American Dad! may have begun its life as the lesser-known cousin of Family Guy, but it has since gone on to become a dark, surreal, beloved beast of its own. In fact, it might have even become more popular and acclaimed than its predecessor. Ever since it dropped its soft political edge and started going a little weirder and a little more out there (and started focusing on the Roger character more), American Dad! has become one of the most successful animated series on the air – and with that, it’s attracted some pretty high-profile guest stars. So, here are the 10 Best American Dad! Guest Stars, Ranked.
10 Shannon Sharpe
Some of the best American Dad! guest stars are simply celebrities playing themselves as vastly different than how we know them. For example, we know Shannon Sharpe as an NFL star, so it’s unusual – and, not to mention, hilarious – when we see him playing himself as a CIA-appointed alien hunter. He appeared in the episode “The Scarlett Getter,” whose title is a play on the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel The Scarlet Letter, and made a huge impact. At first, Sharpe’s appearance seemed like it would go nowhere. But he’s a charming, outgoing guy, and in the end, the whole thing fit together pretty perfectly.
9 Johnny Galecki
In the season 2 episode “Irregarding Steve,” Johnny Galecki played a mentally challenged squirrel named Arnie opposite John Krasinski as his embattled brother Gilbert in a parody of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?. The plot of the episode revolved around Steve realizing he’s smarter than his dad and moving to New York with Roger, eventually becoming a homeless prostitute and discovering that maybe he does need his dad after all. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Gilbert Grape parody, except for the destruction of the treehouse marking an important plot point for both storylines, but it is a hilarious and memorable AD! plot.
8 Kat Dennings
Kat Dennings’ portrayal of stripper Tanqueray in the season 6 episode “G-String Circus” is just as funny and lovable as we’ve come to expect from the 2 Broke Girls star. In the episode, Stan concocts a hare-brained scheme to open a dry cleaning business run by five strippers, led by Dennings’ Tanqueray. Dennings plays Tanqueray’s airheaded cluelessness so perfectly, as she has no idea how to run a business and isn’t used to wearing her clothes around people. She plays her as a more or less stereotypical stripper until the end of the episode, when she defies expectations by telling the Smiths she’s going to try to get into Playboy – with her short stories.
7 Hulk Hogan
The season 7 episode “Stanny Tendergrass” is an interesting examination of class. Stan wants to teach Steve the values of hard work, so he gets him a summer job at the country club where he works towards affording a $200,000 membership (he’s saved $7,000 so far over 30 years).
Steve ends up getting into the club for free on Roger’s rich guy persona’s coin, but Stan says this is disingenuous because he didn’t work for it. Hulk Hogan is the example of an impressive self-made man that Stan keeps using, and at the end of the episode, Hogan appears as himself to beat up rich people with Stan.
6 Holland Taylor
Holland Taylor has been around for years, but her best-remembered role is that of Evelyn Harper in Two and a Half Men. Evelyn was a socialite whose pursuit of her career ambitions and upper-class lifestyle made her a terrible mother. In the American Dad! episode “Big Trouble in Little Langley,” she played the same sort of role as Francine’s birth mother Cassandra. A flashback reveals she abandoned Francine at the airport to avoid being downgraded from first class. Taylor gives a great performance as the reprehensible Cass, which leads to one of the warmest emotional moments in American Dad! history as Stan realizes Francine’s adoptive parents are her true parents, since they’re the ones who raised her and really care about her.
5 CeeLo Green
In recent seasons, American Dad! has done away with ironclad endings to its episodes in favor of funnier and more unexpected non-sequitur conclusions. An example of this is when CeeLo Green narrated the season 7 premiere “Hot Water.” He played himself in live-action as he told the story of the episode and also voiced the villainous sentient hot tub in the episode itself.
At the end of the episode, as Stan appears to have been defeated by the hot tub and we’re waiting for a miracle to come along and save him so he’ll come back next week, CeeLo simply tells us, “Well, there you have it. That’s our story. Stan’s dead.”
4 Lisa Kudrow
American Dad! is renowned for its Christmas episodes in the same way that The Simpsons is renowned for its Halloween episodes. Over the years, the Smiths have killed Santa, battled his army, and taken on the infamous Krampus. One of the show’s earliest holiday-themed installments was “The Best Christmas Story Never,” which guest-starred Friends’ Lisa Kudrow as an angel named Michelle. It loosely followed the plot of It’s a Wonderful Life, albeit mixing in a Soviet Union invasion, the assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan, and Stan’s cut of Taxi Driver. Kudrow brings the same deadpan wit to Michelle as she does to all of her characters, and it’s what makes her such a delight.
3 J.B. Smoove
Not everybody knows J.B. Smoove’s name, but he’s incredibly recognizable. His best-known role is that of Leon Black in Larry David’s HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, but he’s simply one of the funniest comic actors working today and he never fails to get big laughs. In the American Dad! episode “The Worst Stan,” Smoove plays Principal Lewis’ prison wife, who swoops in to disrupt his wedding plans. Stan ends up making the character his own wife, according to prison rules, to ensure that Lewis definitely does get married and he can fulfill his lifelong wish of being the best man at a wedding.
2 Werner Herzog
If Werner Herzog didn’t appear in “Ricky Spanish,” it would still be a great episode. We get to meet Roger’s most despicable character (complete with all the slow-motion flashbacks with his name being whispered in the background) and follow him on a path to redemption that ends up being totally fruitless. But Herzog’s voiceover narration at the end, as we see the tragic image of a butterfly in a jar being release and then dying in captivity, takes everything to the next level. The episode was hilarious already, but that ending kicked the absurdity and surrealism up a notch, especially with the “A Werner Herzog Film” caption.
1 Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian’s guest appearance on American Dad! in an episode called “Blagsnarst, a Love Story” utilized her perfectly. The writers used the opportunity to have a character played by one of the biggest celebrities and reality TV stars in the world inventively. She plays a pink alien covered in fur who falls in love with Roger. When she gets a bit clingy, he decides to turn her in to the government and have her killed. But it’s the episode’s final moments that make it a truly memorable guest appearance, as Blagsnarst emerges from a car wreck in the form of Kim Kardashian herself and says, “And that’s how I became Kim Kardashian.” She’s such a great sport that she joked about the oddity of her own existence.