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Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 6: The Cameo


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I love cameos. I believe it is also a way for one generation to pay homage to those who came before them. To those they owe a debt of thanks. If I watch a remake and someone from the original movie (if possible) isn't cameo'd my thinking is that it's disrespectful. Just my opinion. I believe if we lose sight of the pioneers we lose a lot.

 

One other thing, I happily OD on cameos every time I watch, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." And yes, it is fun saying it...not so much typing it.

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The use of the cameo as a brief but unforgettable appearance of a real life personality or comedian taking a break from their serious work to being shown in a comedy film for their comic and exaggerated versatility is something to behold in something as informational from this week's episode of Breakdown of a gag by utilizing examples from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Bananas (1971), and Anchorman (2004) to an epic and proportionate extent.

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I absolutely enjoy a cameo when I'm watching a movie. Especially if they are in a movie just released and you're trying to tell someone what you liked about the movie. It's almost like you're giving hints on why they should go see the movie. I would most likely say my favorite cameos were "Mean" Gene Okurlund and Jesse "The Body" Ventura in the parody movie "Reposessed." Also Hulk Hogan in "Spy Hard." Mostly because I'm a wrestling fan, but it was out of left field how they appeared in the movies. They are both Leslie Neilsen movies as well.

 

Question for discussion. Does the cameo have to be the actual person playing themselves? Could we consider Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy portraying their characters from "Trading Places" (Mortimer and Randolph Duke respectively) in the movie "Coming to America" as a cameo? I always thought so.

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Cameos are always great in films, and I do love them so. While not known for slapstick films, he by far had some of the most notable cameos in films to date- Alfred Hitchcock. Yes, The Master of Suspense himself popped up in his very own films. Sort of like his version of "Where's Waldo?" only retitled; "Where's Hitchcock?"

 

In regards to comedic films, cameos often lend jokes to generate laughter, posing no real advancement of a plot, as noted by Dr. Edwards. They are sprinkled about sometimes throughout a film, other times arriving toward its conclusion. Nonetheless, it's always great to see stars stroll through a scene entirely unexpected.

 

Expanding on the mention of Anchorman in this episode of Breakdown of a Gag, Anchorman 2 also has a good amount of cameos in a battle amongst the news teams. Appearances come from several stars; from Harrison Ford, to Will Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jim Carrey, to my favorites; Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Marion Cotillard. The scene is ridiculous, but quite funny, especially when each (cameo) star delivers their specific line(s) stating the news team they represent.

 

I love the connecting of decades of films through a certain gag. Paying homage to the greats having created a particular kind of joke is always wonderful to witness. For without those of the past paving the way, the future is left to a possible nothing. So we say thank you to the very firsts for their guidance, passion and resilience, but most of all, we say thank you for the everlasting, unmatched and brilliant artistic gifts bestowed.

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Question for discussion. Does the cameo have to be the actual person playing themselves? Could we consider Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy portraying their characters from "Trading Places" (Mortimer and Randolph Duke respectively) in the movie "Coming to America" as a cameo? I always thought so.

 

I don't see why not! I think actors portraying their characters in cameos is like a variation on the banana peel gag. It adds another layer to the use of cameos. Someone mentioned Hitchcock making cameo appearances in his own films. These instances seem to me to be variations on the theme.

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I don't see why not! I think actors portraying their characters in cameos is like a variation on the banana peel gag. It adds another layer to the use of cameos. Someone mentioned Hitchcock making cameo appearances in his own films. These instances seem to me to be variations on the theme.

I agree with Dave Lightfoot and Marianne. I enjoy all cameos but especially when a movie remake casts an actor who played the character in the original movie. It shows me that contemporary Hollywood acknowledges and respects its roots. It's a tangible link to the past and one most movie lovers appreciate.

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I don't see why not! I think actors portraying their characters in cameos is like a variation on the banana peel gag. It adds another layer to the use of cameos. Someone mentioned Hitchcock making cameo appearances in his own films. These instances seem to me to be variations on the theme.

 

I agree and think that the joke is recognizable by having the same actors playing the same role. It also may be useful in tying films together, if that is a needed plot device.

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I

 

The use of the cameo as a brief but unforgettable appearance of a real life personality or comedian taking a break from their serious work to being shown in a comedy film for their comic and exaggerated versatility is something to behold in something as informational from this week's episode of Breakdown of a gag by utilizing examples from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Bananas (1971), and Anchorman (2004) to an epic and proportionate extent.

 

t's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World probably sets the record for cameos. When seeing this film for the first time when it was reissued in 1970, I was disappointed in the "The Three Stooges". It was probably the only time in film history when they didn't destroy something!

 

Cameos enhance a film and make it more fun, putting in a quick laugh or smile where a non-descript actor would never have the same effect.

 

The back story on "Mad World" on who DIDN'T make a cameo is almost as interesting as the ones that did appear in the film. For various reasons Stan laurel (wouldn't perform again without Oliver Hardy),  Bud Abbott (not sure but he was considered for the film), Bob Hope (unavailable), Groucho Marx and Red Skelton (wanted too much money) would have made the film even greater, if that is possible!

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I love when famous actors play themselves in cameos. It shows you that they are content with poking fun and parodying their legendary personas. They don't mind being in on the joke, as long as the joke is not too cruel. "Anchorman" is a great example of actors willing to commit, because Tim Robbins usually plays serious parts, and it nice to see that he is an actor of amazing variety. Sometimes the cameos can be bigger than the films themselves, and the reason why some movies are remembered, even if that is the only aspect of a certain film's importance.

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I love cameos. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is one of the best. Another one that comes to mind is the David Niven version Around the World in 80 Days. Even though the cameo actors didn't play themselves they were added to the zaniness of the film.

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Cameos are the "surprises" in the Cracker Jacks box.  When a famous actor, especially if he or she is known for dramatic roles, suddenly appears on screen in a comedy, the response is Oh Wow, look who it is. I think it makes you smile and get more interested in the film and where it is going.

 

Love them.

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The cameo is definitely, as a previous comment mentioned, the Cracker Jack prize.  Sometimes the actors that appear are a surprise to the audience; loved when Jack Benny appears and loud mouth Miss Merman makes her comment and we are treated to his wonderful "Well!."  (Remember Ethel Merman's cameo in "Airplane" as the injured soldier who thought he was Merman!)  I'm about to digress, but perhaps one of cinema's "greatest" cameo fest is in The Greatest Story Ever Told...some of the stars got 5-9 seconds of onscreen time.

(Angela Lansbury as Pilate's Wife; John Wayne's Centurion and Ed Wynn).  Cameos allow, in my opinion, dramatic stars to be themselves and have fun for a change and for comedians, to go a tad longer with exaggeration and laughs.

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I love cameos. I believe it is also a way for one generation to pay homage to those who came before them. To those they owe a debt of thanks. If I watch a remake and someone from the original movie (if possible) isn't cameo'd my thinking is that it's disrespectful. Just my opinion. I believe if we lose sight of the pioneers we lose a lot.

 

One other thing, I happily OD on cameos every time I watch, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." And yes, it is fun saying it...not so much typing it.

I like your comment about cameos being a way "to pay homage to those who came before them..."  These aren't comedies, but I'm a classic sci fi lover and am thinking of Gene Barry showing up at the end of the Tom Cruise remake of War of the Worlds and Kevin McCarthy at the beginning of one of the earlier remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers!!  I absolutely loved both cameos!!

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I like your comment about cameos being a way "to pay homage to those who came before them..." These aren't comedies, but I'm a classic sci fi lover and am thinking of Gene Barry showing up at the end of the Tom Cruise remake of War of the Worlds and Kevin McCarthy at the beginning of one of the earlier remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers!! I absolutely loved both cameos!!

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

Or how about the remaining three Ghostbusters in the new movie? I enjoyed that immensely.

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Examples of cameos in comedies that immediately came to mind while watching this breakdown:

 

1. Merv Griffin in The Man With Two Brains. Very silly and very effective twist on solving a mystery.

 

2. Dick Enberg and Dick Vitale in The Naked Gun! Of course Reggie Jackson deserves attention but the announcers' hug was a highlight of the movie for me.

 

3. Buster Keaton in Sunset Boulevard. The stone faced man is granted one word to say twice. And speaking of one word...

 

4. Marcel Marceau in Silent Movie delivers the one spoken word in the whole movie in a great cameo.

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Epic spectacles of the 50s and 60s were chock full of cameos, like How the West Was Won or the biblical films. One of my favorites is The Greatest Story Ever Told. This might be tasteless and sacrireligious but I always crack up seeing John Wayne as the Centurion, munching on his dialogue in that unmistakeable voice during the Crucifixion. Same with Edward G. Robinson in the Ten Commandments, even though his was more of a small role and not a cameo. He and the Duke in Greatest Story were just out of place in those biblical spectacles. It's no wonder that comedic spectacles he cameos much like their more serious film brethren.

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I think that cameos when you may not always recognize the person right off are lots of fun. Like a conservatively dressed Huey Lewis telling Marty McFly his music is "just too darn loud" as he plays a Huey Lewis song. remember this scene

 

Can objects be considered a cameo? I always liked the movie poster of Sylvester Stallone in "Twins" and the original equipment from "Frankenstein" in "Young Frankenstein"

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I love cameos. I believe it is also a way for one generation to pay homage to those who came before them. To those they owe a debt of thanks. If I watch a remake and someone from the original movie (if possible) isn't cameo'd my thinking is that it's disrespectful. Just my opinion. I believe if we lose sight of the pioneers we lose a lot.

 

One other thing, I happily OD on cameos every time I watch, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." And yes, it is fun saying it...not so much typing it.

I agree. Although it's not a comedy I always loved the cameo in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". In the original Kevin McCarthy's character is hit by a car as he's trying to warn people. In the remake Donald Sutherland hits Donald McCarthy with his car - as McCarthy tries to warn people. It's not just paying homage it intertwines the stories
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Cameos are so great. I am always the last too see the sneaker director cameos although Hitchcock isn't hard to spot. Cameos are the cherry on top of a sundae. For me, it jolts the scene with a dose of "Oh, just passing through, checking in" as it may be. I've always loved Billy Crystal and Carol Kane in The Princess Bride but I've learned this may not be a cameo. Although I thought it was due to the small role and the two being giant stars of comedy.

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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was an epic comedy, and the cameos in that film were great. I disagree that a cameo is a person playing themselves. While the Jack Benny may have been, most of the other cameos weren't. Rather, they were cameos where the actor played a typical type associated with themselves: Don Knotts as the nervous guy, Three Stooges as firemen (the Three Stooges comedies often featured them in various trades, like plumbers etc.), and Jerry Lewis as the crazy driver. They weren't playing themselves as much as they were playing a type of character they would usually play.

 

Also there are often other elements besides the actors themselves which are associated with cameos. In the Three Stooges cameo we saw in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, we heard musically a three note riff which is from their theme song, three blind mice. in E.T. when we see a trick-or-treater as Yoda, we hear a bit of the Star Wars music. Also, an item can make a cameo. In Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Indy and the girl are in an underground passage. She sees a drawing and Indy explains it is the Ark, which is clearly a cameo calling back to the first film. Again we have a musical riff.

 

Perhaps even a setting or concept can be a cameo. In The Spy Who Loved Me, when they are traveling across the dunes in the desert, the music for Lawrence of Arabia plays boldly. At that moment we laugh, and think 'Lawrence of Arabia'. Yet when the moment is gone we see there is nothing else to connect it with that movie, and it effects the plot in no way. It is not really a spoof. So is that a type of cameo? I would suggest that is a type of cameo. A familiar thing from another film to make us laugh or show recognition.

 

Sometimes cameos are obvious, as in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and sometimes they are like easter eggs - something hidden and to be discovered. Most of Hitchcock's cameos are the latter - it might be a quick walk by (Vertigo), a picture in a Newspaper someone is reading (Lifeboat), his famous silhouette in neon (Rope), or a man standing in a crowd (Frenzy).

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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was an epic comedy, and the cameos in that film were great. I disagree that a cameo is a person playing themselves. While the Jack Benny may have been, most of the other cameos weren't. Rather, they were cameos where the actor played a typical type associated with themselves: Don Knotts as the nervous guy, Three Stooges as firemen (the Three Stooges comedies often featured them in various trades, like plumbers etc.), and Jerry Lewis as the crazy driver. They weren't playing themselves as much as they were playing a type of character they would usually play.

 

Also there are often other elements besides the actors themselves which are associated with cameos. In the Three Stooges cameo we saw in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, we heard musically a three note riff which is from their theme song, three blind mice. in E.T. when we see a trick-or-treater as Yoda, we hear a bit of the Star Wars music. Also, an item can make a cameo. In Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Indy and the girl are in an underground passage. She sees a drawing and Indy explains it is the Ark, which is clearly a cameo calling back to the first film. Again we have a musical riff.

 

Perhaps even a setting or concept can be a cameo. In The Spy Who Loved Me, when they are traveling across the dunes in the desert, the music for Lawrence of Arabia plays boldly. At that moment we laugh, and think 'Lawrence of Arabia'. Yet when the moment is gone we see there is nothing else to connect it with that movie, and it effects the plot in no way. It is not really a spoof. So is that a type of cameo? I would suggest that is a type of cameo. A familiar thing from another film to make us laugh or show recognition.

 

Sometimes cameos are obvious, as in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and sometimes they are like easter eggs - something hidden and to be discovered. Most of Hitchcock's cameos are the latter - it might be a quick walk by (Vertigo), a picture in a Newspaper someone is reading (Lifeboat), his famous silhouette in neon (Rope), or a man standing in a crowd (Frenzy).

Another bit of musical notation would be a few notes of "Springtime for Hitler" from "The Producers" played as a notice of Lili von Schtupp appears in "Blazing Saddles" before we see her primping for her show.

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Again, it is important to register that as a "foreign" student, a great part of personal references and cameos aren't so well-known around my country. However, it's just so interesting to see how television took a huge part on slapastick movies frojm 1950s and on. Here in Brazil, I must say, a lot of comedians also go from TV to make movies, and generally they go well in terms of public attendance.

 

I remember watching "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" once and the movie is just delicious. A lot of jokes, gags, references and important comic faces that make time speed. When you realize, there were more than 3 hours with the clock running! One of the most important in american slapstick history in my opinion.

 

The other two clips are interesting as well, and it's important to note that slapstick continues to evolve itself from other media since its beginning. Jim Carrey, for example, is much more a character than an actor in great part of the 1990s (before he tried to enter in drama). History sometimes repeats itself.

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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World is one of my favorite movies because of the whole concept but then the cameos.  It allowed me to watch a film with my parents and discuss the various stars in the cameos and what they were known for.  I believe that cameos, if done right, can add to any film, but in particular comedy because it also plays to the intelligence and film background of the audience.  I think many stars, especially in some time periods with their busy schedules as well as having private lives may not have the time to do a film, but can do a cameo.  It also can be like a game for the audience as well.

 

I think it also requires a great script, a fantastic director and crew to deal with cameos because the cast has been working together for a certain time and now a stranger, but not really a stranger is there - so what can we do to keep the integrity of the film going.  What I hate is the actor who does it for the money, you can tell with their performance.

 

One last point, Terence Malick comes to mind because when he did "The Thin Red Line" many actors just wanted to work with him and in particular, a World War 2 movie.  They did it, some of the without pay and no credit just to be part of that film.  That sums up also how any film and its creative team can be viewed - a gem to work wth and treasure always.

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I love cameos in films as well. Always such a fun surprise especially when it is a remake of a film and the original actor plays a small cameo role. Or movies like Austin Powers where they made a remake of the movie in the movie with Tom Cruise, Danny Devito, " Hey Look at me! I'm Mini me!" Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil. Actors must have a blast playing these cameo roles. 

 

A favorite cameo of mine is in a movie coming up next week, Young Frankenstein. Gene Hackman plays the blind man that plays host to the Monster. One of the more hilarious scenes in a movie. My mom and I always joke " Wait! Where are you going? I was going to make espresso!!" When we talk about going somewhere. 

 

I love the Howard Cosell cameo in Bananas. It reminds me of another one of my fave slapstick films of the 80's "Better Off Dead". Where John Cusack always runs into these two Asian brothers who want to race. 

"Two brothers... One speaks no English, the other learned English from watching "The Wide World of Sports." So you tell me... Which is better, speaking no English at all, or speaking Howard Cosell?"

Makes me laugh so hard every time. 

 

 

And I will probably be one of the odd ones out here - but I didn't care for Anchorman at all. I think at this point I was so tired of Will Ferrell in everything and it seemed so forced. My husband loves the movie and loves to tease me about not liking it. I get even by making him watch Marx Brother's films with me. Ha ha!!

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