today as their best, most rounded work.
Paying homage to the great inspiration himself, Milligan appears briefly following the shoe misinterpretation scene. As Cleese and Palin argue over the purpose of the shoe, the gatherers run off and Milligan is left to pontificate alone. Then, some subtle twitching of the fingers later, he ambles off, stage right.
Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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