John McCain’s Top TV Cameos And Pop Culture Moments

Jeff ChiuAP Images

John McCain was an American war hero, a “maverick” Senator, a presidential candidate and — yes — a pop culture icon. McCain, who died on Aug. 25 at age 81 after a battle with brain cancer, may have been best known for his heroics during the Vietnam war as well as his 2008 presidential bid, but he also leaves behind an impressive resume in the entertainment field.

McCain’s IMDb page lists several credits on top-rated television shows and movies. The late senator appeared on Saturday Night Live and was a big movie and music buff.

In 2008, McCain told CNN he was a huge ABBA fan and admitted that the Swedish pop group’s 1976 hit “Dancing Queen” was his favorite song.

“Now look, everybody says, ‘I hate ABBA. Oh ABBA, how terrible! Blah blah blah.’ How come everybody goes to ‘Mamma Mia?’ Huh? I mean really, seriously, huh? ‘I hate ABBA, they’re no good, you know.’ Well, everybody goes. They’ve been selling out for years.”

ABBA’s 1977 classic, “Take a Chance On Me,” later turned up as one of McCain’s campaign songs. But John McCain also loved modern-day stars like Britney Spears and Usher as revealed in a 2008 Q&A with Entertainment Weekly.

“I’m also a Roy Orbison fan and a Linda Ronstadt fan — all the ones whose place in the spotlight ended some years ago,” McCain said. “But I like Usher, too. I was on Saturday Night Live with him, got to see him perform, and I was very impressed with him.”

McCain, who revealed that the first movie he ever saw as a kid was Bambi in 1942, also picked a surprising Marlon Brando movie as one of his favorite flicks of all time.

“Many people think Brando’s performances in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront were his best. I think Zapata! was his best. I’m in the minority about this. But go back and watch the scene of his wedding night, with [Brando] and Jean Peters — the actress who later married Howard Hughes, who made her give up acting — when she teaches him to read by taking out the Bible and reading it with him. That’s a poignant scene.”

On the TV front, McCain said he enjoyed Seinfeld reruns and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

“I kind of like Dexter, too, although it certainly has a macabre side to it.”

McCain went on to appear on Saturday Night Live, Wedding Crashers, 24, and Parks and Recreation during his years in public office.

Back in 2002, McCain hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time alongside musical guests The White Stripes. The Arizona senator acted in several sketches with then-SNL stars Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyer, and Amy Poehler. For the sketch “To Love, Honor, and Stalk,” McCain was nearly unrecognizable as he played a personal space infringer in a Lifetime movie spoof.

Three years later, movie fans caught McCain in the hit movie Wedding Crashers, playing a guest at a wedding that John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) crashed. McCain is briefly seen in the film in a reception scene congratulating the parents of the bride, played by Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken.

In 2006, McCain had a quick walk-on role on the Fox drama 24. The self-professed superfan of the show was credited as a CTU staffer and was seen handing an envelope to Kim Raver’s character, Audrey Raines.

McCain later told the Huffington Post he bragged about his brief role on the Fox drama series for years.

“I did a walk-on on 24 with Jack Bauer, that was kind of fun. I bragged about it for years, even though I wasn’t even on the full screen… You know how they divide the screen? I was up in the right-hand corner

In 2008, McCain made his most memorable SNL appearance with a return to Studio 8H for a spoof about his purchase of QVC airtime with his running mate, Sarah Palin (played by Tina Fey) because they couldn’t afford time on a major network.

And in 2012 and 2015, McCain made cameos on NBC’s Parks and Recreation alongside other political guests including Senators Barbara Boxer, Olympia Snowe, and Orrin Hatch.

“It’s one of my favorite shows… I’m a fan, it’s hilarious,” McCain told the Huffington Post of the NBC comedy. “The whole schtick about an election, and being elected and now coming to Washington. And of course, Amy [Poehler] is such a talented actress. My experience with her goes back to hosting Saturday Night Live’a long time ago.”

Too bad Poehler’s character Leslie Knope missed his cameo in the 2012 episode “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington,” as you can see near the end of the clip below.

And three months before his death, John McCain had his biggest pop culture moment of them all. The senator was the subject of the HBO documentary, John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls. The film is currently running on HBO online and on streaming devices.