At some point, it became A Thing for celebrities to make cameos on children’s programming. When I was a kid, Richard Pryor was showing up on Sesame Street and pissing off my mom, who was decidedly not a fan of his brand of humor. Now Mark Mothersbaugh guests on Yo Gabba Gabba and shows kids how to draw snowmen. It’s a shame our kids are so interested in Foofa and Plex that they can’t appreciate how hip we are.
Now that I’m a parent myself, I am always excited when I’m watching a show with my kid and all of a sudden I hear a voice I know from my childless days. It’s like running into an old college friend and realizing that they, too, have gotten as old and lame as you have. Today, when C and I were just chillin’ and stacking cups like the true ballas that we are, my ears perked up when I heard H. Jon Benjamin’s throaty, beer-soaked voice featured on a villain on Word Girl. Yeah, that happened. Coach McGuirk, anyone? It got me thinking about the proliferation of celebrity narrators on kids shows nowadays and how some pretty big stars are chronicling playtime. Let’s break them down, á la DJ Lance.
1. George Carlin – Thomas the Tank Engine Probably the most infamous celebrity narrator on a children’s show was George Carlin on early episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine. Instead of teaching kids all the sweariest swear words, though, he narrates the exploits of Thomas and his friends. I’m projecting here of course, but I’m fairly sure it was part of his contract to never have to qualify Thomas as “the cheeky one.”
In case that’s not weird enough for you, George Carlin also voiced Caillou’s grandfather in multiple episodes of that show. My only guess is that someone at PBS walked in on Carlin while he was in a compromised position and held it over him.
2. William H. Macy – Curious George
William H. Macy was the narrator on the first season of the PBS series Curious George. It was not the worst decision he ever made, considering his prominent role in Wild Hogs. It takes real mettle to get through an episode of Curious George and not pull out all your hair due to The Man in the Yellow Hat’s utter negligence of his responsibilities to rein George in. He has been known to shoot George into space for critical NASA missions, leave him in charge of young children, and let him wander onto construction sites. So I doff my cap to Mr. Macy for being one of the bright spots on that show. He helps us parents retain our sanity.
3. Christopher Plummer – David the Gnome
One of my favorite shows growing up was The World of David the Gnome. It ran on Nickelodeon and was based off a Spanish animation of a Dutch children’s book, making it pretty much the most worldly and adorable show you’re ever going to see. David is a veterinarian who assists little woodland animals, and his exploits are told by none other than Christopher Plummer of The Sound of Music fame. My most avid readers will notice that this is the second post I have written for Kidz Showz that makes reference to The Sound of Music. I am what you like to call a devotee. Mr. Plummer was a perfect fit for this show because he has an air of seriousness about him that syncs up well with the overall tone of the program.
4. Joan Cusack – Peep and the Big Wide World
Peep and the Big Wide World kind of flies below my radar. It airs on Saturday afternoon in my town when we are usually out doing those necessary weekend activities with the baby like pretending she enjoys outlet shopping as much as we do, but I recently finally caught an episode when we all took a much-needed afternoon off from the lure of Crocs and Gap Outlet. The voice of God on the show is none other than Joan Cusack, AKA Debbie Jellinsky from Addams Family Values. The depth and breadth of her work is truly astounding. I know that sounds sarcastic, but really it’s not. How many chances does one get to play the love interest to Christopher Lloyd and provide the play-by-play to
Angry Birds Peep?
What are some other epic celebrity cameos that have appeared on your favorite kids shows?
This is so true and funny. I think the line, “How the mighty have fallen…” sums it up.
Totally agree. William H. Macy rocks the proverbial house. But Wild Hogs? Nuh-uh. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
“Today, when C and I were just chillin’ and stacking cups like the true ballas that we are” lol yes.
Okay so I didn’t know any of this stuff, but I do love celeb cameos. Sesame Street has taken them to a severe degree, inviting everyone from Katy Perry to Ben Stiller. It’s like, okay. We get it.
Can I just point out that the only reason I love David the Gnome is because his wife’s name is Lisa and his daughter’s name is Lily? At least I hope those are their names…it’s been too long.
Marvelous post Em!
Just kidding. His daughter’s name is Susan. Since when?! Maybe I just wanted her name to be Lily.
LISA! That’s his wife’s name! I always think that it is Susan or something. Yep, it’s a great show.
Sesame Street has totally gone overboard with the cameos. They are kind of forced now. But here’s my favorite one ever. Utter perfection:
The best cameos are always the ones you don’t realize for years, either they become famous after or you never noticed it was them. I’m sure whoever narrated Franklin was someone successful at something else. Now I really wish I had a narrator’s voice. All you have to do is read aloud? Sounds so simple.
I think you have a good narrator’s voice! Or at least a good voice-overy voice. I don’t even know what that means, but it’s a compliment, I promise.
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I’ll have you know I read this post just for combination of you and Joan Cusack in one blog. All of that intriguing information about George Carlin was just a bonus.
I aim to please. George Carlin never ceases to amaze me.