In the wake of Sen. John McCain’s death on Saturday, tributes and memorials to his long and storied life have poured out. McCain was an honored veteran, a respected statesman and a beloved family man.
He was one of the few politicians admired by both sides of the aisle — and his likability only grew when he appeared in movies and television shows, often playing himself.
McCain was a mainstay on the talk show circuit, appearing several times on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and even showing up in series as random as “WWE Raw,” “Rachael Ray” and “Last Comic Standing.” But he also appeared in scripted movies and television shows, and his presence was always delightful.
Threaded throughout his performances was a certain lack of egotism. McCain never minded being the butt of a joke, if it was funny enough. Take his short cameo in “Parks and Recreation,” in which he is entirely blown off by Amy Poehler’s downtrodden Leslie Knope. The crux of the joke is that Knope completely snubs McCain, without ever realizing who he is.
One of his more surprising cameos comes in “Wedding Crashers,” a hard-R comedy about two men who crash weddings with fake identities to meet women.
In a short clip, the main characters (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) are preparing to crash a wedding hosted by the fictional treasury secretary, played by Christopher Walken. For a brief moment, Walken’s character shakes hand with McCain and famed political strategist James Carville.
What’s so striking about the scene is how completely unnecessary it is. The audience can’t even really hear either of the famous political men speak, but there they are, for a fleeting moment in a movie that’s 119 minutes long.
Then again, these brief appearances were something of a specialty for McCain, as anyone who watched the show “24” with a sharp eye might remember. In 2006, McCain appeared as a minor staffer in an uncredited role, the kind that’s easy to miss if you happen to blink at the wrong moment.
One of McCain’s earliest pop-culture moments came in 2002, when he became the first sitting U.S. senator to host “Saturday Night Live.”
Throughout the monologue, he tells self-deprecating jokes, makes absurd faces and even begins his costume change for the first sketch. It was one of his first stabs at comedy, but he already appeared as comfortable as a seasoned comic.
He appeared again in 2008, during the midst of his presidential campaign, to sit down with Seth Meyers on the “Weekend Update” segment. Throughout the bit, McCain unveils new strategies to beat his opponent Barack Obama in the polls. Again, his sense of humor shined through as he suggested strategies such as the “Reverse Maverick” and the “Double Maverick.”
The best, though, was the “Sad Grandpa.”
“That’s where I get on TV and go, ‘C’mon, Obama’s gonna have plenty of chances to be president. It’s my turn!’ ” he said. “Vote for me!”
By all accounts, McCain was a delight to work with, both kind and quick-witted. Several celebrities took to social media to offer their condolences as news of his death broke, including comedian John Mulaney. The former SNL writer had encountered McCain on the show, and he shared an anecdote of just how sharp the senator was.
“SNL meeting after dress rehearsal,” Mulaney tweeted. “McCain was on (a week before 2008 election) [Jason] Sudeikis said ‘Where the [expletive] do I stand’ during notes on a sketch then apologized for swearing when he realized McCain was behind him. McCain immediately: ‘Jesus Christ, I was in the Navy.’ ”