In the early 1970s, the hard rock band KISS exploded onto the music scene. Over the past 40+ years, KISS has retained its popularity, influence, and strange make-up, becoming legends in the rock and metal scenes. The band, headlined by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, is currently on the ninth leg of their four-year-long “End of the Road Tour,” which marks the band’s final romp together across the globe.
No band is quite like KISS. Their intense marketing campaigns, classic albums, and shocking “KISS ALIVE” performances (which often include massive pyrotechnics, fake blood, smoking guitars, and fire-breathing) have wowed audiences, young and old, for decades, keeping their KISS Army strong. Oh, and their comic book-inspired stage-personas didn’t hurt either! But did you know that the band worked their marketing magic to appear in a number of movies and television series over the past few decades? That’s right, we’re not talking about MTV music videos here, we’re talking about the strangest appearances of KISS in film and television!
This is by no means an exhaustive list (and we won’t even touch Gene Simmons Family Jewels), but these are definitely among the wackiest appearances of the band in any form of media.
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976)
To promote their most recent (and their greatest) album Destroyer, KISS made an appearance on Paul Lynde‘s 1976 Halloween special. The special, which also featured Margaret Hamilton’s return to her iconic Wizard of Oz role, saw the band summoned by the Wicked Witch of the West and her H.R. Pufnstuf companion Witchypoo (Billie Hayes) to play “Detroit Rock City,” “Beth,” and “King of the Night Time World.” The special would also feature the late Betty White as the “good witch” Miss Halloween, much to the other witches’ dismay.
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special marked the television debut of “Beth,” which had become a fast favorite among KISS fans. While Peter Criss lip-synced to the tune, it’s still a wonderful moment that lets the song, and the Catman himself, shine on its own. Plus, the special introduced KISS to a larger television viewing audience, one that would probably have turned the dial if they heard them on the radio.
KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park (1978)
If you didn’t know that KISS starred in their own television movie, let us introduce you to KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, the film revolves around KISS, who use their strange superpowers to take down the evil Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe) before he can destroy the Magic Mountain amusement park and discredit the band. Obviously, the film wasn’t well-received (and feels a lot like an episode of Power Rangers) and the band would sooner forget about it entirely, but it’s a part of KISStory that cannot be erased.
The film spawned out of the Marvel Comics series that KISS starred in at the time, and the idea that KISS themselves were akin to comic book superheroes is still a popular notion today. Since 1978, various comic book companies such as Revolutionary, Image, Dark Horse, Platinum, IDW, and (currently) Dynamite have been in the business of making KISS-themed comic books where our four heroes often face the very creatures they sing about.
MADtv – “Halloween Spooktacular” (1998)
In line with Paul Lynde’s special (but not as “family-friendly”), MADtv‘s own “Halloween Spooktacular” includes some of the funniest KISS-related skits in the business. One such skit includes “KISS My Parents” where the band is introduced by a teenage girl (Nichole Sullivan) to her parents as her prom dates, only for the father to lose more than his daughter to the group (“there’s always room for the ladies”). Though, the funniest part of the sketch might be when the dad asks what they have to offer his daughter, and let’s just say that all Gene does is wiggle his tongue…
Other skits include the “KISS Action Figure” sketch where the members of the band all play life-sized action figure versions of themselves, with the Paul Stanley figure coveted by the young boy’s mom. And finally, “KISS vs. Michael Jackson” sees the band face off against the iconic pop star (played by Phil LaMarr), only to defeat him in battle. Though, as Paul says ominously, “he’ll always come back…”
Millennium – “…Thirteen Years Later” (1998)
Millennium was a short-lived but exciting show that tapped into the material and spiritual sides of serial killers, so what better a show for KISS to show up on when promoting Psycho Circus? “…Thirteen Years Later” follows FBI profiler Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) and his partner Emma Hollis (Klea Scott) as they attempt to track down a serial killer on a horror film set, a set where the climax involves a live KISS concert.
But the band doesn’t just play their titular “Psycho Circus” tune, each member of the original lineup appears on screen in an acting capacity as well. Gene Simmons plays an extra named Hector Leachman, who falsely confesses to the killings, while Peter Criss and Ace Frehley play two random cops who briefly interact with the agents. But the best KISS cameo comes from Paul Stanley, who plays the sleazy film producer Lew Carroll before his quick and gruesome demise in the teaser.
Detroit Rock City (1999)
This coming-of-age teen comedy might be set in the ’70s, but it feels all-too ’90s, with Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington, Giuseppe Andrews, and James DeBello starring as a teenage KISS tribute band called “Mystery.” The boys spend the whole film trying to get their hands on some KISS concert tickets as they travel to Detroit to see them. The film is wild, and definitely not for the faint of heart, taking labels such as “teen partying” to a whole new level, reminding us that the ’70s were a wild time and a perfect breeding ground for the KISS Army.
The band shows up in concert as the boys finally make it to the show, and Peter Criss throws a drumstick into the crowd, which Huntington’s character catches. Gene Simmons’ wife Shannon Tweed also appears in the film as an older woman who Furlong’s character is forced to sleep with, which is a crazy situation in and of itself. But the best scene might be when DeBello’s character confronts a young KISS fan at a convenience store, only to get beat up by his Peacemaker-wannabe older brother.
Family Guy – “A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas” & “Road to Europe” (2001-2002)
That’s right, KISS appeared in two different Family Guy episodes… The first was a Christmas episode that follows a subplot involving Peter (Seth MacFarlane) getting his hands on a VHS copy of “KISS Saves Santa,” in which a superheroic version of the band, well… saves Santa. It’s a clear parody of KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, and actually a pretty funny bit, setting up the band’s appearance later this season.
The second episode, “Road to Europe,” also follows Peter’s subplot as he and Lois (Alex Borstein) attend a KISS concert. After Lois can’t sing the words to “Rock and Roll All Night” and ruins the concert, she reveals that she has never been a KISS fan, even though Peter has been a member of the KISS Army since the ’70s. There are some great KISS-related moments in this episode, but none better than the revelation that Lois dated Gene Simmons in high school, who back then went by his birth name, Chaim Witz.
That ’70s Show – “That ’70s KISS Show” (2002)
The name of both a That ’70s Show music video collaboration with KISS as well as a short documentary that chronicled the making of the video, “That ’70s KISS Show” was a really strange way for the series to announce its television syndication. This half-hour special, which aired on VH1, saw the members of the cast, including Mila Kunis and Topher Grace, trying to sneak onto the set and get a behind-the-scenes scoop on a KISS concert.
The odd combination of the KISS members and That ’70s Show cast is a little weird to watch, but it’s definitely a must-see for any KISS fan and will go down in KISStory as one part music video, one part That ’70s Show special, and one part documentary that you won’t want to miss. Or maybe you do, and that’s alright!
Scooby-Doo – “A Scooby-Doo Halloween” & Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery (2003, 2015)
Scooby-Doo is most certainly a larger pop culture icon than KISS, which is probably why the band has been involved with the Mystery Inc. gang on multiple occasions. The first crossover between KISS and the teenage mystery solvers was in the What’s New, Scooby-Doo? episode “A Scooby-Doo Halloween,” where we learn that Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) is a huge KISS fan. The band’s music ends up helping the gang save the day and catch the ghost that’s haunting the costume party they were hired to play at. It’s a pretty cool episode.
The band would later return to the Scooby-Doo universe with Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery, where they reveal that they’re from the inter-dimensional planet KISSteria and are there to stop the unleashing of the Destroyer. Scooby (Frank Welker) and the gang manage to help the super-powered band save the day, with some crazy action sequences that are set to some of the most classic KISS tunes. The band performs seven different songs in this one, including the original “Don’t Touch My Ascot” marking the most songs they’ve ever played in a film.
Fairly Odd Parents – “Wishology!” trilogy (2009)
Possibly the most bizarre KISS appearance on the list is when the band showed up in the Fairly Odd Parents three-parter “Wishology!” Here, the foursome are revealed to be part of the Magical Order of Rocking Fairies who have been tasked with protecting the Fire Wand. Though, if you’ve seen any other episode of Fairly Odd Parents you’ll know that this isn’t nearly the most ridiculous thing they’ve ever done or explained.
As the band helps Timmy Turner (Tara Strong) and his Fairies, we also find out that the reason they wear make-up is to hide their age, which is actually a pretty funny excuse for their strange appearances. The Demon, the Starchild, the Catman, and the Spaceman all show up in the first and third parts to help Timmy on his quest to save the day.
Why Him? (2016)
Lastly, the band shows up in the theatrical comedy Why Him?, though only Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons make an appearance as original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left the band in 2002 and 2004, respectively, and were replaced by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. Paul and Gene show up to sing “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” when the crazy-rich Laird (James Franco) proposes to his girlfriend Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) on Christmas.
As it turns out, Stephanie wasn’t actually the biggest KISS fan in the house as her parents, played by Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally, immediately freak out, telling the duo that they’re part of the KISS Army. In a deleted scene, which might be the funniest moment with the band, Gene and Paul speculate that Laird, who never knew his birth father, might actually be Gene’s son… There’s certainly never a dull moment whenever KISS is involved!