When Dawyne “The Rock” Johnson showed up during Summer Game Fest last week, I was elated. Not because I’m a big fan or anything, but because it was the return of one of my favorite E3 season traditions: cringeworthy, out of place celebrity cameos. The Rock’s appearance left such an impression on me that I decided to reflect on recent E3-like events and review their celebrity appearances.
At its core, the comedy of a celebrity E3 appearance comes from how out of place said celebrity seems. Do they understand the audience they’re speaking to? Are they plugging an unrelated product? Are they trying (and failing) to present themselves as “one of the gamers?” Generally, these are the criteria I’ll be looking for while rating these appearances, starting with Dwayne Johnson.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Summer Game Fest 2022):
4 / 5 Stars
Calling in from his “Iron Paradise,” The Rock’s appearance this year had just about everything I could ask for. He randomly plugs his line of energy drinks. He makes a bizarre cheese pizza joke that nobody is around to laugh at. He seamlessly transitions from Fortnite to his new movie Black Adam, which has nothing to do with any upcoming game releases. It’s hilarious to watch, but the lack of a tie-in to any actual game announcement leaves a little to be desired. I find humor in its irrelevance, but I can’t call it a perfect appearance if the clip could be removed from the showcase and nobody would be able to tell.
Jason Derulo (E3 2015):
2 / 5 Stars
During Ubisoft’s 2015 E3 showcase, Jason Altman (executive producer of Just Dance 2016) announced that he had a surprise for the audience. Seven years later, I can’t tell if the surprise was Jason Derulo’s appearance or his out-of-breath, awkward performance. The crowd doesn’t seem particularly interested in him either, and who can blame them? They’re clearly not his intended audience, and they probably have no idea how to react. In the stiff interview afterwards, it’s clear Derulo is only there to promote his new song/album, and the scene loses much of its humor. Out of place celebrities are funny only when they’re attempting to fit in. Jason Derulo doesn’t even really attempt to conform, so the only humor in this scene is from the awkwardness of his first entrance.
Snoop Dogg (E3 2016)
5 / 5 Stars
To promote Battlefield 1, EA hosted a preview event stacked with celebrities including Terry Crews, Zac Efron, Jamie Foxx, and of course, Snoop Dogg. Snoop’s appearance wasn’t on a stage like most of the other entries on this list. Instead, his appearance amounted to less than 30 seconds of screen time, where the camera shows him, joint in mouth, struggling to climb onto a wall in-game. The best part though, is that when the camera comes back to him three minutes later, the joint is mysteriously gone, implying someone took it away from him. Fantastic. Zero notes.
Jeff Goldblum (Summer Game Fest 2021)
3 / 5 Stars
Jeff Goldblum showed up at last year’s Summer Game Fest to promote Jurassic World Evolution 2, a game he provided voice work for. He’s never not radiating his natural Goldblum-y charisma, but this particular appearance is surprisingly awkward. After dragging out a joke about how Geoff spells his name, Goldblum vamps, waiting for a teleprompter to catch up so he can do a dramatic, painfully slow reading of it. This appearance generally has more uncomfortable cringe than funny cringe, but most of the former seems to come from technology-based awkwardness. I’m willing to give Goldblum the benefit of the doubt and score this as a 3/5.
Drake (E3 2013)
0 / 5 Stars
In 2013, Drake introduced the world to FIFA 14. He was professional, articulate, and stuck exactly to the script. That SUCKS!!! That’s not what I want from an E3 celebrity appearance! Where are the out-of-touch jokes? The awkward laughs? Drake looks so comfortable up on that stage. Did he rehearse his lines? He didn’t even plug an album! He completely misunderstood the assignment. No stars.
Keanu Reeves (E3 2019)
10 / 5 Stars
This is it. This is the perfect E3 celebrity appearance. In the summer of 2019, Reeves was at the peak of a massive comeback. He starred in John Wick 3 in May, played a fictional version of himself in Always Be My Maybe, and was set to be in Toy Story 4 in late June. It was a huge deal for him to appear in the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer that year, and an even bigger deal that he showed up to promote the game in person. Once he’s actually able to speak, he is awkward, but it’s a joyful awkward — like he didn’t anticipate just how enthusiastic the crowd would end up being.
He is out of place, like all E3 celebrities, but embraces it. When someone calls him breathtaking, he immediately fires back, “you’re breathtaking! You’re all breathtaking!” He isn’t “one of the gamers,” but there’s no point where he has to be or even pretends to be. He’s the main event. Everything that makes another celebrity appearance feel cringeworthy makes this one feel genuine and delightful.