SNL has a long, distinguished history of featuring not just Hollywood royalty displaying their comedy chops, but also appearances by important figures in the public sphere who come out to surprise the audience with an unexpected cameo. Over the years, SNL has honed this practice down to an exact science, using such secret appearances to elicit a genuine reaction from audiences and other cast members.
There are some cameos that go from being a pleasant surprise to becoming a highlight of the episode. Here are the best SNL cameos we've gotten to see over the years:
10 Robert de Niro Catches Jimmy Fallon In The Act
Robert de Niro is famed throughout Hollywood as a bit of a tough guy grouch, thanks to the roles he played in Scorsese's films and his serious real-life demeanor during interviews. One time during The Weekend Update, Jimmy Fallon made fun of de Niro's film, even going so far as to copy the actor's mannerisms.
During the next update and much to Fallon's surprise, de Niro showed up without warning just as Fallon was launching into another bout of ribbing. The look of surprise on Fallon's face is priceless, and what caps off the incident is when de Niro ends the update with a mincing imitation of Fallon himself.
9 Eminem Cleans Up His Act
One musical performer with proven comedic talent who has never hosted the show is Eminem. Some might assume the rapper is too hardcore to bother with doing silly skits on a variety show, and perhaps it was precisely to play against this image that Eminem made a rare came on a weekend update segment.
When a couple of old-school rappers appeared as guests on the segment to criticize the inappropriate raps performed by current rappers, Eminem showed up to admit that he needs to clean up his act and joined the seniors in a hilariously gibberish performance.
8 Leonardo Dicaprio Surprises Jonah Hill
Fresh off of an Oscar nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street, Jonh Hill hosted SNL and proceeded to make himself completely insufferable during his opening monologue, playing himself up as a serious actor instead of a pedestrian comedian like the rest of the cast of the show.
Near the end, the wind is taken out of Jonah's sail by none other than Leonardo Dicaprio himself, who made his one and only appearance on SNL to call Jonah out for his pretentious behavior and capped off the monologue by re-enacting his famed Titanic pose with Hill instead of Kate Winslet.
7 Barack Obama During Halloween
During a Halloween skit, Amy Poehler was dressed as Hillary Clinton hosting a White House Halloween party. The party was going through its scripted paces until a man showed up in an Obama mask.
The masked guest removed his mask to reveal himself to be the actual Obama, who had taken a break from election campaigning to wish Hillary luck on Halloween, and in the process make some jabs at the actual Clinton power couple during their time in the White House.
6 Jim Carrey Plays His Leg Guitar
During a performance by Foo Fighters, Jim Carrey suddenly appeared on stage with them and joined them in their song, by playing his leg like a guitar.
It was a strange, bizarrely hilarious moment that could only have been pulled off by Jim Carrey, and made it much more difficult for the band to continue with their performance while trying to hold in their laughter.
5 Dan Crenshaw As Himself
One recent SNL joke that had both democrats and liberals united in their condemnation was when Pete Davidson did a Weekend update segment where he made fun of the eyepatch worn by Republican nominee Dan Crenshaw. It later came to light that the eyepatch was a result of a severe injury Crenshaw suffered during an IED explosion during his combat tour in Afghanistan.
During the next update, Davidson apologized to Crenshaw and the former Navy Seal appeared in person to accept it before proceeding to zing Davidson with some pointed jabs at his failed relationship with Ariana Grande. It turned out to be one of the most surprisingly genuine and heartfelt moments on the show, especially after Crenshaw ended the segment by expressing his admiration for Davidson's deceased father, who was one of the first responders during the 9/11 attacks.
4 Bill Hader Faces Andy Samberg
From all accounts, SNL is a pretty intense place of work for its featured cast and many former members have openly shown animosity towards one another after they left the show. That was why it was a pleasant and hilarious surprise when during Andy Samberg's opening monologue after he returned to SNL to host, in which he performed impressions to tag the title of 'Impressions Master of SNL', his effort was cut short by a surprise appearance by former fellow cast member and close friend Bill Hader.
Hader pretends to take his rivalry with Samberg seriously and proceeds to do a mocking impression of Samberg in which he made fun of his new show Brooklyn Nine-Nine to retain his title as King of Impressions. The fake feud was ended during the end of the sketch, with a bear hug between Samberg, Hader, and Martin Short and Seth Meyers, who had also dropped by.
3 Mark Zuckerberg Meets His Doppelgangers
On its own, Mark Zuckerberg's appearance on SNL and the jokes that the writers wrote for him were not the funniest performance by a non-actor. But what made his appearance special was that he appeared during the monologue of Jesse Eisenberg, who had just recently played the owner of Facebook in The Social Network, a portrayal that the actual Zuckerberg famously had a lot of problems with. Also on the stage was Adam Samberg doing his own well-known impression of Zuckerberg,
Audiences got the perfect storm of awkwardness and hilarity, with Andy even pointing out the fact in the middle of the sketch before leaving Eisenberg and Zuckerberg standing alone on the stage in awkward silence.
2 Alec Baldwin As Donald Trump
Probably the most popular impression on SNL in recent memory is Alec Baldwin as Donal Trump. No one saw it coming, and now we can't imagine anyone but Baldwin playing the part so well.
So popular is the actor's take on the President that he has made repeated cameos on the show in several sketches in the form of Trump, always with the most hilarious results, especially when he's backed by other distinguished actors like Melissa Mccarthy and Robert de Niro as the president's cohorts.
1 Barbara Streisand Meets Madonna
Back in the day, the Material Girl Madonna was on every show's wishlist as a guest. Mike Meyers, who was a cast member before Wayne's World made him a movie star, hosted a segment called "Coffee with Linda Richman," where he played a very Jewish hostess who gabbed with her guests about her daughter, Yiddish words and her obsession with Barbara Streisand.
One time, Madonna played a guest on the segment along with Roseanne, and near the end of the sketch, an enthusiastic fan stormed the stage, who turned out to be to Streisand herself. Meyers was clearly surprised but tried to play it off with jokes, but Madonna and Roseanne were reduced to becoming complete fangirls who were incapable of remembering their lines or do anything but look adoringly at Streisand.