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Cheers Cameos You Completely Forgot About

The NBC hit show Cheers ran for 11 seasons, from 1982-1993. The premise of the show was explained to audiences through a TV staple that no longer exists: the theme song. Remember those? Gary Portnoy delicately sang "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." And that was Cheers — a neighborhood bar where the regulars were greeted by name, and comfortably shared their daily life experiences. 

Creators James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles developed zany, interesting characters who provided tons of comedy relief. Ted Danson played Sam Malone, the bar owner who started the series in a back-and-forth romance with Diane Chambers, played by Shelley Long. Rhea Perlman's Carla was the bar's rude yet endearing waitress. John Ratzenberger and George Wendt played Cliff and Norm, two regulars with a daily thirst for a cold beer and mindless chit-chat. Kelsey Grammer played Dr. Fraiser Crane so well that the character got a spinoff show. A young Woody Harrelson popped up as the sweet dimwitted barback Woody Boyd. After Shelley Long left the show, Kirstie Alley joined the cast as Rebecca Howe, a new love interest for Sam who ultimately became more like his sister. 

The appeal of Cheers had a lot to do with that small regular ensemble, but the show's location made it easy for new characters to show up on a regular basis — and some of these non-regulars were well-known celebrities, athletes, and politicians whose surprise appearances you may not remember. Here's a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the best Cheers cameos you completely forgot about.

John Cleese

John Cleese was a full-fledged star by the time he appeared on the 1987 Cheers episode "Simon Says" as Dr. Simon Finch-Royce. A member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, Cleese co-starred in the classic Monty Python's Flying Circus series, as well as films such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. Cleese won a BAFTA in 1980 for his performance in the sitcom Fawlty Towers. No stranger to American television (he guest-starred on The Muppet Show in 1977), Cleese was a perfect fit for his guest role on Cheers, and even snagged an Emmy win for his performance. In the episode, Dr. Finch-Royce provides a counseling session to Sam and Diane, but doesn't give them the Rhodes scholar diagnosis they were expecting: Dr. Finch-Royce thinks they're an ill-matched pair and should never see each other again, and Diane spends the remainder of the episode dead set on proving the doctor wrong.

Alex Trebek

Best known as the host of the popular TV game show Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek has made history more than once in his career. He's the first person to host three American game shows at once, and in 2014, he broke the record for the person who's hosted the most episodes of any given show when he notched 6,829 episodes of Jeopardy! He's also made a ton of guest appearances on non-game show projects over the years: Trebek has popped up on How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy, Baywatch, and the films Finding Forrester and Charlie's Angels, to name a few. In the 1990 Cheers episode "What is...Cliff Clavin?," Trebek played himself when Jeopardy! came to Boston and Cliff was a contestant. At first cocky about his ability to win, Cliff later questioned his chances, afraid he may have bitten off more than he could chew — and, to the horror of everyone back at the bar who watched him respond to a Jeopardy! answer with the timelessly clueless question "Who are three people who've never been in my kitchen?," he had good reason to worry.

Arsenio Hall

Arsenio Hall was the original voice of Winston Zeddemore in the '80s cartoon The Real Ghostbusters, but most notably starred as Prince Akeem's sidekick Semmi in the hilarious hit Coming to America and served as the host of the popular late night talk show The Arsenio Hall Show, making swinging arms and making dog noises a pop culture phenomenon. The show's six seasons were groundbreaking — Hall was one of the first and most successful black talk show hosts, paving the way for Trevor Noah to take over The Daily Show. Hall was also the 2012 winner of Celebrity Apprentice. But before that, in 1990, he appeared as himself on the Cheers episode "Where Nobody Knows Your Name." In the episode, a mystery woman threatens Rebecca's quiet romance with Robin. When the mystery woman reveals her identity, she lands a guest spot on The Arsenio Hall Show and becomes a huge celebrity.

Johnny Carson

The king of late night TV, Johnny Carson paved the way for today's nighttime talk show hosts with his 30-season run at the helm of The Tonight Show. It's estimated that 55 million people watched Carson's final episode in 1992. During his second-to-last show, Bette Midler tearfully bid Carson farewell with a bittersweet rendition of "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)," beautifully underscoring Carson's lasting impact on the hearts of all who watched and appeared on his Tonight Show. During the 1992 Cheers episode "Heeeeeere's...Cliffy," Johnny Carson plays himself when Cliff submits a joke for Carson to use in his opening monologue. The joke is rejected, but Norm doctors the rejection letter to make it look like the joke was accepted. Comedy ensues when Norm, Cliff and Cliff's mother go to Los Angeles — to a taping of The Tonight Show — to hear Cliff's joke.

Tom Berenger

Tom Berenger swaggered his way into hearts worldwide when he played hunky heartthrob Sam in the '80s baby boomer classic The Big Chill. The former flight attendant later had standout performances in Major League, Born on the 4th of July, Eddie and the Cruisers, and earned an Oscar nomination for his role in Platoon. In 1993, Berenger appeared on Cheers on two occasions as Don Santry, a plumber who makes his debut in the episode "The Guy Can't Help It." Don captures Rebecca's heart, but his job just isn't lucrative or glamorous enough for her. After Frasier urges her to take a chance, she listens to the doctor's orders; in the series finale "One for the Road," Don asks her to marry him, and comedy ensues when Rebecca agonizes over her answer. The two ultimately elope, although in the Cheers spinoff series Frasier, it's later revealed that Don leaves Rebecca after inventing a pluming innovation and making his fortune.

Harry Connick Jr.

Trained by jazz greats in his hometown of New Orleans, Harry Connick Jr. was a child piano prodigy whose gifts were unprecedented when he traveled to New York City at 18. By 1988, he was a bona fide star with the success of the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack. He won his first Grammy and the album went double platinum, rising to Number One on Billboard's jazz chart. Bitten by the acting bug, Connick appeared in Memphis Belle and Little Man Tate before his guest role as Russell Boyd on the 1992 Cheers episode "A Diminished Rebecca with a Suspended Cliff." In the episode, Russell comes to town to visit his cousin Woody, and ends up with a job singing and playing piano at the bar. Russell develops a crush on Rebecca that grows into a full-on obsession, which results in him painting a semi-nude mural of her on his motel room wall.

Christopher Lloyd

Too distinct to blend in and too eccentric to be a leading man, Christopher Lloyd is a perfect character actor — and he's managed to carve out quite a career. After making his film debut in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Lloyd broke into the mainstream as the unforgettably strange Reverend Jim Ignatowski on the TV show Taxi. Two Emmy wins later, Lloyd's career took off with roles in Mr. Mom, Clue, and the Back to the Future trilogy, where he played Dr. Emmett Brown. Before meeting Marty McFly, Lloyd burst into the bar in the 1984 Cheers episodes "I'll Be Seeing You: Part 1 and Part 2," playing Phillip Semenko. In Part 1, Sam hires Phillip, a renowned artist, to paint a portrait of Diane as a romantic gesture to apologize for their recent fight. 

Unfortunately, Phillip is a real jerk and Sam hates him. The feeling is mutual, but when Phillip sees Diane, he's moved to paint her portrait. Refined Diane knows Phillip's work and goes off to be his subject, leaving Sam incensed. In Part 2, Phillip struggles to finish his portrait, believing that it's because Diane's anger towards Sam has softened. After Sam and Diane have another fight, Phillip is suddenly able to complete his commission.

Harvey Fierstein

Known for his distinctive voice and strong Brooklyn accent, Harvey Fierstein has had a distinguished career, racking up many of his accolades on the stage. He wrote and starred in the groundbreaking Broadway play (and later film) Torch Song Trilogy. He won two Tony Awards for his efforts, and later won several more for his role in the Broadway production of Hairspray and writing the book for La Cage aux Folles, later being inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2007. Fierstein had a busy decade in the 1990s, with roles in major film hits like Independence Day and Mrs. Doubtfire, and he also dropped by the bar for the 1992 Cheers episode "Rebecca's Lover...Not," playing Mark Newberger, Rebecca's "one that got away." Rebecca is excited to see her high school sweetheart and believes this encounter is her chance to right her wrongs, oblivious to the fact that he's gay. The hopeless romantic pursues Mark, to no avail.

Michael Dukakis

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, former governor and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis probably had a drink or two at the real-life bar pictured in Cheers' exterior shots. Combing through case studies at Harvard Law definitely warrants relaxing with a cold brew — and losing the 1988 presidential election to George H.W. Bush is enough to make anyone order a few rounds. In the 1991 Cheers episode "Sam Time Next Year," Norm and Sam are walking up to the bar when they spot Dukakis — who'd recently completed his final term as the governor of Massachusetts — buying a newspaper at a corner stand. It's one of the show's more fleeting cameos, but to viewers who knew the area Cheers was set in, it was a sly acknowledgment of the real world — and a reminder that even nationally renowned politicians sometimes want to go where everybody knows your name.

Mike Ditka

If sports fans decided to crown someone Mr. Football in the late '80s, Mike Ditka would certainly have been in the running for the crown. The former football player, coach, and commentator is one of only two people in NFL history to win titles as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. For such a big guy, wearing three heavy Super Bowl rings is small potatoes. Ditka's fame landed him several guest spots on TV shows like  L.A. Law, Saturday Night Live, and 3rd Rock from the Sun. Like Tom Berenger, he also made a cameo on the series finale of Cheers, episode 271, titled "One for the Road." Playing himself, Ditka is seen announcing the nominees for a CableAce Award. When his old flame Diane wins, Sam is moved to see her and finally rekindle their romance, setting in motion one of the storylines that helps usher this long-running series to its bittersweet conclusion.

Ethel Kennedy

Marrying into the Kennedy family made Ethel Kennedy an honorary Bostonian. The Chicago native was raised in Connecticut and met her late husband Robert F. Kennedy on a college ski trip. After he broke up with her sister, Ethel became the apple of Robert's eye. They had 11 children together before her husband's tragic assassination, after which Ethel re-emerged with a focus on activism and passion for environmental issues. In 1992 she took time from her busy schedule to appear in the Cheers episode "Daddy's Little Middle-Aged Girl." During her brief appearance, Ethel was spotted by Cliff and Norm outside the bar, at which point they naturally attempted to take a photo with her — but in their excitement, they messed up and she ended up taking a picture of them. Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?

John Kerry

John Kerry is another nationally known Massachusetts politician that viewers got to see hanging around outside the Cheers bar. The former U.S. Senator is mistaken for a news anchor by Cliff and Norm in "Bar Wars VI: This Time It's for Real." The two friends are excited to meet the anchor, and even ask for his autograph. When Kerry explains who he is, the barstool buddies are disappointed — for two of our favorite barflies, a senator's autograph isn't half as exciting as a news anchor's. They head into the bar and Kerry shrugs off the crazy encounter. Norm and Cliff might have changed their tune if that chance encounter took place years later: In 2004 Kerry was the Democratic Presidential nominee, running against George W. Bush, and he served as Secretary of State from 2013 to 2017. Now that's an autograph worth saving.