It is amazing to think that an animated show that got its start on the Tracy Ullman show would still be reaching our television screens today. There was no way that anyone could have predicted that a family of five yellow-skinned people would have the lasting power of nearly 40 years. That is how great the run of The Simpsons has been.
The Simpsons incredible 32 season run is the result of a multitude of incredibly talented people working behind the scenes. The voices actors, writing, and animation teams are some of the most talented people in the entertainment industry. Their efforts over the last 40 years have made The Simpsons one of the most successful shows of all time.
The efforts of The Simpsons team aside the success of the show would not be as long-lasting if it were not for the impact of celebrities. The Simpsons have become such an institution in pop culture that it is a badge of honour to have a guest spot on the show. Celebrities from all mediums have gotten their chance to voice a character/or themselves on the show. Most of these appearances have been your run-of-the-mill guest spot but some have become a thing of legend. Below we will take a look at the 10 greatest of these celebrity appearances.
James Earl Jones
The Simpsons were in their infancy when they decided to go ahead with their first Treehouse of Horror. The Halloween special was centered around three separate stories of terror and comedy that helped to make the yearly episode one of the most anticipated.
The highlight of the first Treehouse of Horror has to be the fantastic voice work of James Earl Jones. Voicing a character in each of the horror stories Jones’s delightful baritone voice added a feeling of terror and comedy to each story.
The fantastic voice work by Jones during the Treehouse of Horror episode helped to make it one of the most memorable. His work helped to establish The Simpsons Halloween episode as one of the longest-running traditions for the animated show.
When Springfield decided to outlaw alcohol Homer came to the rescue as the anonymous Beer Baron. To combat his illegal activities Mayor Quimby brought in a ringer and thus we were introduced to Rex Banner, voiced by Dave Thomas.
As the ever-serious Rex Banner, Dave Thomas was fantastic. His deadpan portrayal of the lawman was hilarious. Banner had several great lines during the episode and his back and forths with Homer were ones that still get quoted today.
It would be great to see Rex Banner make a return to Springfield to go after the infamous Beer Baron once again.
In the season three premiere Homer is committed to a mental institution where he meets a very unlikely friend. A patient at the hospital whose voice sounds very familiar befriends Homer.
By now we are all aware that this was the voice of Michael Jackson. Jackson lent his voice to disgruntled construction worker Leon Kompowsky. It was a great get by The Simpsons to acquire such a huge star on their show. Jacksons interactions with Homer and Bart throughout the episode were very heartfelt and the innocence of Jacksons’ voice did a lot to help this. There is also the fantastic song that is penned but not sung by Jackson.
This is also one of the most infamous celebrity appearances on The Simpsons because Jackson was not given credit for the voice work. It was obvious to all but a pseudonym was used during the credits for contractual reasons.
Following the lives of Homer and Marge in their high school days, we are introduced to the arrogant handsy geek Artie Ziff. Ziff was the foil for Homer throughout the episode trying to bring Marge to his side but ultimately driving her into Homer’s arms.
The work that Lovitz has done for The Simpsons over the years cannot be understated. Lovitz’s nasal tone was the perfect voice for Ziff. Lovitz perfectly captured the nerdy arrogance of a man who thinks that he is better than everyone else. His reaction to being usurped at every turn was hilarious and Lovitz was the one who made this work.
Outside of his recurring role as Ziff, Lovitz also lent his fantastic voice work to other characters throughout the run of the show.
When Homer stumbles upon a secret society, in season 6, we are introduced to Number One, the leader of the Stonecutters. Voiced by Patrick Stewart, Number One discovered that Homer is the chosen one and spends the episode worshipping the Stonecutters’ new leader.
Stewart has one of the most regal voices in the entertainment business. He lends an air of sophistication to his roles and this is why his voice work for The Simpsons was so great. Number One was an immature and silly man and the deep voice of Stewart was the perfect bait and switch for this.
Stewart would voice another character in later seasons but he will forever be remembered for his great turn as Number One.
After faking his death to get out of work Homer inadvertently brings his estranged mother out of hiding. Assuming that she had been dead for the past six seasons we learn that Mona had been on the run since Homer was a child.
Glenn Close was an odd choice in the beginning to voice Homer’s mother but in retrospect, there could have been no other person to play the role. Being a six-time Academy Award-nominated actress Close is not shy to emotional depth and that is exactly what she brought to the role. The Simpsons are not known for their emotional scenes but some of the interactions between Mona and Homer are very emotional. These tear-jerking scenes would have had a lesser impact if not for the outstanding work by Close.
In season three we get to meet the underboss of The Springfield Mafia, Fat Tony. Fat Tony is the antagonist for a lot of episodes in The Simpsons and is just as much a part of the city as any other character.
Being an Italian American, Mantegna was the perfect casting choice for Fat Tony. Fat Tony, while being a serious criminal, was still a comedic character in The Simpsons and Mantegna played this perfectly. His smooth voice gave us a sense of unease with the character but his deadpan reactions to hilarious moments made them even funnier.
Fat Tony is one of the most iconic characters in the history of The Simpsons and his staying power would have been absent if Mantegna did not helm his voice.
In the early years of The Simpsons, Brooks was responsible for several characters that have now become some of the most beloved Simpsons characters.
As suave French philanderer, Jacques, Brooks was hilarious. His sleazy French accent was perfect as he attempted to steal Marge away from Homer. While generally, an unlikeable character one could not help but laugh at Jacques’s beautifully delivered bowling metaphors.
Of course, what Brooks will be known for in The Simpsons is his expertly over-the-top portrayal of Hank Scorpio. As Homer’s new boss Scorpio is supportive of Homer and helps him to become the best employee that he will ever be. Of course, we learn that Scorpio is a Bond-esque villain whose aspirations center around world domination. The amount of quotable moments from Brooks during this episode is numerous and his voice work is a huge reason why Scorpio is one of the most popular Simpsons characters to this day.
Being responsible for two of the most iconic Simpsons characters in history has to place one high on this list.
Troy McClure was a washed-up actor who appeared in every cheesy infomercial that one can imagine on The Simpsons. His need for money and fame drove him to do whatever he could to get his face on television. McClure’s grandstanding was groan-worthy but Hartman brought the perfect amount of comedy to the character. We knew that McClure was a sleazy celebrity but we loved him nonetheless.
When McClure was not chewy up the scenery Hartman was busy putting his talents towards the ambulance chaser Lionel Hutz. Hutz was the cheap option lawyer who was used by many in Springfield. His ineptitude at being a lawyer was only matched by his ability to win cases. Hartman’s voice was perfect for this character as he brought overconfidence that should not have been there. Again, Hartman was the perfect man to voice this iconic Simpsons character.
If anyone thought that there was going to be another name at the top of this list they should go outside and step on a few rakes.
12 episodes into season one Krusty is framed for armed robbery. Being the smart kid he is Bart investigates and discovers that the crime was committed by Sideshow Bob, getting the sidekick arrested in the process. This began the cat and mouse game between the two that has lasted for over 30 years.
Sideshow Bob was a well-educated man, whose love of high culture had him looking down his nose at the residents of Springfield. His higher than thou attitude was something that was captured perfectly by Grammer. His deep and cultured voice was spot on for what Sideshow Bob’s voice needed to be.
The amazing singing voice of Grammer was also something that benefited the character over the years. In many episodes, the beautiful singing voice of Grammer can be heard through Bob. It was a talent that Grammer had and was used for the Sideshow Bob character to perfection.
It should also be noted that Grammer has previously won an Emmy for his voice work on The Simpsons and that, among other reasons, is why he will forever be the best celebrity appearance on The Simpsons.