The Strangest Celebrity Political Campaigns

Millions of Americans were amused when Donald Trump announced his intention to run for president in 2015. The amusement turned to bemusement and shock when the businessman-slash-reality TV star actually won the election. Political and personal viewpoints aside, many people couldn't fathom the idea of someone with no previous political experience running the country. But Trump's supporters loved his "outsider" status and believed that he would be a far superior president than any career politician. Many of Trump's critics, however, wondered if his campaign began as an ego-driven publicity stunt that eventually went horribly wrong for the American people.

Trump certainly wasn't the first celebrity to hold political office, and like it or not, he won't be the last. Past stars who have won elections include Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Al Franken, and Kevin Johnson. In 2021, former olympian and "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" star Caitlyn Jenner made headlines campaigning to become the next governor of California in the state's recall election.

Many celebrities have failed in their quest to become elected officials, which isn't surprising when one looks at their half-baked policies and utterly bizarre campaigns. And, of course, some shameless celebs have admitted to running for office solely for personal gain. So, shield your freedom-loving eyes Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty, because reading this will only end in your patriotic tears. For everyone else, here are the details on the strangest celebrity political campaigns.

Shock-jock Howard Stern's odd campaign for governor of New York

In 1994, New York's democrat governor, Mario Cuomo, was up for re-election. To oppose him, libertarians decided to back a totally random candidate: controversial radio personality Howard Stern. Naturally, the announcement was met with skepticism, even after a press conference in which Stern insisted, "I swear to you I am a serious candidate" (via YouTube). The Washington Post noted that the disc jockey had also recently released his memoir "Private Parts," which led many to believe that the campaign was merely a publicity stunt.

During that same press conference, Stern announced that his political agenda contained only three items. The barebones platform included "reinstating the death penalty, forcing construction workers to work at night, and staggering highway tolls" (per The Washington Post). The "Miss America" author then declared that once those three things were accomplished, he would resign so that his lieutenant governor could take his place.

Alas, Governor Howard Stern simply wasn't meant to be. The "America's Got Talent" judge refused to disclose his personal finances and dropped out of the race. Stern reportedly said on his radio program, "I spend 25 hours a week telling you all the most intimate details of my life. One fact I've never revealed is how much I make and how much money I have ... It's none of your business" (via The Washington Post). In the end, it's New York that lost out. How many other states could have bragged about having a flatulent superhero as their governor?

It was hard to not laugh at Roseanne Barr's strange presidential candidacy

Outspoken comedian-slash-actor Roseanne Barr seems to relish courting controversy. She infamously mocked the National Anthem in 1990, dressed as Hitler in 2009, and lost her TV show after a racially divisive tweet in 2018 (per CNN). And, oh yeah, she tried to become the President of the United States in 2012. Two years earlier, Barr announced her intention to run by reading an utterly bizarre manifesto through a bullhorn outside of the White House. The screed included her declaration that "fried corpses of headless chickens ... will soon lead to the ultimate doom of the entire cosmic web of life!"

Shockingly, Barr managed to become a candidate in the Green Party presidential primaries. As seen in the documentary "Roseanne for President!", the actor didn't do much actual campaigning and ultimately lost the nomination to Jill Stein. Barr claimed in the film that flying to events and rallies wasn't very "green" and added, "I hate to be around people" (per Vulture).

Barr then became the official presidential nominee for the Peace and Freedom Party. The political party's website stated, "We need to replace capitalism with a working-class democracy in which production is planned to meet human needs — socialism." Barr's platform resonated with some people, as 65,000 voted for the comic. Years after her failed presidential bid, Barr's politics shifted dramatically when she embraced Donald Trump and various conspiracy theories that were pushed by members of the far-right (per Time). But at least she's still weirdly obsessed with chickens so there's that.

Kanye West made headlines after a rambling and bizarre campaign speech

You don't run for president of the United States unless you think highly of yourself. And multi-hyphenate rapper Kanye West thinks very, very highly of himself. West first announced his intention to run during the 2015 VMAs, but the shocking announcement was largely forgotten after Donald Trump's election in 2016. West surprised people again with his fan-boy like adulation of the controversial president, even tweeting at one point, "We are both dragon energy. He is my brother."

Yeezy decided that America desperately needed his "dragon energy" and made good on his 2015 announcement. But candidate West didn't put much actual energy or effort into his campaign. Billboard noted, "West's scrambling effort got him on the ballot in just 12 states." West, who ran under his own "Birthday Party," outlined his platform on Some of his goals included aims to "restructure our country's education system .... reform the legal system ... take care of the environment."

The most jaw-dropping moment from West's campaign occurred during his only rally, which left many, including his supporters, confused and concerned for the rapper's well-being. He rambled from one topic to the next, argued with attendees, and made several controversial statements, including "Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves." West also broke down when discussing abortion and revealed that he and then-wife Kim Kardashian considered aborting their daughter.

Despite all of the oddities in West's campaign, the fashion mogul did manage to pull in over 60,000 votes

Did presidential candidate Joe Exotic advocate for forced sterilization?

Before "Tiger King" catapulted convicted felon Joe Exotic into the spotlight in 2020, the former zookeeper ran as a third party candidate in the 2016 presidential election. In a startlingly candid campaign video, Exotic reveals, "I've had some kinky sex. I've tried drugs. ... I am broke as sh*t." 

The mullet-wearing orator spread his platform through his now-defunct campaign website, and by posting videos to his YouTube channel, "Joe Exotic TV." The Huffington Post noted that the presidential hopeful claimed to be "pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights and anti-gun reform," but the alleged animal abuser also made some shocking statements on the campaign trail, telling supporters, "If you're 16 years old ... and you're pregnant from being sloppy or stupid ... and you choose to get an abortion, I think you should be sterilized."

The sometimes singer-songwriter also campaigned for governor of Oklahoma in 2018 on the libertarian ticket. He told television news outlet KOKH, "I learned more in 11 months in running for president than I did in 12 years of school ... I can't keep my mouth shut for four more years."

Exotic obviously did not become president, and earned just 664 votes for his gubernatorial bid (per Ballotpedia). Instead, he was convicted of "two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for tampering and falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act for killing tigers," per The Sun. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison. 

Hunter S. Thompson wanted to protect Aspen as their 'freak' sheriff

Famous hippie, lover of recreational drugs, and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson seems like the last person on earth who would ever want to run for political office. He even referred to D.C. politicians as "swine" when writing articles for Rolling Stone in the 1970s. And yet the "Hell's Angels" author decided to stick it to the man by running for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado in 1970.

In an article written for Rolling Stone, "Freak Power in the Rockies," Thompson floated the idea that an "honest freak" should be the one to "challenge the establishment" (via Far Out). The "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" author handpicked hippie-defending lawyer Joe Edwards to run for mayor, and he himself would run for sheriff. Edwards lost but Thompson continued with his "Freak Power" campaign.

And what a campaign it was. Thompson created his own symbol for the race: "a ... fist, clutching a peyote button." The eccentric journalist also rode a motorcycle in his campaign video, shaved his head so he could refer to his opponent as "my long-haired opponent," and proposed changing Aspen's name to "Fat City in an effort to deter the 'greed heads ... from capitalizing on the name Aspen' " (via The Atlantic). And while the "Rum Diary" author ultimately lost the election, Literary Hub noted, "The campaign often appeared to be run as a joke, but Thompson became serious ... audiences were genuinely surprised to find an eloquent, intelligent man articulate quite reasonable views on land development, drug laws, and police reform."

Hollywood icon Angelyne chose a taxidermied bear as her running mate

In 2003, California's first gubernatorial recall election had "the longest ballot ever in a California governor's race" (per VOA News). 135 candidates sought to defeat the incumbent governor, Gray Davis. And while action star Arnold Schwarzenegger's win surprised the public, he certainly wasn't the only random celebrity on the ballot that year. Before other starlets were famous for being famous, there was Angelyne. The mysterious Hollywood icon decided to enter the recall circus with the slogan, "We've had Gray ... now it's time for some blond and pink."

In an interview with Los Angeles Magazine, Angelyne bragged about her contribution to the 2003 election, saying, "I'm this gorgeous blonde with big boobs and people saw that if Angelyne can run ... we can all do it." However, the "gorgeous blonde" didn't appear to engage in any serious campaign work, and when asked by Office Magazine why she didn't win, she replied, "Because I didn't want an office job. Thank God!" Of course, not actually wanting the job didn't stop Angelyne from running again in the 2021 recall election. 

Running under the "Angelyne Party," the billboard bombshell campaigned mainly through her Instagram page and website. And it's all, um, pretty strange. Speaking in her famous, babyish falsetto, Angelyne tells prospective voters, "California will definitely have a bubble bath day. It's gonna be required that something gets clean: a rock, a toy, your lover ... or my car." She also took to Instagram to pose with a taxidermied bear, declaring that the animal carcass was her "running partner." Only in Hollywood... 

Gary Coleman's gubernatorial campaign was literally a joke

The East Bay Express decided to "poke fun" at California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election by running its own celebrity candidate. According to The Mercury Express, the staff at East Bay found the possibility of a future Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be "absurd" and discussed who would make the perfect candidate for their satirical farce. Editor Stephen Buel then "floated [Gary] Coleman's name, based on his wide appeal and because he was physically and professionally the opposite of Schwarzenegger."

The late actor, famous for playing Arnold Jackson on "Diff'rent Strokes," told CNN at the time, "I thought (the recall) was a joke. They thought it was a joke. And I thought, hey, why not." The "joke" led to international headlines and Buel later told The Mercury Express "I was stunned by how much global interest there was in this."

Inasmuch as Coleman's candidacy was an obvious joke, the former sitcom star did put forth a "10-issue platform, touching on everything from gay marriage to free water," per The Baltimore Sun. Of his somewhat strange politics, the newspaper pointed out his "anti-union" stance, which seemed quite at odds with his Screen Actors Guild membership. Coleman also declared, "I'd kick the a** of every politician with more than two secretaries, because that's a waste of public funds." Additionally, Coleman was fine with medical marijuana, but wanted the removal of "alcohol and cigarettes from society," as well a city busses, which he disliked because they disrupted traffic. In his own words: What'chu talkin' bout, Gary? 

Is Mary Carey's 2021 run for governor another publicity stunt?

California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election saw Gary Coleman and Angelyne up against another equally wacky competitor: former adult film star Mary Carey. Carey made a campaign video outlining her platform: legalizing gay marriage, protecting the adult film industry, and abolishing "the car tax." She also pledged to "put a tax on breast implants" and recited her agenda after stripping down to a string bikini designed to look like the American flag. How...patriotic?

Totally not-shocking spoiler alert: Carey later admitted that her run for office was a "publicity stunt." Actually shocking? The Playboy model placed 10th in the race out of 135 candidates. Perhaps emboldened by garnering thousands of votes, Carey has decided to run for governor of California once more. Speaking with KRON4 News, the actor explained why this time was different: "I am retired from adult films, I'm also 40 years old ... it is time for me to have a career change. So now this is solely because I want to be a politician."

Carey sounds sincere and has even put forth a more detailed and thoughtful platform this time around. The reality TV star told KRON4 she wants to focus on affordable housing, tourism, and coronavirus recovery. Of course, even if she's serious about helping Californians, Carey can't seem to resist poking some fun at the whole process. Her slogan? "Finally a politician you want to be screwed by!" And on, the possible future politician asserts, "This time I have more experience and will not be taking this position laying down. I am ready to be on top!"