Dozens and dozens of celebrities have made appearances on The Simpsons over the past few decades. Choosing twenty favorites was a difficult task because so many are favorite actors and actresses of mine. There are recurring guest stars as well as ones that make only cameos. However, I pared down the laundry list of guest stars on The Simpsons and chose my favorite twenty based on their hilarious and skilled performances. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
1. Tony Blair
Can you imagine Margaret Thatcher giving a cameo performance on The Simpsons? The Iron Lady would no doubt show them the door. However, fun-loving, media-friendly Tony Blair was happy to record dialogue for "The Regina Monologues", poking fun at himself and the English way of life.
2. Glenn Close
Glenn Close has been the voice of Homer's mother for years. Mona started as a mysterious figure, since we had only ever seen Abe. Then we discovered her secret in "Mother Simpson," that she loved Homer dearly, but left her family when she became a rebel. She also appears in "My Mother the Carjacker" and "Mona Leaves-A."
3. Rodney Dangerfield
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield played a pivotal character on The Simpsons. Much like Homer discovers a brother in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", Mr. Burns discovers he has a son in "Burns, Baby Burns." Larry Burns tracks down Mr. Burns after spotting him on a train bound for Springfield. At first, Mr. Burns accepts his son. But Larry soon loses favor with Mr. Burns when he turns out to be unrefined and ignorant. Rodney Dangerfield's casual and loose-talking style make Larry Burns not only goofy, but also lovable.
4. Danny DeVito
Who better to play fast-talking Herb Powell than Danny DeVito? Herb Powell is the half-brother Homer never knew he had. Homer and his family discover Herb is very wealthy, the CEO of Powell Motors. After Herb bonds with Homer, he allows Homer to design a dream car, which winds up ruining the company and Herb. Danny DeVito's history with Taxi and gruff manner give Herb Powell the tough edge he needs. He later appears in "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?"
5. Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster deftly portrayed a wise and fiery Maggie in "Four Great Women." In the episode, female characters from The Simpsons each take on a persona from important fiction. Maggie is Maggie Roark, the Howard Roark character from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. How fitting that someone so smart and educated as Jodie Foster would play the visionary character? Perfect casting.
6. Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais has made two guest appearances on The Simpsons. The first time was in "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife," when he played Charlie, a beaten down husband who is paired with Marge on a reality show. Then, he played himself at the Oscars in "Angry Dad." His subtle, almost straight delivery makes his humor high-brow yet relatable.
7. Kelsey Grammer
Kelsey Grammer's deep, smooth voice is a contrast to the goofy-looking villain Sideshow Bob. Grammer's acting style gives the clown a sophistication he wouldn't have if his voice were squeaky or silly. Kelsey Grammer has appeared in several episodes, including "Krusty Gets Busted," "Cape Feare," "Black Widower," "Sideshow Bob Roberts" and "Funeral for a Fiend." He won an Emmy for his voice-over performance in 2006 for "The Italian Bob."
8. Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is the Albert Einstein of our time, researching time, space and the laws that govern our universe. He was also a guest star on The Simpsons in "They Saved Lisa's Brain," appearing as the leading member of MENSA. When the episode aired, fans weren't sure if Stephen Hawking had really recorded his lines with his own electronic voice, or if producers had fabricated it. However, the renowned physicist really did take time to record his own dialogue.
9. Phil Hartman
Phil Hartman was a beloved and respected actor who had perfected his comedic performances. His career included characters on Pee-wee's Playhouse, Newsradio and Saturday Night Live. On The Simpsons, he played two hilarious characters: Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz. Tragically, Phil Hartman was killed by his wife, who also turned the gun on herself, on May 28, 1998. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Matt Groening said, "I took him for granted because he nailed the joke every time." He certainly did.
10. Dustin Hoffman
Another Oscar-winner on the list of Simpsons guest stars is Dustin Hoffman. He turns in a lovely performance as Mr. Bergstrom, Lisa's substitute teacher in, well, "Lisa's Substitute." (However, he was credited as Sam Etic. Being credited as someone other than yourself even though your voice was clearly recognizable was a Simpsons tradition in early seasons, like Michael Jackson credited as John Jay Smith in "Stark Raving Dad.") His casual, soft voice is so endearing that Lisa falls for him, developing a strong crush that he gently rebukes.