The Top 10 Guest Stars on 30 Rock

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Tina Fey’s zany workplace comedy is known for its remarkable list of A-List cameos almost as much as it’s known for sharp writing and wry humor.  From Academy Award Winners to news anchors to one very famous talk show host, 30 Rock has never ceased to impress with its stunt casting.  In anticipation of the premiere of its seventh and final season later this week, we ranked the 10 best guest stars from the past six years.

Disclaimer:  The show has created excellent characters for the likes of Elizabeth Banks, Sherri Shepard, Elaine Stritch, Dean Winters, Steve Buschemi, Will Arnett, and Chris Parnell to name a few.  They are absent from this list, however, because their large amount of screen time defines them as more like series regulars rather than guest stars in our book.


Photo Credit: Brian Williams as Himself (Various Episodes):

As head anchor of NBC’s Nightly News and host of his new show Rock Center, Brian Williams tackles serious issues such as the current political climate, international affairs, and global disasters.  On 30 Rock, he pitches ideas for shows about lizard people, and throws a football around the newsroom while shouting “Nightly News Rules!”  Sure, it might be hard to take Williams seriously after watching him play a ridiculously goofy version of himself, but hearing him utter the line “This just in: Richie and Liz spotted in a tree, eyewitnesses report K-I-S-S-I-N-G” is totally worth it.


Photo Credit: James Franco as Himself (Klaus and Greta):

In one of the stranger plotlines of season 4, Jenna agrees to have a fake romantic relationship with actor James Franco in order to get more publicity. Franco meanwhile, is trying to dispel rumors that he’s actually in love with a Japanese body pillow named Kimiko.  The always-game actor has no trouble poking fun at himself, and the ending scene where Liz runs into him and Kimiko at a nightclub is priceless.


Photo Credit: Margaret Cho as Kim-Jong Il and Kim-Jong Un (Various Episodes):

The comedienne is almost unrecognizable as the late Korean Dictator.  Cho first appeared at the end of season 5 when it was revealed that Avery Jessup was being held hostage in North Korea.  The episode features some great bits like Kim Jong-Il’s morning weather reporting—“Everything sunny all the time always!”—and a fake buddy cop movie he apparently made with Tracy.  Cho reprised her role in season 6, as well as taking on the role of Jong-Il’s son Kim Jong-Un who poorly tries to hide his sexual orientation.  She was rewarded with an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.


Photo Credit: Salma Hayek as Elisa Pedrera (Various Episodes):

The sultry Oscar Nominee plays a nurse who becomes Jack’s love interest for a better part of season 3.  Seemingly innocent at first, Elisa wins Jack over with her sweet charms so much so that he proposes to her.  The wedding is called off, however, when Elisa reveals that she murdered her first husband upon discovering he was being unfaithful.  Hayek gives a great performance, and demonstrates a knack for being hilariously over-dramatic with lines like “And now you’ll never see the crazy underwear I have on!”  Not to mention there was her infamous goodbye kiss with Liz before she left for Puerto Rico….


Photo Credit: Jennifer Aniston as Claire Harper (The One with the Cast of ‘Night Court’):

Keeping with 30 Rock’s trend of having their guest stars play against-type, Jennifer Aniston shows up in the beginning of season 3 to play Liz and Jenna’s crazy ex-roommate from Chicago.  As Claire Harper, America’s favorite Friend sheds her girl next door image and becomes a slightly psychotic party girl who hooks up with Jack mere moments after meeting him.  From showing up uninvited at an event to do a “sexy birthday” routine, to surprising Jack at his house in a French maid outfit, Aniston nails the clingy/crazy girlfriend role perfectly and it’s a pleasure to watch.


Photo Credit: Oprah Winfrey as Herself (Believe in the Stars):

In what is perhaps the show’s biggest guest spot, The Queen of Daytime TV plays herself when Liz believes she is sitting next to her on a flight to Chicago.  Unfortunately, Liz is merely suffering from a sleeping pill-induced hallucination and is actually sitting next to a very precocious 11-year-old girl.  Though she only appears in a few scenes, it is an absolute thrill to hear Oprah say things like “I lost my headgear at Six Flags!” and “My boyfriend is in ninth grade!”


Photo Credit: Jon Hamm as Dr. Drew Baird (Various Episodes):

Proving that he can tackle both drama and comedy, Jon Hamm plays Liz’s new love interest toward the end of season 3.  Liz discovers she and Dr. Baird are neighbors after accidentally receiving his mail and is instantly smitten with his charm and good looks.  Their relationship seems to good to be true, and it is.  As it turns out Hamm’s character is unforgivably stupid, but no one will tell him otherwise because he’s so disarmingly handsome.  Two words: Hook Hands.


Photo Credit: Matt Damon as Carol Burnett (Various Episodes):

The end of season 4 saw Liz meeting her seemingly perfect man while juggling three weddings in one day.  Academy Award Winner Matt Damon plays Carol Burnett, a pilot who shares many of Liz’s opinions and character traits.  Damon provides an excellent male counterpart for Liz, but they unfortunately both realize that dating yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Their relationship culminates in a hilarious breakup seen aboard an airplane stuck at the terminal gate.


Photo Credit: Michael Sheen as Wesley Snipes (Various Episodes):

Before she meets Carol, Liz fears she is doomed to marry Sheen’s Wesley Snipes.  Finding his number in her phone under “Future Husband” after a root canal surgery, Liz tracks down Wesley and discovers that, not only is he not the actor from the Blade series, but they couldn’t be more unlike each other.  Wesley annoys her during their many chance encounters with his weird British phrases and his problems with the science behind Hot Tub Time Machine.  He eventually convinces her that they are “Settling Soulmates” and should get married.  Though Sheen is terrific in his ridiculousness, we’re glad Liz kept her standards or she never would have met Damon’s Carol.


Photo Credit: Paul Reubens as Prince Gerhardt (Black Tie):

The top spot on this list goes to Paul Reubens’ portrayal of the inbred Prince Gerhardt in season 1.  Search “Thank you all dear friends for coming to my birthday” on YouTube and you’ll see why.  Tina Fey has admitted that the crew nicknamed this episode “Goodbye America” for fear its offbeat nature would alienate a large portion of their audience.  Well consider us absurdist then because this episode is one of 30 Rock’s finest, thanks in no small part to the former Pee Wee Herman star and his ballsy turn as one of the most strangely funny royals you will probably ever see.


What do you guys think of our list?  Did we miss any great guest spots?  Who are you hoping will guest in the upcoming season?  Sound off in the comments below:

One Response to The Top 10 Guest Stars on 30 Rock

  1. Gloria T. says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. The author put a lot of thought into this article – it is right on target and I found his writing style interesting and entertaining. 30 Rock is a good show – it’s hard to believe this is the final season!

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