Celebs With Surprising Ties To Politics

If there is one common trait between those who pursue careers in entertainment and politics, it's spotlight-seeking. For that reason, it's no wonder there is some crossover between the two fields. Anyone who follows politics has watched the likes of Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, and Arnold Schwarzenegger jump from the pages of People into the halls of power. But there have also been well-publicized political runs that started as head-scratchers, like Saturday Night Live comedian Al Franken's United States Senate career — which went very well until it didn't — and professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura's stint as Governor of Minnesota.

Beyond those well-reported Tinseltown to town hall success stories, ties between Hollywood stars and state houses around the world are more common than you'd think. From marrying political royalty to being on the ballot themselves, quite a few famous folks have dipped their toes in the political pool. Here are some celebrities with surprising connections to politics.  

Jerry Springer was Mayor of Cincinnati

Jerry Springer perfected "trash TV" exploitainment. His most lasting contribution to pop culture will likely be the spontaneous chant, "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" when things in the world get a little too trashy. But did you know he was once an elected official? Springer is the former mayor of Cincinnati, and he has the legit bona fides for it. Britannica reports he graduated from Northwestern University with a law degree after earning a bachelor's degree in political science from Tulane University. He ran for City Council in Cincinnati in 1971 and served until 1974 when, in a Jerry-tastic twist, he had to resign from office due to a scandal in which he "paid for prostitutes with two personal checks" (via The Enquirer). Talk about made-for-Jerry TV! 

But Springer sprang back the following year when he re-won his City Council seat after openly addressing the scandal in court testimony and in campaign ads. Then, in 1977, he served one year as mayor of Cincinnati. Starting in the early 80s, Springer worked his way up the news ladder to become a media superstar. His background in law and politics lends credence to his newest role as star of the Judge Jerry show. Springer told The Enquirer he has not ruled out a return to politics but has no plans right now to run for future office.     

Cynthia Nixon gave New York Governor Andrew Cuomo a run for his money

"And I wondered: could Miranda really win this race for Governor?..."

In a move that could have been written for her Sex and the City character, legal eagle Miranda Hobbes, actress Cynthia Nixon threw her hat into the Democratic primary ring for the New York gubernatorial nomination in 2018. Running as a progressive, Nixon hoped to pull New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to the left, and she challenged him on issue after issue. Immediately maligned by a Cuomo ally as an angry, "unqualified lesbian" (via the New York Post), Nixon engaged in a fiery, contentious contest with the incumbent governor that she said took a toll on her and her family. 

Cuomo ultimately won the nomination and was reelected. In a post-election interview, the actor told TIME, "I ran to win. I hoped to win. I did everything I could to make that a possibility. But at the end of the day, I knew the most important thing about my running was to shed light on these issues." Many progressives feel like she accomplished that mission, however Cuomo downplayed any such shift in the so-called Overton window, instead claiming in a press conference (via The New York Times) that his administration has always been focused on "real-life progressive solutions." 

George Takei ran for office in California

Trekkies, of course, know George Takei as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek franchise. The veteran actor has played a host of other roles throughout his acting career, but his personal experiences outside of the entertainment industry have led him to be politically active. As a child, Takei was shuffled between Japanese internment camps with his family, on American soil, during World War II.

Takei repeatedly tried to forge a career in politics, but it just never took flight. He did serve as an alternate delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention, before unsuccessfully running for Los Angeles City Council in 1973 (via Pop Matters) and California State Assembly in 1980 (via Santa Cruz Sentinel). He dropped out of the latter race because FCC equal-time regulations requiring equitable media exposure for all candidates could have required Star Trek reruns to cease from airing during the campaign.

After a long break, Takei became involved in politics again after coming out as gay in 2005. He is now a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and has served as both a spokesperson and honoree of the Human Rights Campaign. He did joke about running for Congress in 2017, TIME reports, but it was merely an April Fools gag. There's often truth in jokes, though, so time will tell if Takei still has genuine political aspirations.

Olympia Dukakis' cousin ran for president

The first female vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket in the United States was Geraldine Ferraro, running mate to Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988. Steel Magnolias star Olympia Dukakis, Michael Dukakis' cousin, famously shouted, "Okay, Michael, let's go!" during her acceptance speech for the 1988 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Moonstruck.

In 2016, she spoke to a crowd (via Sarasota Herald-Tribune) about his refusal to reveal dirt he had on George H.W. Bush during the campaign. Dukakis lost the race largely, as reported by The Washington Post, due to his refusal to defend himself against attack ads. He told U.S. News and World Report, "It was inexcusable that I let [Bush] get away with this. But I did."

Unfortunately, nice guys do often finish last in the dirty business of politics. Perhaps Olympia's Steel Magnolias character, Clairee, was better suited for politics than her cousin was. Clairee's most famous line from the film is, "If you can't say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me."

Hunter S. Thompson could have been sheriff

When never-before-seen archival film footage is found, it is often something better left on the cutting room floor. Every now and then, though, the find is golden — as was the case when the makers of Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb got their hands on a canister of film labeled "Hunter Thompson for Sheriff" that was found in a barn in Aspen, Colo. in 2017. They knew they had found something special, 9News reports, and they set off on a fact-finding mission to learn, and then tell, the complete story of this failed run for political office.  

As a journalist, Hunter S. Thompson was disillusioned by the corruption and violence he witnessed when covering the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. He wanted to draw attention to the corrupt underbelly of American politics and, upon deciding to run for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colo. in 1970, Thompson said, "It's time in this country for somebody to run on some kind of realistic program rather than to get into this hypocritical gibberish that has characterized politics in this country for I don't know how long and still does in most parts of it."

Thompson's platform of legalizing marijuana, disarming police, and other progressive-to-radical ideas was at odds with the authoritarian national leadership in America. Thompson's response to pushback was, "To deviate from the style of government that I deplore today is not only wise but necessary."

Amy Schumer is related to Senator Chuck Schumer

Comedy fans enjoy looking Inside Amy Schumer for quips and jokes, but a high-profile tragedy in July 2015 thrust her into the political spotlight, inspiring her to join forces with a cousin as well-known in the political realm as she is in comedy: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). During a screening of Amy's film Trainwreck in Lafayette, La., a gunman killed two people and injured nine others. The night of the shooting, the actress tweeted, "My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana." 

Her heartbreak soon turned into a mission. PBS reports the actor teamed with her legislator cousin in the wake of the shooting to make a push for "common sense solutions" that would prevent guns from falling into the hands of "dangerous people." During an August 2015 press conference (via Wall Street Journal), the duo presented a three-part platform on gun legislation. When none of these proposals made it through the Senate, Amy told Politico she was "sickened by the cowardice" of her cousin's colleagues.

In January 2017, when President Donald Trump called the Senate Minority Leader "Fake Tears Chuck Schumer," Amy Schumer took to Instagram to poke gentle fun at her cousin's lack of acting ability, writing, "I know chuck Schumer and HE CANNOT act trust me. He can barely smile on cue. He can't help but be transparent and genuine." And that's how you throw shade comedy style!

Howard Stern ran for Governor of New York

Shock jock Howard Stern made an unlikely bid in 1994 to become the governor of New York. Running as a libertarian, Stern had only three items on his platform, per The New York Times: legalize the death penalty, only allow road crews to work at night, and stagger tolls to help traffic flow. Stern promised to resign as soon as those three goals were met and "before I can really screw anything up." 

His candidacy was met with mixed response, but libertarians welcomed him. New York Libertarian Party Chairman Ludwig Vogel said, "He's bringing us shock politics. This is the most exciting thing that's happened in all my years in the Libertarian Party."

As with George Takei, the equal-air-time rule was a consideration that threatened Stern's candidacy, because his show was nationally syndicated and wildly popular. The Washington Post reported, however, that Stern ultimately dropped his bid because he refused to submit the required financial disclosures.

Stern — once a Trump cheerleader who withdrew his support amid the chaos of the administration — got hammered from both the right and the left for his dealings with Trump, reports the Daily News. Stern admits to being baffled by some of the political divisions in 2020, exclaiming, "I don't understand the no-mask thing. It's become, if you wear a mask you don't like Trump and if you wear a mask you're a liberal p—y. It makes no sense to me." 

Christopher Guest's role in British politics was a birthright

It isn't just Americans who dabble in both politics and entertainment. British writer/director/actor Christopher Guest was a member of the British House of Lords from 1996-1999. The British multi-hyphenate, master of the mockumentary genre, holds the title of Lord Haden-Guest, a title he received following his father's death in 1997. Raised as an aristocrat, Guest shuffled between the worlds of his British father and American mother.

The Best in Show director told The Guardian in 2016 that his wife of 30+ years, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, saw a photo of him in Rolling Stone and said to a friend, "I'm going to marry that guy." There have been reports it was a photo of him as his This Is Spinal Tap character, Nigel, but Guest put that rumor to rest, explaining it was a photo of him as himself that accompanied a photo of him in character. And, as Independent reported, Curtis became Lady Haden-Guest when her husband became a Lord. Their adopted son, Thomas, will unfortunately not be able to inherit the title upon Guest's passing due to strict rules governing British aristocracy.

Kate Upton's House rep uncle Fred is proud of her

Normally, a member of Congress is the most famous person in his or her family. And, then, there is Michigan Representative Fred Upton, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, whose niece is Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover girl Kate Upton.

Upon learning she was selected for the coveted cover spot in 2012, the model was asked on FOX News whether she'd been congratulated by her uncle. She responded, "Of course. I have a very close and supportive family, and they're all very proud of me." When asked by FOX News about her accomplishment, Rep. Upton said, "She is a great gal. Her dad, my brother, we live in the same town. We do a lot of stuff together. It's been fun to watch her grow up. She is only 19, but we're all proud of Kate." There's a lot of pride-worthy action in the Upton family!

Chris Pratt married into the Kennedy family

What do you get when one of the Guardians of the Galaxy marries a member of America's most revered political dynasty? You get one big, happy family! When Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger got married, her father, action star and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, told Jimmy Kimmel that "pumping iron was the decision-making factor" on whether he would approve of the union. The Governator was joking, of course, but he was impressed not only with Chris' athletic ability, but also his big gains at the box office. The most important thing to The Terminator star, however, was how "kind" Chris was to his daughter.

We also know Katherine's mom, Maria Shriver, approves, because she reportedly had a hand in setting her and Chris up, a source told People. And Maria is perhaps even more politically connected than her ex, as the daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Robert Shriver, which makes her first cousins with the late John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Caroline Kennedy.

Chris and Katherine couple married in June 2019 in "an intimate ceremony," People reports, and didn't waste much time in expanding their family. Katherine announced the birth of their daughter, Lyla Maria Schwarzenegger Pratt, the couple's first child together, on Instagram in August 2020.

Stephen Colbert's sister ran for Congress

Stephen Colbert is the youngest of eleven children. Child number eight in the Colbert sibling birth order, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, ran for Congress in South Carolina in 2013. Colbert Busch ran in a special election against former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford — the same Mark Sanford who claimed to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail when he disappeared for a week in 2009 to visit his mistress in Argentina. (His wife, Jenny, divorced him shortly thereafter.) Despite the scandal, Sanford, a Republican, won the seat.

The Charleston Post and Courier profiled Colbert Busch in 2010, and some of the information they revealed is mind blowing! The Washington Post reports some highlights from the article. "Her father and two of her brothers were killed in a plane crash when she was 19. She was married to a man who ended up on 'America's Most Wanted.' And in 2001," the article reads, "while at a business conference in New York City, she was sitting in a building directly across the street from the World Trade Center when two jetliners slammed into its twin towers, forever changing the landscape of America." Now, that is some heavy stuff to carry around.

Roseanne Barr ran for President

Roseanne Barr has always been outspoken; it's one reason her comedy career was so successful. After Roseanne went off the air in 1997, Barr became increasingly vocal about politics, which culminated in a presidential run as the Green Party candidate in 2012. Vulture reports she decided to do it on a whim after drinking a Red Bull. The film Roseanne for President! documents her campaign. 

Barr's political views are notoriously all over the map, and she garnered support from liberals and conservatives alike. It seems she shifted right between 2012 and 2016, though, and her controversial support for Donald Trump drew fire from some liberals. The decision to make her character in the Roseanne reboot a Trump supporter also brought negative attention. She told reporters in 2018 (via The New York Times), "I've always had [the show] be a true reflection of the society we live in. Half the country voted for him, half of them didn't. It's just realistic."

A lightning rod for controversy, Barr's political views drew online harassment and boycotts, leading her to threaten to quit Twitter (via USA Today). Unfortunately for her, she failed to follow that instinct, and her racist August 2018 tweet at former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett ultimately got Barr fired from her own show, which was later re-tooled and rebooted without her.