Celebrity cameos are now a staple of TV. We don't bat an eyelid when Larry David appears in Hannah Montana, or when Michelle Obama plays herself on Parks and Recreation.
But these appearances can often feel contrived and awkward. Just think back to Jean-Claude Van Damme needlessly popping up in Friends, or Justin Bieber's wooden appearance in CSI - these are unnecessary distractions that don't add much to the episode itself.
Crow-barring in a famous face can put the audience on shaky ground when it comes to suspending their disbelief, reminding them of the various underlying currents of fame and money that are steering the writing. If an actor is too well-known, it can be especially jarring and disorientating; as Andy Millman says in Extras: "What would Chris Martin be doing visiting a factory in Wigan?!"
One way to get away with these cameos, then, is to have your cake and eat it. Many shows, especially comedies, can't help but draw attention to the cameo itself or else reference some real-life situation in a wry, self-aware way. Here are 10 of the examples of meta winks done right.
8. Jack Black - Community
Jack Black makes a jarring and unexpected appearance in the Season One episode "Investigative Journalism" as a new student named Buddy. But the incongruity of seeing a high-profile star in a (relatively obscure) sitcom doesn't go unmentioned. In fact, it's pretty much the entire point of Black's cameo.
Buddy turns out to be obnoxious, desperate to be liked and completely unable to gel with the study group, and the scenario self-consciously mocks the way guest stars are contrived into sitcoms where they clearly don’t belong. Buddy's tendency to break into song, his broad, sexual comedy and his position as the "chubby, agile" group member also parodies the Tenacious D singer's over-the-top comic style.
Owen Wilson pops up at the end as the celebrity member of a rival study group in order to complete the gag.