Everyone’s quick to say celebrities are “just like us,” but what about politicians? Well, people usually say they’re “good actors.”
In fact, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who has been on “The Good Wife” three times, agrees: “I think people involved in politics make good actors,” she said. “Acting and politics both involve fooling people. People like being fooled by actors. When you get right down to it, they probably like being fooled by politicians even more.”
Political powerhouses from Joe Biden to Hillary Clinton have appeared on TV shows ranging from “Cheers” to “Seinfeld.”
Sometimes the cameos are hilarious, and sometimes they’re hilariously weird. Sometimes politicians are playing themselves straight, other times they’re playing quirky, fictionalized versions.
Here are 19 times that politicians have unexpectedly popped up on our favorite TV shows.
On the new reboot of “Murphy Brown,” Hillary Clinton appeared in the season premiere.
Former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on the season premiere of CBS’s “Murphy Brown.”
The show had its original run from 1988 to 1998, depicting the comeback of a recovered alcoholic news anchor (Brown, played by Candace Bergen), and it was a major success at the time. CBS announced a reboot in January 2018, and the first episode of the new wave of “Murphy” premiered in September.
In the season opener, Hillary Clinton plays “Hillary Clendon” – a woman applying for a job as Brown’s secretary.
Brown says, “You look just like -“
“I know, Hillary Clinton. I get that a lot,” Clinton replies.
At the end of the scene, Clinton gives Brown her business card, which reads “email@example.com.”
Former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Colin Powell showed up on this season opener of “Madam Secretary.”
- CBS/David M. Russell
Three real-life, former Secretaries of State reunited for the season five premiere of “Madam Secretary.”
The show is a fictional CBS series that details the life of ex-CIA agent and current Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (played by Téa Leoni). In the season five premiere, McCord needs help with a serious issue, and consults the minds of her “predecessors:” Clinton (2009-13), Albright (1997-2001), and Powell (2001-05).
“Madam Secretary” executive producer Lori McCreary said the entire staff was excited when they found out all three Secretaries would be available to film, because she knew they were “reaching for the stars” by asking them.
Albright, who also appeared on season two of the show, is a huge fan. “I think what’s so great about the show,” she said, “is that it actually discusses events that could be taking place – and there are real people who have to make decisions who have husbands and children.”
Michelle Obama was on an episode of NCIS.
- The White House/CBS
This long-running, uber-successful CBS crime show made a field trip to The White House in 2016 – and First Lady Michelle Obama was there.
According to E! Online, Obama’s cameo came about when the NCIS writers pitched a story about Joining Forces, an organization founded by Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden that gives assistance to military families. The idea came to fruition, and the episode featuring Obama aired in May 2016.
Obama plays herself in the scene, which takes place in The White House, and she thanks Agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon) for his work with Joining Forces.
Showrunner Gary Glassberg told E! it was great to have Obama on the show. “It was a special day for us,” he said. “And at the end of the day it’s all about this organization and the support of this organization and we’re happy to do it.”
Barack Obama made a stop at Hillary Clinton’s Halloween party in a 2007 “SNL” skit.
In a 2007 episode of “Saturday Night Live,” then-Senator Barack Obama made a stop at Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Halloween party… kind of.
The Clintons are played by past-SNL cast members Darrell Hammond and Amy Poehler, respectively, and the couple is visited by a slew of other politicians (in costume) throughout the skit, which takes place on Halloween night. The last to arrive to their party is Obama, a presidential candidate at the time.
He enters wearing an Obama mask. When Poehler/Clinton asks why he’s dressed as himself, Obama cheekily answers: “I have nothing to hide; I enjoy being myself. I’m not going to change who I am just because it’s Halloween.”
Watch the full skit here.
Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol Palin, appeared on a 2010 episode of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”
- Freeform (ABC Family)
“The Secret Life of the American Teenager” was a show on ABC Family (now Freeform) that traced the life and struggles of a young teenage mother, Amy (played by Shailene Woodley).
Bristol Palin, the daughter of Alaskan Governor and former nominee for Vice President Sarah Palin, was a teenage mother in real life. That’s why Palin was tapped to make an appearance on the show in 2010, on the heels of several media appearances in which she advocated for abstinence.
Palin plays herself in the episode, and she and Amy meet and become friends at a music program specifically for teen moms.
According to ABC, Palin was “thrilled” to be on the show because it depicted the real consequences of young motherhood.
Joe Biden has appeared on “Parks and Recreation” twice — and was accompanied by his wife Jill Biden in the series finale.
- David Giesbrecht/NBC
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), a bureaucrat in a zany Indiana Parks and Recreation Department, was super nervous the first time she met former Vice President Joe Biden (playing himself) during season five of “Parks and Rec.” She panicked and touched his face.
But in the series finale in 2015, Knope plays it cool in a flash-forward to 2025. She meets Joe and his wife Jill – playing themselves again – at their fancy house party, and Jill hilariously tells Knope to “wait until after dinner” to discuss politics.
Knope fires back, “Okay! As long as we get to play charades later.”
Hillary Clinton played herself on “Broad City,” a comedy based in New York City.
- Comedy Central
On Comedy Central’s hit show about two friends trying to “make it” it New York, “Broad City,” Hillary Clinton made a much-talked-about cameo.
In the 2016 episode, Ilana (Ilana Glazer) goes to work for Clinton’s campaign.
It took her and Jacobson a long time to muster up the courage to ask Clinton to do the show, but once they did, Clinton quickly got on board. Glazer told Entertainment Weekly, “It was just such an unbelievable honor to meet her. She’s never done a scripted show like this, and it was wild. It was truly wild.”
Al Gore, former vice president, played an environmentally conscious janitor in a 2009 episode of “30 Rock.”
- Ali Goldstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
One of NBC’s most successful sitcoms, “30 Rock” is endlessly quotable – especially Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) who plays a Page at NBC’s headquarters in New York City, where the show takes place.
In season four, he has a weird, offbeat encounter with a janitor – played by Al Gore – who keeps talking about made-up “African proverbs.”
“If you want to go somewhere quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We need to go far, quickly,” janitor Al says.
And then he proceeds to tear off his uniform, revealing a pristine suit, and run off to save the “whales in trouble.” Gore also had a brief appearance on the show in 2007.
Michelle Obama supported the Air Force — and had a random dance break — on Nickelodeon’s “iCarly.”
Then First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by the hit Nickelodeon show “iCarly” – about a teenage girl and her friends making a hit internet show – back in 2012 to promote the US Air Force.
In the show, Obama drops by their apartment to say how proud she is of Carly, whose father is deployed in the military.
Later in the show, Obama is featured on one of Carly’s livestreams and – of course – they have a “random dance break.”
According to the stars of the show, Obama was a natural. Cosgrove told The Huffington Post, “She really didn’t [make mistakes], and she had a massive chunk of lines and she got it down just about perfect almost every time.”
Late Senator John McCain was on “Parks and Recreation” during season five.
- David Giesbrecht/NBC
Pawnee city council woman Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) heads to Washington, D.C., for some official business in a 2012 episode of “Parks and Rec.”
In one scene, Knope is crying in a coatroam after a meeting goes awry, and a man comes in to get his coat and asks if she’s okay. Not realizing that it’s John McCain – playing himself – an emotional Knope tells him to “go away.”
Amy Poehler gushed about working with the senator at the Television Academy Performers Peer Group reception in L.A., calling him “a blast” and “so funny.”
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by “The Good Wife” to play himself.
- Jeffrey Neira/CBS
Michael Bloomberg appeared in the season four finale of the hit CBS legal drama “The Good Wife.”
In the episode – which is about the results of a faux-gubernatorial election – Bloomberg appears as himself and acts as a political liaison to Chris Noth’s character, Peter Florrick, who ends up winning and becoming governor of Illinois despite coming off the heels of a sex scandal.
Nancy Reagan promoted her anti-drug movement on an episode of “Diff’rent Strokes” in the ’80s.
- Sony Pictures Television
In the 1980s, First Lady Nancy Reagan was busy promoting her “Just Say No” campaign – an answer to the cocaine and drug epidemic that plagued the decade.
She chose to make an appearance on the hit show “Diff’rent Strokes” – about two boys from Harlem taken in by their late mother’s Park Avenue employers – to send her message.
In the episode, one of the boys, Arnold, decides to investigate rumors of drug-dealing at his school and write about it for the school paper. Reagan drops by when Arnold’s article is published, to speak to his school about the dangers of drugs.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s guest work on the “Michael J. Fox Show” coincided with his 2013 re-election.
- Eric Liebowitz/NBC
Acting veteran and Parkinsons disease advocate Michael J. Fox plays a newsman on his show, “The Michael J. Fox Show,” which ran for one season from 2013 to 2014.
During its short run, Chris Christie made a cameo appearance as himself. In the episode, Fox’s character oversleeps and misses his interview with Christie: hilarity ensues.
When the episode came out, people were concerned that Christie was transitioning from politics to acting, but he assured them, “I didn’t go to Hollywood. … It’s a very brief appearance. You don’t have to worry about me leaving New Jersey to go start my acting career.”
A freshly-elected Rudy Giuliani appeared in a “Seinfeld” episode about non-fat yogurt in 1993.
After winning the real New York City mayoral election only two days prior to his cameo in 1993, former mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared in “The Non-Fat Yogurt” episode of one of America’s most iconic sitcoms, “Seinfeld.”
In the episode, he is running for NYC mayor. Non-fat fro-yo is becoming huge in the city, but fears that the delicious treat isn’t actually non-fat are rising.
Giuliani appears at the end of the episode announcing to the citizens of NYC that the yogurt is dangerous, and “if elected” he would take care of the problem.
“I promise you,” Giuliani says, “my fellow New Yorkers, that Mayor Giuliani will do everything possible to cleanse the city of this falsified non-fat yogurt.”
On season six of “Gilmore Girls,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright comes to Rory in a dream.
- Warner Bros. Television
On the crowd-favorite sitcom “Gilmore Girls,” Rory (Alexis Bledel) is a bookish feminist with many literary and political heroes.
One of them is Madeleine Albright, who appeared in one of the later seasons in an iconic scene mimicking Rory and Lorelai’s emotional bedtime chat from season one.
When former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich guest-starred on “Murphy Brown” in 1996, CBS promised a throw down.
- CBS via Getty Images
“Murphy Brown” teased Newt Gringrich’s appearance as early as a year before the episode aired. In the teaser, lead star Brown (Candace Bergen) – a recovering alcoholic news anchor going back to work at CBS – challenges Gingrich to a rumble, to which he replies, “You’re on.”
But when the actual episode aired, it was pretty benign. Brown, who is notoriously sharp-tongued, is speaking at a press dinner, and in her speech she roasts Gingrich.
Afterward, he’s backstage waiting – but he’s not that mad.
“That was quite a speech,” he says. “I can take a little ribbing.”
In 1998, former Secretary of State John Kerry had a cameo on “Cheers” in which he was mistaken for a local anchorman.
- Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Before he was Secretary of State, John Kerry was a Massachusetts senator for over two decades.
During his tenure, he had a tiny brush with fame on the popular NBC sitcom about friends gathering at Boston bar “Cheers,” in which he was mistaken by two men who couldn’t figure out why they recognized him.
While Kerry’s giving them an autograph, he explains, “I’m John Kerry, Senator Kerry from Massachusetts.”
The two men run off, but quickly turn back because they think he might know a fictional senator from “The Love Boat.”
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile has been on “The Good Wife” three times — and has clapped back at her critics.
“The Good Wife” is no stranger to political cameos, and it has drawn its fair share of criticism for it – particularly from TV critics.
But Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who has been on the show three times – playing herself and doling out political advice – has defended her cameos. “I think people involved in politics make good actors,” she said. “Acting and politics both involve fooling people. People like being fooled by actors. When you get right down to it, they probably like being fooled by politicians even more.”
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared on Amazon’s “Alpha House.”
- Amazon Studios
“Alpha House” was a satirical Amazon web series inspired by actual senators who share a “row house” in Washington, D.C.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts appeared on its only season playing herself.
In the episode, she’s signing autographs for her book, “A Fighting Chance,” and subtly nods to the fact that she will not be running for president in 2020. Could it just be good acting, though?
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