It’s often hard to separate an actor from his or her character. It gets even harder when people play themselves. But, considering the humor that must accompany such self-mockery, it’s often very entertaining when actors play themselves on TV.
#25 James Van Der Beek: Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23
There’s a decent portion of the population who will never know James Van Der Beek as anything other than “Dawson.” Van Der Beek’s role in Apartment 23 celebrates that fact with an egotistical, flannel-seducing version of the actor.
#24 Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm
While Larry David based his TV character very much on himself, the fictional Larry David is somewhat more lacking in social awareness than the real person.
#23 Josh Groban and Olivia Newton John: Glee
The two celebrity judges in the season 1 finale (“Journey to Regionals”), Josh Groban and Olivia Newton John are not as self-centered in real life as they were on TV. They would never choose winners based on who covered their music. Probably…
#22 Misha Collins: Supernatural
After a couple of seasons getting used to the serious Castiel, it was a bit jarring to see Misha Collins play “Misha Collins” in season 6’s “The French Mistake.” Whatever Twitter-based similarities there were between the character and the actor, at least the real Misha Collins has avoided death-by-supernatural-being.
#21 Matt LeBlanc: Episodes
However believable it is that the actor who played Joey on Friends would actually be an egotistical idiot, all evidence points to the “Matt LeBlanc” character on Extras as being fictional. Entertaining but fictional.
#20 James Patterson, Stephen J. Cannell, Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane: Castle
Often, when stuck on a case, Castle plays poker with a bunch of his writer friends. Those men — all real best-selling authors — appear as themselves. We can assume that the big egos and fame/money obsessions are at least a little inflated.
#19 Wil Wheaton: The Big Bang Theory
The “Evil” Wil Wheaton character on The Big Bang Theory is all about winning. Whatever the cost. Rumor has it that the actual Wil Wheaton is a much nicer person.
#18 Billy Gibbons: Bones
This ZZ Top star has appeared repeatedly in a role described only as “Angela’s Dad.” The actual Billy Gibbons is neither the father of a fictional character nor a man prone to kidnapping and tattooing his son-law repeatedly.
#17 Colin Hanks: Happy Endings
Is the presence of Colin Hanks enough to make a food truck into a cool hipster hangout? Probably not. But it was on Happy Endings
#16 Garry Shandling and Tea Leoni: The X-Files
When Hollywood wanted to make a movie loosely based on the exploits of Mulder and Scully, Garry Shandling and Tea Leoni appeared — as themselves — to play the parts.
#15 Regis Philbin: How I Met Your Mother
While his part in the “Best Burger in New York” episode may not be too far from reality, it seems unlikely that the hardworking Regis would just leave a job for a burger. No matter how good it was.
#14 Pete Wentz and Nick Lachey: One Tree Hill
The Fallout Boy and 98 Degrees celebrities couldn’t stay out of it when both had romantic relationships with One Tree Hill characters when they appeared as themselves on the show.
#13 Bo Derek: Chuck
It’s very likely that the real Bo Derek is not an international spy in the pay of an evil mercenary. But you never know.
#12 Adam West: Family Guy
The mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island on Family Guy is Adam West. The cartoon version is something of a lunatic, which presumably does not describe the actual Adam West.
#11 Jon Favreau: The Sopranos
The Jon Favreau of The Sopranos was a lying, story-stealing jerk. The real Jon Favreau is supposed to be a fairly nice guy who wouldn’t anger anyone connected to the mafia.
#10 Brian Williams and Kelsey Grammar: 30 Rock
In the fake TV world of 30 Rock, Kelsey Grammer is a scam artist (ice cream cakes are worth it) and Brian Williams is a playful antagonist.
#9 Warwick Davis, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, et al: Life’s Too Short
Pretty much everyone in Life’s Too Short plays themselves (more or less). But the show’s stars and producers play “themselves” the most.
#8 Carl Weathers: Arrested Development
This action movie star played a very frugal version of himself on Arrested Development when he was hired to be Tobias Funke’s acting coach.
#7 Susan Lucci: Hot in Cleveland
Although the undisputed queen of soaps in real life, Susan Lucci served more as a rival for Victoria Chase in Hot in Cleveland. We’ll also assume that the real Susan Lucci isn’t quite so enthusiastic about tapeworms.
#6 Luis Guzman: Community
Greendale Community College’s most famous alum may be a lot like the guy we saw in his brief Community appearance. But he probably doesn’t have a real bronze statue.
#5 Steve Guttenberg: Party Down
No one — not even Steve Guttenberg — could be that fond of weird art and dysfunctional caterers. No one.
#4 Seth Green: Entourage
It’s hard to imagine Seth Green being anyone’s real-life nemesis the way he was in Entourage.
#3 Tim Stack: My Name Is Earl
The most famous resident of Camden County, the self-obsessed and oft-intoxicated Tim Stack, is perhaps somewhat fictional in nature.
#2 Jennifer Grey: It’s Like, You Know…
After she had plastic surgery, a lot of people didn’t recognize Jennifer Grey. The “Jennifer Grey” character on this sitcom had the same problem. Only funnier.
#1 Every Guest Star: Extras
Celebrities mocking themselves were pretty much the purpose of Extras. Notable stars to do so on the show included Kate Winslet, Daniel Radcliffe, Chris Martin, Orlando Bloom and Patrick Stewart.