And Mendel Hagler as "Alf's cousin"
January 23, 2010 7:45 PM   Subscribe

In my youth, I remember occasionally reading about contests where you'd win a cameo on a TV show. Were these real and did people get to do that? Did anyone famous come out of it? Is there an online archive of the contest winners somewhere where you can watch their acting?
posted by history is a weapon to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In April, '03, South Park had such an episode, except the guy won an auction instead of a contest. Obviously, it's a voice-only role. The episode is available to watch (for free) but, IIRC, the cameo doesn't happen until the very last seconds of the show.
posted by The Potate at 8:00 PM on January 23, 2010

As usual, TV Tropes has a pretty good list.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:50 PM on January 23, 2010

We just watched an episode in season one of "It's Garry Shandling's Show" in which this very thing happened. The winner was a woman from Texarkana and they gave her lines and made her an important plot point in the show. It was quite charming (as was the entire series).

It seemed completely real to us. The woman was clearly not a professional actor, and they said in the episode that it was a contest run by Showtime, and they gave her an autographed, framed poster of the cast as a memento.
posted by Brody's chum at 11:37 PM on January 23, 2010

My dad won a skateboarding competition in the 70's (in the LA area) and part of the prize was a cameo as a skateboarder on a safety-themed episode of "Welcome Back, Kotter." I'd give anything to find that old episode.
posted by Detuned Radio at 12:45 AM on January 24, 2010

This still really happens in the context of charity auctions. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS* has auctioned off walk-on roles in various TV shows - including Friends, when it was still on, and daytime soaps - as well as Broadway shows.

*The BCEFA website seems to be down as I type this, but I hope that it comes back shortly.
posted by sueinnyc at 4:47 AM on January 24, 2010

Stargate SG-1 which ended after ten seasons in 2007, routinely had a contest called "Enter the Gate" in which you submitted entries via the Stargate website and if your entry was drawn, you received a brief cameo in the show. I want to say they also did this with Stargate Atlantis.

To my knowledge, none of the winners went on to any notoriety other than their brief cameos (generally non-speaking).
posted by Atreides at 6:54 AM on January 24, 2010

Happened on Family Matters for kids. Kids were supposed to send in an impression of Steve Urkel and in an episode during one of the characters' nightmare, the winners showed up as Steve's kids.

*my parents wouldn't let me enter*
posted by zizzle at 8:13 AM on January 24, 2010

My friend won the PS3 commercial contest that was offered by Adult Swim and Robot Chicken with this video. The prize included a guest spot on Robot Chicken.

Here he is getting to stabbed to death by Seth Green (It would have been a lot cooler if the doll had looked like him, or if he'd gotten to do the voice acting)
posted by cyphill at 8:47 AM on January 24, 2010

Anyone remember Jesse Camp?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:05 AM on January 24, 2010

A kid was on Doctor Who thanks to a Blue Peter contest. I can't find the Confidential where they showed the "making of" for his scenes, but you can see him in the episode "Utopia" here (3:10 to 4:37) and here (3:06 to 3:28).
posted by bentley at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2010

You're using that word wrong.

A "cameo" is when already famous people appear briefly on another vehicle.
posted by Zambrano at 11:30 AM on January 24, 2010

Very slightly related (movies, not TV), Clara Bow, the red-hot jazz baby and the original "It Girl" won a contest that gave her a small role in a movie and launched her career.
posted by largecorp at 1:11 PM on January 24, 2010

The Simpsons had a contest way back when to figure out who shot Mr. Burns, with the prize being animated into the show. But the rules got in the way, as they had to pick a winning entry out of the first 1000 entries received or something. No one in those 1000 guessed correctly, but they had to pick a winner. They picked one at random I think, sent a cash prize, and never animated the winner into the show.

Some info here, much more on the DVD commentary for the episodes.
posted by yellowbinder at 5:10 PM on January 24, 2010

Hey. A Cameo is a band.

A "cameo" is when already famous people appear briefly on another vehicle.

Not entirely. It's common for authors, real-life sources, and the like to get bit parts. It's more about the momentary featuring of someone, not necessarily completely necessary to the plot, than it is about the fame of the actor.

The etymology derives from the word for a carving in sharp relief, so it applies to any highlighted brief turn, e.g. "Mr. Fernie, the tenth actor, made his role stand out like a cameo" (from 1907).

In any case, if you're holding a contest, saying that the prize is a "bit part" (or even more likely, a "walk-on") is not the best way to advertise.

largecorp has it -- this is an old marketing ploy. Before movies there were probably antecedents in live theatre and vaudeville: "Appear onstage with Sarah Bernhardt!" It would drum up interest in an event before the arrival of the troupe, or just pile people in to see a local. By the way, aside from Clara Bow, I found only Corliss Palmer as a notable winner of the Brewster Publications "Fame and Fortune" contest that propelled Bow into the movies. By the time of It, Bow clearly had talent and screen presence.
posted by dhartung at 5:16 PM on January 24, 2010

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