A cameo appearance, or cameo, is a short appearance by a famous person, generally in a film or television show, though the term can also refer to a play, book, or other form of media. Cameo appearances generally are done simply for publicity or novelty value, rather than to advance the plot; a cameo generally lasts for only a few minutes in most cases.
It is often common for a film's director to have a cameo appearance in a scene of the movie. The most famous example is Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo in 37 of his 53 films. In these appearances, Hitchcock does not have a speaking role. Often, he plays a person in the crowd who is standing or walking close to one of the film's central characters. Some of Hitchcock's cameos are as brief as two seconds in length, while others have lasted as long as two minutes. Several modern directors, such as M. Night Shyamalan and Quentin Tarantino, regularly have a cameos in each of their films, though these are often speaking parts and may last for several minutes.
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Another individual who is well-known for making a cameo appearance in many films is the horror novelist, Stephen King. He has appeared briefly in many of the movies that are based on his novels, including Creepshow, Pet Semetary, and The Stand. In several films, he has a small speaking role; in others, he merely makes a silent appearance.
Some current television shows are well-known for including at least one cameo appearance on nearly every episode. One such show is the cable program, Entourage, which is based on the life of a fictional movie star who regularly hangs out with celebrities. Entourage has featured hundreds of cameo appearances from actors, musicians, and Hollywood insiders who play themselves in the script, including Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Hefner, and Brooke Shields. Another show, Curb Your Enthusiasm often featured a cameo appearance by a well-known actor, including most of the Seinfeld cast, Mel Brooks, and many others.
The cameo appearance is not the sole province of actors and people in the entertainment industry. In novels, characters from another book by the same author frequently make a cameo appearance in a subsequent work. For example, Sir John Falstaff is a prominent character in part one and two of William Shakespeare's play, Henry IV; however, Falstaff also makes a brief cameo in a comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor.