In addition to the show's regular cast of voice actors, guest stars have been a staple of The Simpsons, an American animated television sitcom created by Matt Groening for theFox Broadcasting Company, since its first season. The Simpsons focuses on the eponymous family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. The family was initially conceived by Groening for a series of animated shorts, which originally aired as a part of The Tracey Ullman Show between 1987 and 1989. The shorts were developed into a half-hour prime time series which began in December 1989. The show's 25th season began in 2013 and 547 episodes of The Simpsons have aired. A feature film adaptation of the show, The Simpsons Movie, was released in 2007.
Guest voices have come from a wide range of professions, including actors, athletes, authors, musicians, artists, politicians and scientists. In the show's early years most guest stars voiced original characters, but as the show has continued the number of those appearing as themselves has increased.
The first credited guest star was actor Sam McMurray who appeared in "Homer's Odyssey", the show's third episode. Singer Tony Bennett was the first guest star to appear as himself, appearing briefly in the season two episode "Dancin' Homer". Several guest stars have featured as recurring characters on the show, including Phil Hartman, Joe Mantegnaand Kelsey Grammer. Hartman has made the most appearances, guest starring 52 times. Mantegna and Frank Welker have each appeared over twenty times, Grammer, Maurice LaMarche, Jon Lovitz and Kevin Michael Richardson have appeared over ten times, while Jane Kaczmarek, Albert Brooks, Jan Hooks and Jackie Mason have made over five appearances.
Two guest stars, Ricky Gervais and Seth Rogen, earned writing credits for the episodes in which they appeared. Grammer, Mason and two-time guest star Anne Hathaway all won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for guest voice roles on the show. The show was awarded the Guinness World Record for "Most Guest Stars Featured in a TV Series" in 2010. As of January 6, 2014, there have been 634 guest stars on the show,[A] with this figure rising to 639 if The Simpsons Movie is included.
William Shatner has been described as the first person to turn down a guest role on The Simpsons.
Guest stars have appeared on The Simpsons since its first season, in addition to the show's main cast of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer and supporting cast of Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Maggie Roswell, Russi Taylor, Chris Edgerly and former supporting cast members Marcia Wallace, Marcia Mitzman Gaven, Karl Wiedergott, Doris Grau, Jo Ann Harris and Christopher Collins. Guest voices have come from a wide range of professions, including actors, athletes, authors, musicians, artists, politicians and scientists. In the earlier seasons, most of the guest stars voiced characters, but eventually more started appearing as themselves. The first guest star was actor Sam McMurray, who voiced a worker at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in "Homer's Odyssey", the show's third episode. SingerTony Bennett was the first guest star to appear as himself, appearing in the season two episode "Dancin' Homer".
Several guest stars have made multiple appearances on the show, often as recurring characters. Actor Phil Hartman guest-starred in 52 episodes, more than anybody else, although his initial role in the second season episode "Bart Gets Hit By a Car" in 1991 was intended to be a one-off. He voiced the recurring characters Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz as well as numerous other one-time characters, until his death in 1998. McClure and Hutz were subsequently retired from the show. Actor Kelsey Grammer first appeared asSideshow Bob in the first season episode "Krusty Gets Busted" while actor Joe Mantegna made his first appearance as Fat Tony in the third season episode "Bart the Murderer". The two have appeared in 14 and 25 episodes respectively; Mantegna also appeared in the film. Both roles were originally written for other actors: Bob was originally to be voiced by James Earl Jones, who later guest starred three times on the show, while Fat Tony was written for Sheldon Leonard. Other repeat guest stars include Albert Brooks, Glenn Close, Jan Hooks, Maurice LaMarche, Jon Lovitz, Jane Kaczmarek, Jackie Mason, Charles Napier, Kevin Michael Richardson and Frank Welker.
According to Groening, guest star choices "come from the writers saying, 'Wouldn't it be cool to have [such a person on the show]?'", while showrunner Al Jean has stated the reasoning is "we want to meet our heroes." Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, showrunners of the seventh and eight seasons, favored guest stars with what they felt were unique and interesting voices such as actors R. Lee Ermey, Donald Sutherland, Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Tierney.
Many guest stars come in to the show's recording studio to record their parts, although some are recorded over the telephone. Two guest stars have been credited with writing the episode in which they guest starred. Comedian Ricky Gervais wrote the episode "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", while actor Seth Rogen co-wrote the episode "Homer the Whopper" with Evan Goldberg. Two guest stars were credited with pseudonyms. Actor Dustin Hoffman was credited as "Sam Etic" for the episode "Lisa's Substitute" while musician Michael Jackson was credited as "John Jay Smith" for the episode "Stark Raving Dad". After the latter episode, the producers decided that if a celebrity wished to guest star on the show, they had to be willing to be credited under their real name.
Numerous people have rejected the chance to appear on the show. Actor William Shatner has been described as the first person to reject the show. The producers have consistently failed to persuade any formerPresident of the United States to appear. Musicians Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan have also rejected multiple invitations to guest star on the series. Other people to turn the show down include actorsMichael Caine, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood and Anthony Hopkins and director Quentin Tarantino. Musician Prince turned down a role in a sequel to "Stark Raving Dad", which meant the script was never produced. Others have accepted the offer, but have been unable to record a role. Musician Frank Zappa and actor Anthony Perkins both became too ill to record their parts, while Jim Carrey had to drop out due to time constraints, and Faye Dunaway cancelled. Robby Krieger of The Doors recorded a cameo for the episode "The Great Money Caper", but his part was cut because the writers felt his appearance seemed too forced. The scene was later included on the season's DVD release. Similarly, actress Catherine O'Hara recorded the voice of Colette the waitress in "Flaming Moe's", but was redubbed with Jo Ann Harris who the producers felt was a better fit.
Mason, Grammer and Anne Hathaway have each won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for their guest voice roles on the show. The show was awarded the Guinness World Record for "Most Guest Stars Featured in a TV Series" on May 23, 2010, with Guinness estimating that the show has featured "at least 555 as of series 21". As of January 6, 2014, there have been 634 guest stars on the show, totalling 916 guest spots.[A] These figures rise to 639 and 923 respectively if The Simpsons Movie is counted as well.