Thanks to the proliferation of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu that no one really pays for (okay, your ex-boyfriend’s cousin’s former babysitter pays for it), we have essentially unlimited options when it comes to what to watch on TV. But sometimes, we just want the tried and true classics. Many a time, we end up re-watching Friends or The Office for a guaranteed laugh, or even going back to the beginning of Stranger Things or Handmaid’s Tale to pick up on things we didn’t see the first time around.
Just like it can be comforting to rewatch one of your favorite shows, it can be comforting to see your favorite actors in their original element — acting as themselves. These 17 actors played themselves (or at least, a version of themselves) on TV.
17. Bob Barker
See him as himself on: How I Met Your Mother
Throughout most of the nine seasons, Barney Stinson is a notorious playboy, never one to shy away from taking advantage of a pretty woman. His best friend Ted Mosby is the hopeless romantic of the group. But Barney has one resounding area of weakness: he doesn’t know who his father is. Thanks to the tales his mother used to tell him as a child, part of Barney believes that Bob Barker, host of The Price is Right, is actually his dad. Barney even lands himself a slot on the show — an episode on which Bob Barker appears as himself — to try to connect with him. It doesn’t go well, but it’s not as physical as Barker’s role as himself in Happy Gilmore.
16. Matthew McConaughey
See him as himself on: Sex and the City
Long before Miranda Hobbs — I mean, Cynthia Nixon — was running for governor of New York City, Carrie Bradshaw was making ridiculous comments about sex, love, and New York City, and for some reason Matthew McConaughey wanted to turn her column into a movie. In a role initially written for Alec Baldwin, McConaughey stars as himself, meeting with Carrie in LA about a potential movie, but he makes the fatal mistake of siding with Mr. Big and blaming the demise of their relationship on Carrie. (Tbh, we’d suck up our pride and make a movie anyway, but Carrie couldn’t deal with it.) If a fictional movie were to be made of the fictional TV characters, Baldwin as Big would make much more sense than McConaughey.
See her as herself on: Will & Grace
In a hilarious moment that is just so Jack McFarland, Jack actually meets the real-life Cher only to assume she’s a drag queen and go on to insult her. On an episode where Jack carries around his Cher doll, treating her as a real person, the actual real person walks up to him at a restaurant and comments on how weird it is. Jack takes offense, trying to correct Cher’s “impression” of Cher. Even when she belts out “if I could turn back time,” Jack is still convinced she’s an impersonator and belts it right back. Cher ends up slapping him. (She also plays herself in the movie Stuck On You.)
14. Kevin Bacon
See him as himself on: Will & Grace
A sitcom taking place in New York City and featuring two fabulous gay men clearly features more than one celebrity cameo. Naturally, Jack is obsessed with Kevin Bacon and, while stalking him, ends up hiding in his apartment as Bacon interviews potential assistants. Jack pretends to be one of the applicants and Bacon hires him, assigning him the task of finding the stalker he thinks he has. Jack, the actual stalker, tells Bacon it’s Will. The move backfires, and Bacon wants to hang out with Will, because having stalkers means he’s still an important celebrity. He shouldn’t worry about that — six degrees of Kevin Bacon will always keep him relevant!
13. Daniel Radcliffe
See him as himself on: Extras
The sitcom created by and starring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant features characters that are an exaggerated version of themselves, which is the same type of role Daniel Radcliffe takes on in his cameo as himself. Because the show couldn’t make overt references to the Harry Potter franchise but wanted to tie Radcliffe to his defining role, he wears a Boy Scout uniform on the episode instead of a school uniform. His Extras version of himself is, well, extra, and he flirts (rather offensively and unsuccessfully — he flings a condom at a diner) with every girl he can.
12. Heather Graham
See her as herself on: Portlandia
The sketch comedy series centers around Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, but they play various different characters throughout the show. On an episode during which Armisen and Brownstein play a version of their real-life selves as the characters Fred and Carrie, they’re trying to help the mayor put together a big league baseball team. Heather Graham, as herself, shows up as a guest at a journaling workshop at Women and Women First bookstore, a shop owned by Armisen’s character Candace. During the workshop, she reads to an unamused audience about her boyfriend Chad and the hours of tantric sex they had. Naturally.
11. Seth Green
See him as himself on: Entourage
Although not a member of the bro group for which the show is named, he does appear multiple times as himself on the show. The guys and Green have beef because Green claims to have had a prior relationship with E’s girlfriend Sloan, who claims Green is basically a stalker. On the show, Green abuses the power allotted him because of his fame, always hitting on women, looking down his nose at other people, and ordering his friends around. Eventually, the entourage gets back at Green when he’s passed over for a role due to his drama with the crew.
10. Carl Weathers
See him as himself on: Arrested Development
Carl Weathers has a recurring role as himself on both the original seasons of Arrested Development and the Netflix reboot. The version of himself on the show is a washed-up actor looking to save a buck and make a buck. Aspiring actor Tobias Fünke idolizes Weathers and hires him to be his acting coach, though the advice Weathers gives is mostly hinged on saving money in any circumstance, like getting bumped from a flight for travel vouchers. Weathers also produces and even stars on the fictional show within the show, Scandalmakers.
9. Kirstie Alley
See her as herself on: Fat Actress
On the one season-long Showtime show, Kirstie Alley pokes fun at herself and her issues with weight gain. The show, mostly unscripted, humorously looks at the struggles Alley faced to lose weight in order to get back in Hollywood’s good graces and appear on television again. One episode centers around a rumor that Alley gained weight because she’s pregnant with Kid Rock’s child. In real life, Alley is the mother to two children she adopted, William and Lillie. When the show debuted in 2005, it was initially the highest-rated series Showtime had seen.
8. Lou Ferrigno
See him as himself on: The King of Queens
Just like his role as himself in the movie I Love You, Man, Lou Ferrigno’s recurring appearance as himself on The King of Queens centers around his annoyance at people around him constantly referring to his famous role in The Incredible Hulk. On the TV show, Ferrigno and his wife are neighbors to Heffemans. In addition to getting heated when people refer to him as his iconic role, he also has a video game addiction on the show.
7. James Van Der Beek
See him as himself on: Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23
James Van Der Beek is possibly as famous for his character Dawson Leery’s ugly cry face specifically as he is for being the star of Dawson’s Creek in general. On Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23, Van Der Beek is a friend of the b— herself, Chloe, and he is trying desperately to reignite his acting career. Although he shamelessly tries to use his former glory to his advantage, he also allows Chloe to name drop him to her own shameless advantage, and he even takes a contestant spot on Dancing with the Stars. Can that happen IRL, please?!
6. Wil Wheaton
See him as himself on: The Big Bang Theory
Wil Wheaton appears multiple times on The Big Bang Theory as himself. As a main character on the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, Wheaton was one of Sheldon Cooper’s favorite celebrities, even heroes, when he was a teenager. When Wheaton first appears, it is revealed that a young Sheldon (not to be confused with the spin-off series Young Sheldon) tried to meet the actor at a convention when he was 15, but the actor never showed. Because of this incident, Wheaton’s role on the show is as somewhat of a nemesis of the gang, until they become friends during season five.
5. Kelsey Grammer
See him as himself on: 30 Rock
Kelsey Grammer appears as himself on 30 Rock twice, featured on each episode when Jenna Maroney and Kenneth Parcell come to him for help. The first time around, it’s to help them pull off a scam involving Carvel cakes Jenna wins for free and then returns for cash, which she and Kenneth get Grammer’s help with after Jenna is banned from the store. The second time around, the duo accidentally releases mercury fumes into the air and think they’ve poisoned Pete Hornberger, so they call their former partner in crime to help them figure out what to do.
4. Oprah Winfrey
See her as herself on: 30 Rock
Although Oprah Winfrey plays herself on an episode of 30 Rock, she’s really just a hallucination that Liz Lemon is having on an airplane due to medication she took at the advice of Jack Donaghy. In reality, Liz is actually sitting next to a preteen on the flight. However, “Oprah” still manages to help Liz out. Jenna and Tracy Jordan have been fighting, as usual, but the rest of the team is worried it’s getting out of control. The preteen arrives at the studio, after being invited by Liz when she thought it was Oprah, yet still, she manages to help Jenna and Tracy settle their differences.
3. Josh Groban
See him as himself on: Glee
Josh Groban appeared as himself on Glee for two episodes of the first season. When Groban accidentally befriends Sandy Ryerson on MySpace, Sandy becomes obsessed and basically stalks Groban. Later, Sandy invites Groban to an Acafellas performance and Groban actually comes — with the intent to serve a restraining order. He does, but he also compliments the Acafellas. During his next appearance, Groban is a celebrity judge for the regionals show choir competition, where he initially approves of the New Directions, though he changes his mind after bickering with the other judges.
2. Kelly Ripa
See her as herself on: Broad City
Kelly Ripa plays a sort of alternate reality version of herself on Broad City. On the episode, Abbi misplaces Ripa’s coat when working coat check, and as she scours New York City to find it, she ends up in Ripa’s own apartment, where she’s actually invited in for a drink. The evening starts off great, with wine and jokes, but takes a turn for the wild when Ripa breaks out the moonshine. Ripa turns into a devilish party girl, and even Abbi finds it difficult keeping up with her. Meanwhile, Ilana is off hooking up with her real life and on-screen look-alike, played by Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat.
1. Aaron Carter
See him as himself on: Lizzie McGuire
How could anyone forget one of the most magical mistletoe kisses ever portrayed on screen?! For his cameo appearance as himself on Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire, Aaron Carter is shooting a music video for “I Want Candy,” and Lizzie, Miranda, Gordo, and Lizzie’s brother Matt want to crash the set. Matt is allowed in because the crew mistakes him for Carter’s stand-in, but the rest get turned away. Eventually, Carter’s manager agrees one of them can meet the pop star, and Lizzie tells Miranda to go — but then she magically runs into Carter on her own, where they share a kiss underneath the mistletoe.