How Futurama Got Al Gore To Guest Star

Matt Groening has never been shy about making fun of even the most powerful political figures. The classic "The Simpsons" episode "Two Bad Neighbors" is a parody of former President George H.W. Bush, and not an affectionate one. When Bush moves across the street from the Simpsons, the uptight stick-in-the-mud suffers indignity at Bart's hands, in the vein of Mr. Wilson and Dennis the Menace.

In "Futurama," Richard Nixon himself is a recurring character. Thanks to technology that preserves the heads of historical figures, Nixon lives and, since the episode "A Head In The Polls," has reigned as president of Earth ("Once I'm swept into office, I'll sell our children's organs to zoos for meat and I'll go into people's houses at night and wreck up the place!").

For most of these parodies, the real subject wasn't the one acting as themselves. Harry Shearer voiced Bush in "Two Bad Neighbors," while Billy West does a pitch-perfect Nixon impression on "Futurama." There is one major exception though. Former Vice President Al Gore has appeared on "Futurama" a handful of times, and each time, Gore voiced himself. How did the "Futurama" team continue to secure his involvement? Simple, his daughter Kristin was part of the show.

Kristin Gore, screenwriter

Kristin Gore joined "Futurama" during its third season as a staff writer and story editor. She has credits on 28 episodes, but only one "written by." Let me answer what you're thinking; no, the episode she wrote wasn't one of the ones featuring her father. It was an important episode, though — "Leela's Homeworld."

In this season 4 episode, Leela (Katey Sagal), everyone's favorite cyclops, discovers that she is not an alien, as she thought her whole life, but a mutant. The episode ends with a tearful reunion between her and her parents Morris (David Herman) and Munda (Tress MacNeille), then a montage of all the times they secretly helped her during her childhood.

The episode does have a streak of the Gore family's trademark environmentalism, though. The plot kicks off when Bender (John DiMaggio) dumps toxic waste into the sewers of New York, drawing the ire of the mutants.

While "Futurama" has been revived multiple times, Gore's role in the series ended with its original run. Since then, she's written for "Saturday Night Live," did uncredited work on Spike Jonze's film "Her," and was an associate producer on "Foxcatcher." She's also a novelist with three published books to her name.

Al Gore's appearances on Futurama

Gore's first appearance on "Futurama" was in season 2 episode, "Anthology of Interest I." The episode aired in May 2000 when Gore was still Vice President and running his own presidential campaign — he earned some criticism for appearing on a show antithetical to "family values," but his campaign dismissed it with good humor.

The segment featuring Gore, where Philip J. Fry (Billy West) asks what would've happened if he never came to the future, is the most absurd moment in a very absurd episode. Fry remaining in 2000 causes a time paradox, attracting the attention of the Vice Presidential Action Rangers, who protect the space-time continuum. Gore is team leader and other members are Stephen Hawking, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and the Deep Blue super-computer. Thanks to Fry's stubbornness, the Rangers fail to stop space-time from collapsing. Alone in a white-void, they decide to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Gore's guest appearance might've been a one-off if not for his daughter joining the series. He returned in season 4 episode, "Crimes of the Hot." Not coincidentally, this episode was about global warming. Gore even featured a clip from the episode in his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." While the episode takes the topic seriously, it also pokes fun at Gore himself; that he appeared at all shows a sense of humor about his life and work.

This time, Gore appeared during the show's "present," his head in a jar like most of the series' other celebrity cameos. He is introduced as "the inventor of the environment" and "first emperor of the moon." He's also noted to have written two books, "Earth in the Balance," and the "more popular," "Harry Potter and the Balance of the Earth."

Gore's further appearances

Gore's most substantial "Futurama" appearance is in the series' first movie, "Bender's Big Score." During the movie, he appears in both the present and the future. It turns out Gore losing Florida in the 2000 Presidential election was due to a time-traveling Bender destroying vote tallies. After this moment, a newspaper with this headline is shown: "Bush 'wins,' obnoxious robot still on the loose." When Bender is chasing Fry in 2012, he flags down a cab and the driver turns out to be Gore. In the film's climax, Gore also takes part in the "Star Wars"-inspired space battle to retake Earth. As he destroys one of the villains' solid gold Death Stars, he exclaims, "Finally, I get to save the Earth with deadly lasers instead of deadly slideshows!"

Gore's most recent "Futurama" appearance was for season 6 episode, "The Futurama Holiday Spectacular." Another environmental-themed episode, this anthology shows the Planet Express crews' holiday celebrations (first Xmas, then "Robanukah," then Kwanzaa) foiled by the extinction of pine trees, low petroleum reserves, and declining bee populations, respectively.

It hasn't been announced if either Al or Kristin Gore will be involved with the upcoming "Futurama" revival, set to air on Hulu in 2023. The climate issues which Gore has championed in his post-political life remain (unfortunately) pressing, though. "Futurama" is usually eager to comment on current events, so if Gore can find room in his schedule, another guest role for him could be in the cards.