The Office would never have been half as successful as it is was if not for its incredible cast. When the smash-hist NBC sitcom first launched, it was largely made up of a list of aspiring no-name celebrities-in-waiting, headlined by "that funny guy" from The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Anchorman. As the show progressed, each actor settled into their role, endearing themselves to viewers and bringing their characters to life in their own unique ways.
Eventually, the show began to gain some clout, and the well-established Office cast found themselves attracting an increasing number of bigwig guest spots in the process. Some of these consisted of larger, recurring roles. Idris Elba played Dunder Mifflin exec Charles Miner for a hefty portion of season five. Rashida Jones shook up the Jim/Pam storyline for the entire third season. Kathy Bates made her presence felt as Sabre owner Jo Bennett for multiple seasons. James Spader even soaked up some of the spotlight in the wake of Michael Scott’s departure at the end of season seven.
Along with these larger roles, though, a slew of other famous actors also made short-yet-unforgettable appearances in Scranton, PA. We’ve decided to round up these smaller cameos and choose the best of the bunch. So, without further ado, let’s take a nostalgic walk down memory lane to revisit some of the best guest spots that ever took place on The Office.
‘Search Committee’ has a ton of cool guest spots
Before we get into the individual smaller appearances, there’s one episode that has to be addressed all on its own — the season 7 finale "Search Committee." The two-parter takes place after the departure of Michael Scott — and his short-lived replacement Deangelo Vickers — leaves the office at a managerial crossroads. Trying to, at least temporarily, fill in the gargantuan gap created by the absence of Steve Carell, the producers wisely brought in a veritable circus of acclaimed talent to brighten our hearts and keep the doom and gloom of a Scottless office as far away as possible.
The episode features a smorgasbord of incredible guest spots all vying for the coveted manager position. Business titan Warren Buffett applies, only to shoot himself in the foot as he haggles over reimbursement. Gloomy Ray Romano appears on the scene, only to let James Spader’s Robert California get into his head, causing him to tank his interview. Will Arnett gives a great first impression that even includes a secret three-step plan designed to double the company’s profits — which he’ll only reveal if he’s hired, of course.
To top it all off, the episode closes out with none other than Jim Carrey ditching out on his Finger Lakes vacation to drive to Scranton to throw his hat in the ring. The star-studded event collectively makes up one of the greatest moments in the entire show.
The man behind The Office shows up in The Office
Savvy Office fans will note that, as far as the "Search Committee" episode goes, we left out one of the most important cameos of the bunch — the venerable Ricky Gervais. Rest assured, this wasn’t out of neglect so much as respect. Without Gervais, The Office — both the U.S. and U.K. versions — wouldn’t exist. But while his involvement with the American version is largely behind the scenes, the comedic master couldn’t miss the chance to get in on the ridiculous carousel of guest appearances at the end of season seven. In fact, he even gets in a double helping.
During season 7’s finale, Gervais shows up in an awesome as heck crossover where he plays the incredibly over-confident David Brent — Michael Scott’s alter ego from the British version of the show. He’s given a video-chat interview where he’s seen spewing off a string of nonsense that triumphantly ends with the question, "When do I start?"
But wait, there’s more. The British comedian also makes an appearance "in the flesh" several episodes earlier. In the opener of "The Seminar," Mr. Brent bumps into and bonds with none other than Michael Scott himself. The fact that Gervais shows up at all is already a treat. The fact that he does so twice and the opportunity is spun into a chance for him to universe hop and reprise his iconic role makes it that much better.
Will Ferrell is hilarious as Deangelo Vickers
Sticking with the "who’s going to replace Michael Scott?" cameo theme, the one other guest spot that majorly stands out is the multi-episode event that is Deangelo Vickers. The decision to bring Will Ferrell in to initially ease the pain of the loss of Steve Carell was, once again, a brilliant move. The pair had already shared screen time in the instant classic Anchorman several years earlier, in which Carell played the supporting role of Brick Tamland to Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy. Then, over half a decade later, the dynamic duo reunited, this time with the circumstances flipped.
Ferrell arrives on the show as a stopgap to ease the departure of Carell’s leading character, Michael Scott. Diving into the role with fervor, Ferrell instantly brings Deangelo Vickers to life as an enigmatic boss that no one can quite figure out. The fella hangs around for four episodes, in which he’s trained for the manager position, botches the Dundies, officially steps into Michael’s shoes, forms a highly contentious inner circle … and then breaks his entire body trying to dunk like Jordan. From beginning to end, Ferrell’s tenure on the show is intensely confusing, acutely distressing, and highly entertaining.
Amy Adams’ guest spot on The Office was short but memorable
While the guest spots tend to increase in frequency as you go along, there’s one fun appearance that takes place right in the last episode of the first season. The episode "Hot Girl" revolves around purse saleswoman Katy, played by none other than Amy Adams. The character spends the bulk of the episode being fought over by Michael and Dwight, who vie for her hand in a wildly inappropriate showdown. As the episode ends, Adams’ character hooks up with Jim Halpert, who uses Katy as his first attempt to distance himself from his feelings for Pam — which, yeah, also not great.
Once Katy hooks up with Jim, the character makes two more brief appearances in season 2. First, she shows up in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot as the crew waits for Ryan’s fire to be put out. Then she comes along on the booze cruise where Jim cold-heartedly dumps her without a second thought, ending Adams’ mini-run on the show and opening up the doors for Jim to move on to the more dramatic events with Karen in season three.
Blink and you’ll miss Ken Jeong
Ken Jeong has made an impressive name for himself in the comedy world. From The Hangover to Community to his stand-up routine, the dude knows how to keep people laughing right out of their chairs. With all of the big-shot opportunities that Jeong has landed as his career has built momentum, it’s easy to forget that the actor actually landed a quick guest spot on The Office before his career truly took off.
Jeong shows up in season two’s "E-Mail Surveillance." In the humorous installment, Michael spies on his employee’s electronic communications before attending one of his soon-to-be-famous improv classes, which is where we find the cameo. Among Scott’s fellow students of comedy is Bill, played by the talented Jeong. Initially, Bill tries his best to work with Scott’s violence-prone improv by playing a fortune teller, only to end up at imaginary gunpoint. Later, he’s seen awkwardly explaining why the entire group is going to a birthday party together without Scott, their abrasive fellow student. The performance is a rare glimpse into what the crazy comedian looks like when he plays a down-to-earth "average Joe."
When the television hosts are away from their desks
Late-night television is well-known for its tendency to bring in famous actors for guest spots, but when the formula is reversed and a host is dragged into the sitcom spotlight, it’s a bit of a unique treat. For example, take Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert on The Office. The television hosts make separate and equally hilarious guest spots at different points during the course of the show.
Conan appears as himself in season two’s "Valentine’s Day," in which Michael heads to the corporate offices located in the Big Apple. As he leads the documentary crew around the city, pointing everything out with a string of hilariously offbeat commentary, he thinks he spots Tina Fey. As he confronts the woman and discovers his error, we see none other than Conan himself walk by, unnoticed. When Michael finds out that he missed the real Conan for the fake Tina Fey, he can barely contain his frustration.
While Conan makes his cameo as himself and early on in the show, we need to jump all the way to the last season to see Stephen Colbert make his presence known. The host plays Andy’s a cappella alumnus Broccoli Rob. The character appears via video chat in the episode "Here Comes Treble," where he rankles his former schoolmate as they attempt to relive the gloriously musical days of old. The completely unexpected cameos from both hosts are both fun opportunities to see them "in action" away from their desks.
Aaron Rodgers has an unusual and hilarious cameo
The penultimate episode of the show, "A.A.R.M.," sees Andy Bernard leave Dunder Mifflin in pursuit of fame and glory. Looking for opportunities, the ex-boss heads to an audition for the fictional show America’s Next A Capella Sensation. When he finds out that he won’t have a chance to sing, a perturbed Mr. Bernard forces his way through security and proceeds to melt down in front of the judges.
The scene is already amusing, as Andy is told to get out, and he retorts, "Oh, I can so just sit here and cry!" However, things get even juicer when the judges on the show’s panel are taken into consideration. The trio includes the talented musicians Clay Aiken and Santigold. However, the third member of the trifecta is known less for his voice and more for his arm. We’re talking about none other than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers himself.
The athlete has made a handful of appearances on shows over the years, most notably on Game of Thrones and here on The Office. Sitting in as a judge, Rodgers attempts to let the distraught Andy down lightly, while his more musically inclined counterparts bring a sterner form of judgment to the table. Seeing the quarterback randomly (and rather awkwardly) judging musical talent was a great curveball that was as hilarious as it was unexpected.
We love Josh Groban’s laid-back guest spot as Andy’s brother
Andy Bernard’s family is regularly referenced throughout the show. The rich kid’s parents pay his credit card bills, and he drops references to his family’s influence at Cornell every other minute. He clearly has issues with failing to impress his parents, too, and even has to step in to clean up the mess that his dad eventually leaves when the patriarch runs off, leaving his family in the lurch.
Of all the Bernard drama, though, the most exciting element has to come in the form of Josh Groban’s guest spot as Andy’s younger brother. Groban plays the family’s "golden child." When he was born, his parents even took the name Walter Jr. away from his six-year-old brother Andy and bestowed it upon him. He shows up twice towards the end of the show. The first time, he appears at Andy’s garden party, inadvertently stealing the spotlight from his brother. The second time we see him is on the family yacht, where he joins his brother and the two set sail into the sunset … without Erin. Both times, Groban brings a relaxed flair to the scene that’s perfect for a character who’s had everything handed to him on a silver platter.
Jack Black and Jessica Alba show up in a movie in a show … wait, what?
One of the strangest guest spots in the history of The Office has to be when Jack Black and Jessica Alba randomly show up in one of the best episodes of the entire show — "Stress Relief." While their cameos were touted in the promotions leading up to the iconic installment, their actual role in the story was a bit of a curveball.
Rather than impacting the plot directly, Black and Alba end up acting in the movie Mrs. Albert Hannaday, which Andy pirates so that he can watch it in the break room with Jim and Pam. Separated from the larger plot of the film, Black shows up repeatedly on Andy’s laptop screen as his character, Sam, falls in love with the elderly Lily Hannaday, played by veteran Cloris Leachman. The fact that Black ended up playing the uncomfortable role of Bernie Tiede in Bernie just a couple of years later makes the entire thing that much more bizarre and particularly fascinating as one of the show’s odder guest spots.
Joan Cusack and Ed Begley Jr. appear as Erin’s parents
While most of the best guest spots on The Office revolve around some level of humor, there’s a pair of cameos that make the list simply due to the fact that it hits you in all the feels. We’re talking about the scene in the finale when Erin finally meets her parents. Erin’s adoptive past is a recurring theme throughout the show, and there’s even a point where the writers toy with the plotline that Phyllis is her mom.
While the Phyllis possibility doesn’t pan out, Erin’s hopeless quest is finally answered when she least expects it — during the question and answer session a year after the documentary airs. As the cast answers questions from avid fans, a woman played by Joan Cusack approaches the mic and carefully feels out Erin’s attitude toward her adoptive parents. This leads to an unexpected family reunion that even includes the surprise appearance of her father, played by Ed Begley Jr. The scene is touching, and the star-powered cameos make it that much better.
Evan Peters was Dunder Mifflin’s worst employee ever
The first episode of season seven, "Nepotism," focuses on the fact that Michael Scott hired his nephew, Luke Cooper, as the new office assistant. While nepotism is always a touchy topic, Michael manages to take things to the next level by hiring a blood relative who’s absolutely the worst employee the office has ever seen. Played by Quicksilver actor and American Horror Story regular Evan Peters, Luke manages to get under everyone’s skin via his troublemaking attitude, his "I don’t give a crap" work philosophy, his laser pointer skills, and an uncanny ability to mess up coffee orders.
Throughout the episode, Peters delivers an irksome performance that ends with the entire office begging Michael to do something about the situation. Going in a completely unexpected direction, the manager decides to pull out some old-school discipline by literally spanking his rebellious nephew for his poor behavior … in front of the entire office, no less. The scene is hilariously uncomfortable and leaves Luke dashing off at Quicksilver-like speed in shame-filled horror.
Kevin McHale showed up on The Office as the delivery kid
One of the best moments in season four comes when an emotionally unstable Michael, backed up by an even more erratic Dwight, suddenly snaps, taking a delivery kid captive in the process. The unsavory event takes place during the episode "Launch Party," in which the Dunder Mifflinites are remotely celebrating Ryan’s new company website.
Embarrassed by the fact that he thought the party was in person, Michael attempts to make his local branch of the festivities outshine the rest, partly by purchasing a stack of "pretty good pizza" from Pizza by Alfredo. When the pies arrive, they’re delivered by a snot-nosed punk played by Glee actor Kevin McHale. When Michael goes to use a coupon to pay for the pizzas, he finds that his coupon only applies to one of them.
This ends up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The manager demands that the discount be applied to the entire order, only to find the delivery kid has no intention to play ball. Miles from breaking out into a heart-warming mashup, the saucy teenager dourly insists that Michael pay for the pizzas, leading to his temporary captivity. After a series of vaguely intimidating interactions with Dwight, he’s given a generous $3.50 tip and sent packing. The entire sequence is hilariously over the top, and it’s an easy candidate for a list of best guest spots.
Tim Meadows’s guest spot is a classic
From Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Bob’s Burgers to 30 Rock and The Even Stevens movie, the ageless Tim Meadows manages to land small roles in practically everything, including The Office. Meadows’ cameo comes early on in the show with season two’s "The Client." The actor steps into the role of Christian, a representative from Lackawanna County interested in buying a very large amount of paper products.
Over the course of the episode, the actor is wined and dined at a local Chili’s by an eccentric Michael and a reluctant Jan. Michael’s seemingly erratic sales strategy ends up winning out, and the pair land the sale against all odds. The thing that really makes the episode so entertaining, though, is the chemistry between Meadows and Carell. The two manage to break the ice early on and then warm up through a series of bad jokes, a shared Awesome Blossom, plenty of booze, and some deeply emotional moments.