Neil Gaiman is a brilliant writer. Brilliant writers have fans. Sometimes, those fans make films, TV shows and comics. That’s more or less the behind-the-scenes story to this collection of Neil Gaiman’s nerdiest cameo appearances.
Years of Neil Gaiman gamely agreeing to appear as himself or take a small role in his fans’ creations has created a rare back catalogue of guest appearances by the Sandman author. Today, we celebrate that eclectic CV with this list of Gaiman’s geekiest cameos.
Essentially, if you’ve always yearned to see a cartoon cat Neil Gaiman snorkelling in a fruit smoothie, then today is your lucky day…
Arthur, Falafelosophy (2010)
We’ll start strong with this voice appearance by Neil Gaiman in long-running PBS kids’ cartoon Arthur. Gaiman plays himself (well, himself as a cat, this being the anthropomorphised animal world of Arthur) in a 2010 episode in which he inspires Sue Ellen to create her own graphic novel. After a book signing meeting at which Sue Ellen gives Gaiman the idea to write a cook book, he returns the favour by giving Sue Ellen a copy of Coraline. Her verdict? “Freaky, but cool”.
That pretty much sums up what happens next in the episode, which is announced by the immortal line, “Neil Gaiman, what are you doing in my falafel?” (now there’s a tattoo quote). It’s not just Sue Ellen’s falafel either, her imaginary Gaiman – or “inner Neil” as the cartoon has it – next appears in snorkelling gear taking a dip in her smoothie.
The whole episode is here if you have ten minutes to spare. It’s worth it, we promise.
The Simpsons, The Book Job (2011)
Better known than his cat/falafel/smoothie animated outing is Gaiman’s 2011 role in The Simpsons season twenty-three episode, “The Book Job,” written by Dan Vebber.
Once again, cartoon Gaiman (minus the cat ears) plays himself and is found in a book shop, where he joins a Springfield cohort attempting to get rich quick by creating the next YA fantasy literary phenomenon (“I just hope we put in enough steampunk, whatever that is” – Homer).
Gaiman, or “British Fonzie” as Homer dubs him, becomes a catering lackey/punching bag for the group, which includes Homer, Bart, Skinner, Moe, Professor Frink, and Patty. That is, until his real motivations are revealed…
The episode seems to be available here if you’ve yet to catch it.
The Guild, Downturn (2011)
This one’s a particularly game turn from Gaiman, who played a version of himself in an instalment of Felicia Day’s MMORPG web series The Guild. The episode, “Downturn,” takes place at a SF&F convention at which Gaiman is speaking, but as Sandman finished over a decade ago, he’s concerned that the young audience won’t know who he is and attend his panel, leaving him humiliated in the convention’s largest hall. Gaiman’s face-saving answer is to beg the aid of Warlock Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) and his “seat savers network.”
See his brief scene in the video from approx. 3:50 here.
Jay And Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie (2013)
Kevin Smith is a Neil Gaiman fan, as anyone who’s seen 1999’s Dogma will know (Smith gave Gaiman a “Humble Thanks” credit on the movie, presumably for the inspiration drawn from Sandman and Good Omens for the film’s story). It follows then, that when Smith wanted a classy British butler for his 2013 Jay And Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, it’d be Gaiman’s extended vowels he’d seek for the job.
Albert the Manservant, voiced by, and bearing something of a resemblance to, Gaiman (well, Gaiman cosplaying as the Eleventh Doctor perhaps), is the disdainful butler Jay and Silent Bob hire after their lottery-win-funded transformation into superheroes Bluntman and Chronic in the X-rated cartoon movie. This one can be seen here (skip to 43:48 for Albert’s death scene), but be warned, it definitely isn’t for kids, nor is it at all safe for work.
Not only did Neil Gaiman pop up as the voice of Mr Figgis, the stringent security guard in BBC Radio 4’s 2013 Dirk Maggs adaptation of Neverwhere (listen from about 0:50 in this promo clip to hear him in action), but he was also the man behind The Fop With No Name in London Below in the same radio drama. Double bubble Neil. You can read more about the adaptation, here.
Gaiman was in very fine company with this one, which went out in spring 2013 and featured the voices of Natalie Dormer, James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sophie Okonedo, Anthony Head, David Harewood and more.
Good Omens (2014)
While we’re on the subject of BBC Radio 4 adaptations, you can hear Neil Gaiman’s cameo appearance alongside his much-missed co-author Terry Pratchett in 2014’s Good Omens. Gaiman and Pratchett play police officers Neil and Terry, two men in pursuit of Crowley, a demon voiced by Peter Serafinowicz, who is driving his 1926 Bentley very dangerously…
This audio clip comes with the bonus of some neat artwork from illustrators Sean Phillips and Simon Gurr.
We miss you Pterry.
This Gaiman appearance is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but it’s undeniably there while it lasts. All of two seconds.
Bill Stiteler’s very low-budget 2008 table-top RPG comedy about four role-playing friends in their thirties somehow managed to bag a glimpse of Neil in their comic book store scene. He also has a line. Well, a word (did he get equity rates for that?). See it for yourself here from 10:40 and read more about Thaco here.
Labyrinth With Sock Puppets feat. Amanda Palmer and friends (2010)
A bit of fun here. This video was uploaded to Amanda Palmer’s YouTube channel on Christmas Eve 2010 as a festive gift for fans, with love from Palmer, Neil Gaiman “and Team Chaos”. It’s a quite deliberately low-budget reimagining of the scene in 1986’s Labyrinth in which Jennifer Connolly meets the worm (“Allo!”) and starts “looking right” at the labyrinth. Allow for some poetic license in what ensues…
You’ll notice the worm model is now a sock puppet, Jareth’s crystal balls are now Christmas baubles, and Jareth appears to be wearing a Rod Stewart wig and an inside-out curtain for a cloak. Playing Jareth – or Jared (David Bowie with a mullet) as the credits have it – is none other than Mr Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman.
According to his IMDb profile, Neil Gaiman also voiced Baal in the 1998 animated TV pilot Archangel Thunderbird, and is due to appear in forthcoming picture, Blood Kiss, written by Michael Reeves.
Bonus Gaiman: comic book appearances
In addition to the above on-screen and on-air appearances, the comic book world has understandably wanted to pay tribute to Neil Gaiman. So it has. A number of times. Below are just a few instances of characters representing, or inspired by, Neil Gaiman to have graced the pages of graphic novels and comic strips…
Which, according the Stewart, drew Gaiman’s attention to the strip and led to him suggesting the Vera Brosgol Anya’s Ghost recommendation he makes in these panels:
In 2003, Peter Bagge’s meta comedy book Sweatshop about the production of a low-rent comic, made its own nod to Gaiman, here:
Going back a few years to the mid-late nineties, Gaiman appeared as himself as a lead character in Dark Fantasy Productions’ short-lived Donna Mia series, written by Trevlin Utz. It’s explicitly him, though the succubus story didn’t originate with Gaiman. Here’s a SFW sample from one of two books produced (you can see more at Comics Comics, here):