When Arrested Development first aired on Fox, it didn’t attract a huge audience – but it did become a cult hit, and it was acclaimed by critics. As a result, it was able to attract some pretty impressive guest stars. It wasn’t getting the mega stars that Friends was – Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts etc. – but it was bagging some respectable talent.
Carl Weathers going on about “getting a stew going” is funnier than Brad Pitt talking about the “I Hate Rachel” club any day, even if he isn’t as famous. So, while we continue to wait for the second half of season 5, here are the 12 best Arrested Development guest stars, ranked.
12 Martin Short as Uncle Jack
“Eye level! Eye level!” Martin Short doesn’t hold back with the grossness of Uncle Jack, the guy who paralyzed himself by trying to lift too much weight in the gym and now pays a large, partially deaf man named Dragon to carry him around. If Dragon shakes him too much, he spews out vomit and then tells everyone to ignore it.
Anyone but Martin Short would try to make this character fun and likable, but Short just leans into the character’s perversities. “Swoop me!” He’s the perfect minor character for the comedic tone of Arrested Development – he’s super weird, but just as funny.
11 Charlize Theron as Rita Leeds
“Oh, you’re that Rita Leeds?” “Michael was thinking of this man.” Michael’s story arc in the first half of season 3 saw him fall in love with Charlize Theron’s character Rita Leeds. The whole plot revolved around Rita’s British accent making the Bluths think she was smart when really, she was an “M.R.F.”
There was plenty of meta jokes about Theron’s past work and about non-British actors doing terrible British accents. Upon rewatching the season, you realize how obvious it was that Rita was an “M.R.F.” all along, but Theron’s hypnotic performance keeps the audience distracted on first viewing ahead of the surprising plot twist, which is sort of the whole point.
10 Amy Poehler as Gob’s wife
Comedy royalty Amy Poehler was involved in her own short-lived marriage to Will Arnett when she had a fictional one with his character Gob on the show. She only made a couple of appearances, but from Gob’s big mouth losing him the divorce settlement to the pastiche of the Lynndie England torture photo, she was always hilarious.
It’s fair to say that any time Amy Poehler is a guest star on a show, she’s going to be one of the best guest stars in the show’s history – the same goes for The Simpsons and Broad City. She’s just that funny.
9 Ed Begley, Jr. as Stan Sitwell
Ed Begley, Jr. has delivered fantastic guest turns in a few recent TV gems – from Curb Your Enthusiasm to Better Call Saul – but arguably his finest guest-starring role in a TV series is that of Stan Sitwell, the Bluths’ closest business rival, in Arrested Development.
He has alopecia – or, as Lucille puts it, “He’s an alpaca!” – and this is exploited for comedy in situations like driving a convertible or trying on wigs that mean he’s mistaken for someone else from behind. Ed Begley, Jr. is a terrific actor, always so likable, and Stan Sitwell is one of his best-loved roles.
8 Carl Weathers as himself
After making his name as a tough guy in the ‘70s and ‘80s with muscle-bound, testosterone-fueled movies like Rocky and Predator, Carl Weathers became better known by 21st-century audiences as a funny guy. He made fun of himself and his legacy in the role of Chubbs Peterson in Happy Gilmore and then he took the self-deprecation to the next level when he played himself in Arrested Development.
He’s shown to be a frugal, money-grabbing freeloader who goes wherever he can find free food, exploits Tobias’ admiration of him for cash, and is obsessed with “getting a stew going.” The image of a large, formidable movie star making a stew with someone’s leftover chicken wings is just so absurd and hilarious.
7 Maria Bamford as Debrie Bardeaux
As any Arrested Development fan will tell you, there’s not a lot to love in Netflix’s season 4, but Maria Bamford’s guest role of Debrie Bardeaux is one of the season’s few highlights. Debrie is the washed-up actress Tobias tries to save from life on the streets – of course, he only ends up making her life even worse, despite his best efforts.
Bamford is one of the funniest and most unique voices in standup comedy right now, so she’s pretty much great in anything. It was no surprise when her Arrested Development character turned out to be a comic delight.
6 Andy Richter as the Richter quintuplets
Andy Richter is great at playing himself as Conan O’Brien’s lackey, making fun of his reputation. He just sits there, clinging to his dignity, as Conan says, “Andy, quick note. Just ‘cause I look at you when we’re doing the show and ask you a question, doesn’t mean you have to respond. Sometimes it’s funny when you don’t say anything, and the audience gets to think, ‘Hey, Andy really is stupid.’ Gets a big laugh.”
But he gets bonus points for also playing his four fictional brothers, including his own tough-as-nails stunt double and George Michael’s teacher.
5 Terry Crews as Herbert Love
It’s crazy to think that Arrested Development had a storyline about a wall being built on the U.S./Mexico border back in 2013, and Congress is currently debating actually building one. Terry Crews played Herbert Love, the Republican politician who invited Buster to live in his house for good publicity and hired Lindsay as a prostitute (without realizing she isn’t actually a prostitute – at least she wasn’t until Maeby accepted money from Love’s aides for him to sleep with her).
Anyway, Crews’ side-splitting performance breathes life into Herbert Love and satirically exaggerates the way politicians with questionable policies can become popular if they have charisma.
4 Martin Mull as Gene Parmesan
What makes Gene Parmesan a memorable character is the response he elicits from Lucille. Whenever he reveals himself to be a nearby person in disguise, she screams out, “Aaargh, Gene!!” We know he’s not a good private eye, he just uses gimmicky disguises to impress rich old ladies like Lucille and then takes a lot of their money.
The running gag is paid off brilliantly when Michael is first confronted by Ice: “Gene?! There’s no way you’re that good.” Martin Mull plays the role of Gene hilariously, which is no surprise.
3 Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Maggie Lizer
After playing Elaine Benes on Seinfeld for nine years, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was no stranger to playing terrible people, but Maggie Lizer (“...ass off”) really takes the cake. She’s one of the most evil, duplicitous, manipulative characters on the show – and this is a show that’s full of them, so that is saying something.
Even with Ron Howard’s narrator being very frank with us, it’s hard to tell when Maggie is telling the truth. When she pretends to be blind, we don’t really know until Michael knows. When she pretends to be pregnant, the same thing happens again. Louis-Dreyfus jumps back and forth between Maggie’s lies and the truth in a very engaging way.
2 James Lipton as Warden Gentles
James Lipton was made famous for interviewing the greatest artists in Hollywood, and for his deep knowledge of the film industry. So, it was perfect for the producers of Arrested Development to cast him as the prison warden who’s always going on about his screenplay.
Every time he appeared in the show, he would mention “the third and, I pray, final draft of my screenplay, New Warden.” Just like any hacky wannabe screenwriter, Warden Gentles wrote a screenplay based on his life, he keeps rewriting the same tacky script that can’t be salvaged and will never get made, and he takes himself very seriously.
1 Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder
Ben Stiller’s hysterical turn as Tony Wonder – Gob’s magician rival with the beard hair on his chin shaved horrendously into a “W” shape – makes him the funniest guest star in the show’s history. He’s a satirical take on a celebrity magician like David Copperfield, as he mystically pulls weird things like slices of bread out of his chest.
Stiller also has great chemistry with Will Arnett. Their characters have developed romantic feelings for one another in the last couple of seasons, while they had an intense competition for years before that, and the pair have played both emotions so well opposite each other.