30 Rock is one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved sitcoms in recent memory, and not only that, it made use of some really big-name guest stars over its seven seasons. That’s the thing about a TV show about the production of a TV show set in the headquarters of a popular TV network – it’s a workplace comedy set in a workplace that would have famous people coming and going every single day.
A ton of celebrities guest-starred on 30 Rock over the years, but a few of them shined brighter than the rest. So, here are the 9 Best 30 Rock Guest Stars, Ranked.
9 David Schwimmer
A couple of years after bidding the role of Ross Geller farewell forever, David Schwimmer showed up on 30 Rock. He played another character who had narcissistic tendencies and was super annoying for comedic purposes. His real name was Jared, but he was best known as Greenzo, the mascot who promoted climate change awareness and became an egotistical jerk the second he became popular. As Schwimmer has shown time and time again, he’s great at playing characters who are exaggerated for comic effect and manages to be funny even if the character he’s playing isn’t particularly likable.
8 Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton got his start in comedy. He began as a standup comic and then starred in movies like Mr. Mom and Multiplicity. After taking the role of Batman in Tim Burton’s gloomy franchise, he became a more dramatic performer and stop playing funny characters, which is a shame, because he’s great at it. That’s why it was such a joy when he appeared in 30 Rock. He played a maintenance man trying to fix a gas leak in the building in the show’s special hour-long 100th episode. He proved he hasn’t lost any of his comedic chops over the years.
7 Matt Damon
Like Michael Bolton in Office Space and Kevin Cozner in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Matt Damon’s airline pilot character in 30 Rock comically shared his name with a celebrity. In this particularly absurd case, it was Carol Burnett. Liz Lemon dated a man named Carol Burnett, and he was one of the most memorable boyfriends that Liz had over the years. The most ironic way for a relationship not to work out is if the two people end up having too much in common to be compatible. That’s the way it went for these two, who turned out to be too stubborn to ever work as a couple.
6 Al Gore
This cameo appearance gets points for the sheer fact that the producers of 30 Rock were able to get him to appear on the show at all. This is the guy who very almost became President of the United States after running against George W. Bush in 2000 and was the first to warn us all about the dangers of climate change. What makes his brief appearance on the show even better is that they got him to say ludicrous lines and he leaned into the absurdity of it, saying things like, “A whale is in trouble! I have to go!” with complete sincerity.
5 Isabella Rossellini
It was a real shame that Isabella Rossellini’s brilliant portrayal of Jack Donaghy’s ex-wife Bianca was only used for two episodes, but then maybe this was a case of “less is more.” If she’d been used more, she might not have been as effective.
When Jack asks for a stake in the Arby’s franchise they own together, she cries out, “Oh, dammit, Johnny, you know I love my Big Beef and Cheddar!” with the same caliber of pathos that she would bring to a solemn dramatic role in a David Lynch movie. This kind of combination of ridiculous dialogue and phenomenal acting made the character one of 30 Rock’s most memorable.
4 Peter Dinklage
While Peter Dinklage is now best known for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones, his background is actually is comedy. Remember when he played the children’s author who Buddy thought was from the South Pole in Elf? Well, before his turn on GoT, he played one of Liz Lemon’s boyfriends on 30 Rock and he was hilarious, unsurprisingly. The comedy of his role works because the joke is always on Liz for trying not to be uncomfortable with the idea of dating a little person and never on Dinklage. The target of the humor was never malicious.
3 Jerry Seinfeld
The great thing about Jerry Seinfeld’s role in 30 Rock is that “SeinfeldVision” is the kind of ridiculous gimmick that a TV network would go for. When Jack realizes the network has the rights to hundreds of hours of footage featuring Jerry Seinfeld from his eponymous sitcom, he decides to start inserting the legendary comedian into all of NBC’s programming. Naturally, Seinfeld is pretty perturbed by this when he finds out about it, and that’s what gets him into the wacky world of these characters. As usual, Seinfeld has pitch-perfect comic delivery and leaves a lasting impression on the show.
2 Carrie Fisher
Star Wars was referenced a bunch of times on 30 Rock, from Tracy Jordan declaring he’s a Jedi in the pilot episode to Liz Lemon dressing up as Princess Leia to get out of jury duty, but the show’s greatest reference to the saga was Carrie Fisher’s guest appearance.
She plays a fictional character, but she’s not that fictional. She plays a female writer who influenced Liz as a kid, and in real life, Carrie Fisher is a brilliant writer who strongly influenced Tina Fey’s own work. She’s invited to write for TGS, but Liz soon discovers her ideas have become outdated.
1 Steve Martin
In a season 3 episode named after his character, comedy legend Steve Martin played the role of Gavin Volure, Jack’s rich and eccentric friend who fell for Liz. Martin’s strengths have always been playing weird characters like Navin Johnson or Freddy Benson or Bobby Bowfinger, and the part of Gavin Volure plays to those strengths brilliantly.
It’s no wonder that Martin was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his guest spot on the show. It seems like everything this guy touches turns to comedy gold, because he’s just that organically funny.