Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Actors You Didn't Know Appeared On NewsRadio

NewsRadio boasted one of the best casts in sitcom history. There were the tremendous talents at the peak of their career, like Dave Foley and Phil Hartman. There were solid TV mainstays, like Khandi Alexander and Vicki Lewis. Then there were all the future stars, such as Maura Tierney, Andy Dick, Stephen Root, and Joe Rogan. It also had some of the sharpest writing of any '90s sitcom, and it moved at a breakneck pace years ahead of its time.

The show also had many memorable guest spots. There were plenty of celebrities playing themselves, like when Chuck D showed up to debate the merits of rap or when James Caan shadowed Bill to learn more about radio for a role. There were also plenty of notable actors playing characters, like Dennis Miller as the eyepatched man stalking Bill or Jon Stewart as Matthew's brother. 

However, this article isn't about them. Instead, it's about NewsRadio guest spots people don't remember. Sometimes, the person just wasn't famous yet, while other times, they were presented in an unrecognizable way. And occasionally, the role was so small that nobody would think to go back and watch it. From hilarious comedians to future stars of critically acclaimed dramas, here are the actors you didn't know appeared on NewsRadio.

Patton Oswalt had a quick appearance on NewsRadio

"The Trainer" is best remembered for Ben Stiller's prominent guest spot as a gym employee who suckers Bill (Hartman) into joining a gym under false pretenses. Stiller was a rising star at this point and had name recognition from his parents alone. However, the episode ends with an unknown actor who'd go on to have a solid career of his own. Yeah, it's Patton Oswalt as a gym member. Sure, it's a tiny role — the character is credited as "Guy" — but it was the start of his mainstream career.

Oswalt made his TV debut a couple years earlier with a bit part on Seinfeld, but he was still unknown to the general public. He'd been performing standup since the late '80s and wrote for MadTV. But 1996 was a watermark year for Oswalt. Besides NewsRadio, he appeared in the movie Down Periscope and recorded his first comedy special for HBO. Two years later, now a hotter property, he'd land his spot on King Of Queens.

Bob Odenkirk showed up twice on NewsRadio

Bob Odenkirk had a substantial role in season four's "Chock," playing one of Dave's (Foley) old a capella buddies. But well before that, he had a brief and oft forgotten appearance in "Injury" as a doctor taking care of Matthew (Dick). The role isn't particularly special or funny — they largely needed a straight man to play off against Dave — and thus isn't as memorable as his later appearance. But there he is, in his scrubs, years before his tacky suits.

Long before Saul Goodman turned him into one of Hollywood's most in-demand dramatic actors, Odenkirk made his name in cult comedy. He got his start in Second City, creating Chris Farley's iconic character Matt Foley before getting hired as a writer by Saturday Night Live. Odenkirk later went on to star in The Ben Stiller Show with NewsRadio cast member Andy Dick while continuing to work as a comedy writer on various shows. And, of course, he starred in the cult classic Mr. Show concurrently with his appearances on NewsRadio.

Jane Lynch shows up for a second

Years before Glee or even Best in Show, Jane Lynch was another jobbing actress bouncing around Hollywood. She spent the '90s doing commercials and small parts in movies or on TV shows, and one of these small parts was as Carol, Jimmy James' (Root) secretary in "The Cane." 

Here, Lynch only has a few lines of dialogue, mostly apologizing matter-of-factly to Mr. James before giving him information, but it's still distinctly the voice that would become Sue Sylvester. She'd have a resume full of similar roles by the end of the '90s before becoming a Christopher Guest regular and a TV mainstay in the 2000s. Eventually, she'd get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and she'd enter the pantheon of "Big Stars People Forgot Were On NewsRadio."

Also? Nice '90s shoulder pads, Jane. That decade's fashion has not aged well at all. Tracks suits are a far better look.

Judd Apatow was just a voice before making it big

The main plot point of "Goofy Ball" revolves around that titular toy, which is made by one of Jimmy James' companies. It's a variation of hot potato, where the ball chirps and gets bounced around before going "goofy ball" in the hands of the loser. The staff has a little too much fun with it, as per sitcom rules, and it begins to cause problems.

The voice of that ball? A young comedy writer named Judd Apatow.

Apatow is one of the biggest names in mainstream comedy today, so much that almost anyone could describe the gist of what makes a "Judd Apatow movie." In the early '90s, however, Apatow was a niche comedy producer and writer. He worked on The Larry Sanders Show and co-created cult classic sketch series The Ben Stiller Show, where he worked with NewsRadio's own Andy Dick. He'd close out the '90s with Freaks & Geeks before permanently launching into the public eye.

Before Arrested Development, David Cross was cracking us up on NewsRadio

The great David Cross appeared on NewRadio twice. The second, more memorable time saw him as one of Dave's old a cappella buddies, alongside Bob Odenkirk and Brian Posehn in "Chock." The first and less remembered time was as Jimmy's weird magician nephew Theo in "Houses of the Holy." It marks perhaps the only time a magician has ever been portrayed as being ashamed of his occupation — a perfect weirdo role for Cross.

By this point in his career, Cross was one of the more prominent faces of '90s alt-comedy, though he wouldn't reach mainstream-adjacent audiences until starring in Arrested Development. He got his start on The Ben Stiller Show, and when this particular NewsRadio episode aired in 1996, he already had one season of Mr. Show under his belt, which would run for three more seasons. Now, the public at large knows him largely from his time as Tobias Fünke and his stand-up work, but he's also part of the pantheon of obscure NewsRadio guests.

Everyone forgets about Norm Macdonald's appearance

Norm Macdonald is a strange case on this list. His appearance in "Injury" as Roger, the lawyer of Mr. James, came at the height of Macdonald's popularity, during his tenure on Saturday Night Live. He has several prominent scenes, including a memorable bit grilling Dave about his resume. Yet few remember that Macdonald was on the show, and it's possible to watch the episode without even comprehending it's him. Why is that?

For starters, "Injury" is a dicey episode. The episode's B-plot shows Bill in a moral crusade against a rival broadcaster using the word "penis" on air, and his repeated use of the word set off a real-life battle between NBC and the writers. Originally meant for season two, an edited version aired a year after production, and as such, the episode itself is more famous for the controversy than the content.

Also, notably, Norm doesn't act like Norm here. He wears a suit, speaks in a normal tone of voice, and has no outlandish traits. Macdonald's humor is usually dry, yes, but in this episode, he's used more as a straight man for Jimmy and Dave than as a joke delivery device himself. All this adds up to why few people remember Macdonald ever appearing on NewsRadio.

Keep an eye out for Chris Kattan

NewsRadio pulled a lot of cast members from Saturday Night Live, as seen so often on this list. Maybe it was NBC doing cross promotion, maybe it was Phil Hartman calling on friends for favors, but there was a clear pattern. Interestingly, Chris Kattan is the outlier. His appearance on NewsRadio predates Mr. Peepers. The episode "No, This Is Not Based Entirely on Julie's Life" — which also featured Dennis Miller in a more memorable spot — was the show's season two premiere in September 1995 and featured Kattan. He would join SNL one year later.

"No, This Is Not Based Entirely on Julie's Life" shows Beth (Lewis) dealing with an especially '90s problem — she took nude pictures of herself but accidentally picked up the wrong package at the photo store. She and Lisa (Tierney) go back to the store, hoping her photos are still there, and Kattan is one of the employees. His screen time is brief, and he has no decipherable dialogue, but he's there babbling at Beth.

Most fans don't know about Brian Posehn's appearance

Brian Posehn has long been a cult comedy figure, dating back to his appearances on Mr. Show. One of his stops along that circuit was an episode of NewsRadio. "Super Karate Monkey Death Car" sees Jimmy James conduct a book reading of his mistranslated autobiography. His audience is full of people, including porn star Ron Jeremy as an extra. Posehn plays one of the few fans left at the end, and he participates in the Q&A with Jimmy.

Posehn also had a series of smaller roles in the late '90s and early 2000s, including voicing Jim on cult classic cartoon Mission Hill and a recurring role on Just Shoot Me. He finally hit mainstream popularity in the mid 2000s, playing Sarah's neighbor, Brian, on The Sarah Silverman Program and geologist Bert Kibbler on The Big Bang Theory. His appearance in "Super Karate Monkey Death Car" didn't even mark the end of his time on NewsRadio, either. He'd later return as a member of Dave's former a cappella group in "Chock."

Before 24, Mary Lynn Rajskub was a waitress

In "The Secret of Management," Dave and Bill take a despondent Matthew to his favorite restaurant for lunch. In typical Matthew fashion, it's theme restaurant Petey the Pirate's Fun Time Pizza Palace. The first person they meet at the low-rent Chuck E. Cheese is the waitress, dressed in pirate garb and begrudgingly reciting the restaurant's welcome message. The actress playing her? It's Chloe O'Brian herself, Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Though she's best known for her work on 24, Rajskub began her career in comedy and still does stand-up to this day. By the time of her appearance on NewsRadio, she already had a respectable resume for a young actress. She'd appeared on ten episodes of Mr. Show and had a recurring role on The Larry Sanders Show as talent booker Marylou Collins. She'd spend the next few years picking up small roles on TV before landing the drama that both defined her and stands as an outlier in her primarily comedic career.

You'll definitely recognize Ian Abercrombie

The secondary plot of "The Secret of Management" sees Bill hire a butler named Cadbury. Bill finds him advertising his services in a pennysaver classified ad, and in typical Bill fashion, he decides to get a discount freelance butler. Also in typical Bill fashion, it blows up in his face. Cadbury, the elderly British butler, is played by Ian Abercrombie, and while you might not recognize that name, you've certainly seen him or heard his voice.

Abercrombie's career on screen lasted about five decades, but it kicked into high gear in the late '80s and early '90s. He became one of Hollywood's go-to British small-role sophisticates. Most viewers will recognize Abercrombie as Mr. Pitt, Elaine's boss during season six of Seinfeld. Other prominent roles include the Wise Man in Army of Darkness, Alfred Pennyworth in The WB's Birds Of Prey TV series, and the voice of Palpatine in the Star Wars Clone War cartoons.

Leelee Sobieski wasn't yet famous when she appeared in NewsRadio

"Arcade" sees Dave and Lisa retake the SATs. While Dave is mistaken for a teenager taking the test, Lisa goes over her notes one more time. She sits on a bench next to a teen girl, and the two talk until Lisa offers the girl a cigarette to calm her nerves. That nameless teen was a young actress named Leelee Sobieski, who was about to become one of the hot new stars of the era.

Sobieski was a rising star in the '90s, and her spot on NewsRadio was just the beginning. The next year, she'd appear in Jungle 2 Jungle as Martin Short's daughter. She'd go on to appear in Deep Impact, Eyes Wide Shut, Never Been Kissed, and she picked up award nominations for playing the title character in the CBC's 1999 Joan of Arc miniseries. After bouncing around Hollywood through the 2000s in smaller roles, she retired from acting around 2012, and she now works as a visual artist.

Sara Paxton was just a kid during her guest spot

The B-plot of "Office Feud" sees Lisa attend the White House Easter Egg Roll, only to have uniformly negative experiences with the kids there. One little girl put an egg in Lisa's hand before smacking it, prompting an at-the-end-of-her-rope Lisa to go, "What's wrong with you?" It's a nine-second performance, but that's an early appearance of Sara Paxton, who'd go on to start in several teen comedies and horror movies.

Paxton's first film appearance was a small part in Liar Liar, which starred NewsRadio scene partner Maura Tierney. She'd later achieve recognition in the mid-aughts starring in Discovery Kids' original series Darcy's Wild Life. Paxton launched from this to larger roles, starring as the titular mermaid in Aquamarine and Marnie in Return to Halloweentown. She's since transitioned largely to darker roles, including horror movies like 2009's The Last House on the Left and the incredibly disturbing suspense flick Cheap Thrills.

Bryan Callen and Nick Di Paolo both starred alongside Joe Rogan in NewsRadio

The B-plot of "Who's The Boss: Part II" introduces everyone to Joe's (Rogan) brothers, who come to the station during an already turbulent time and just make matters worse. They're small parts, but they show two completely different yet somehow identical kinds of ruffians. His younger brother, Russ, is portrayed by MadTV original Bryan Callen, and his older brother, Jack, is played by comedian Nick Di Paolo.

Callen was one of the original eight cast members of MadTV. He's popped up in small roles in the two decades since, but these days he's best known as Coach Rick Mellor on The Goldbergs. Di Paolo has had a few roles, but he's primarily known for his stand-up and his professional association with Louis C.K., including multiple appearances as himself on both Lucky Louie and Louie. At the time this episode of NewsRadio aired, however, he was a rising comic finally getting some screen time.