20 of Our Favorite Celebrities from Wisconsin

Mark Ruffalo

Wisconsin isn’t the best-known U.S. state. Even so, it has its claims to fame. For example, Wisconsin was a popular destination for both German and Scandinavian immigrants, so much so that it remains a cultural center for both German Americans and Scandinavian Americans in the present time. Similarly, it has a reputation for both beer production and cheese production, which should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with Milwaukee and Green Bay’s sports teams. Of course, there are a number of well-known individuals who have come from Wisconsin as well.

20. Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder came from Milwaukee, WI. However, he went on to become a well-known figure on the TV screen. In particular, Snyder is remembered because of his late night talk shows on both NBC and CBS. The former was cancelled to make way for the then up-and-coming David Letterman, but there doesn’t seem to have been a grudge between the two because of that. If anything, the two got along quite well, seeing as how Letterman was the one who convinced him to do the latter.

19. Chris Farley

People who watched a lot of comedies from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s might recognize Chris Farley, who tended to be a loud and energetic presence whenever he showed up on the screen. He was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for much of the 1990s, meaning that he was a contemporary of Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and others. Farley was prominent enough for him to have been the original choice to voice the titular character in Shrek. Unfortunately, he died at a young age because of his struggle with drugs and alcohol.

18. Kathy Kinney

Kathy Kinney is an actress who has shown up on TV, the movie screen, and the theatre stage. In particular, she was popular in the late 1990s because she played Mimi Bobeck, a very vulgar, very flamboyant, and very memorable antagonist to the titular character on the The Drew Carey Show that ran from 1995 to 2004. Amusingly, Kinney never sought to become an actress. Instead, she left Wisconsin for the purpose of finding adventure. Something that Kinney has been very successful at to say the least.

17. Jane Kaczmarek

Jane Kaczmarek is another individual who was born in Milwaukee, WI, though she was raised in Greendale, WI. She was acting before 2000 and she has continued acting after 2006. However, there can be no doubt about the fact that Kaczmarek is best-known for playing Lois on the sitcom Malcom in the Middle. The character was very memorable, being an interesting combination of intelligent, hot-headed, and strong-willed to an excess. However, she becomes much more sympathetic when one remembers that she was raising four boys at the start of the series, one of whom was well-behaved while every single one of the other three was extremely disruptive and destructive in their own particular way. Kaczmarek received a lot of recognition for her work on the series, as shown by the three award wins plus a host of award nominations from 2000 to 2006.

16. Tom Welling

Tom Welling was born in Putnam Valley, NY. However, he still counts because he was raised in a number of places, which included Janesville, WI. He was a construction worker when he was encouraged to become a model. After which, Welling made a successful transition to becoming an actor, which was spurred on by his desire to express a range of emotions rather than the much more limited possibilities of modeling in this regard. On the whole, he tends to be best-known for playing Clark Kent before he became Superman on the superhero drama Smallville that ran from 2001 to 2011.

15. Greta Van Susteren

Greta Van Susteren was born in Appleton, WI. Moreover, she is one of those people who have chosen to retain a strong connection with the place where they were born, as shown by how she continues to consider said city to be her hometown. In any case, Van Susteren once worked as a lawyer but has long since made the transition to being an anchor, a commentator, and a TV presenter. Currently, she even has a talk show.

14. Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder was born in Green Bay, WI. Apparently, he was a big comic book fan when he was a child. Something that is perhaps unsurprising considering that he is well-known for directing adaptations of comic books. Whatever one might think about the quality of those adaptations, there can be no doubt about the fact that Snyder has had a huge impact on the pop cultural landscape of modern times.

13. Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo is a Kenoshan who is best-known to a lot of people for playing the Incredible Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, it is important to note that he has had other roles as well, as shown by how he is one of the rare individuals who have been nominated for an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award.

12. Jessica Szohr

Jessica Szohr came from Menomonee Falls, which has the distinction of being the single most populous village that can be found in the whole of Wisconsin at more than 35,000 residents. A lot of people will be most familiar with her because of her role as Vanessa Abrams on Gossip Girl, which makes sense because that was her breakthrough role. Still, she continues to act in both movies and TV shows, with an excellent example being how she has been a member of the main cast on The Orville since Season 2 of the show.

11. Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon isn’t necessarily very well-known. Even so, he has been quite influential. This is because Harmon is responsible for a couple of notable series of recent times. One, he was the one who created Community based on his own experiences with community college. This can be seen in how he went to Glendale Community College, which should be a familiar name for those who watched the show. Two, Harmon is one of the two co-creators of Rick & Morty, which has been successful enough that there is now an entire franchise surrounding it. It will be interesting to see whether he will be able to manage similar successes in the future, seeing as how he is known to be working on more than one project at the moment.

10. Kurtwood Smith

Kurtwood Smith was born in New Lisbon, WI. Apparently, he was named thus because his mother was a huge fan of a country singer named either Curt or Kurt. However, she felt that Kurt Smith would be too short a name for her son, so she added “wood” to the end to make Kurtwood Smith. Regardless, the man went on to appear in numerous works of speculative fiction such as RoboCop. Still, there are a lot of people who will recognize him best as the gruff dad Red Forman on That ’70s Show.

9. Heather Graham

Heather Graham is an actress who was very well-known in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She is famous for characters possessing a great deal of sex appeal, which she has stated she finds fascinating because of the mixed messages that women receive on the topic. Besides this, Graham is also known for supporting various causes, as shown by her involvement with Children International and the Cambodian Children’s Fund.

8. Peter Weller

Speaking of which, Kurtwood Smith wasn’t the only actor from Wisconsin to star in Robocop. After all, the titular character was played by Peter Weller, who was born in Wisconsin but was raised in a number of places because of his father’s job as a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army. In any case, while Weller is a prolific actor, it is interesting to note that he is also an art historian focused on the Italian Renaissance.

7. Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, WI. There are a lot of people who will recognize him as Willy Wonka in the 1971 version of the movie. However, Wilder was also involved in a wide range of other comedic projects as well. For instance, he collaborated with Mel Brooks on three movies, which earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor as well as an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay. In later life, Wilder turned towards writing, thus resulting in a number of published works.

6. William Dafoe

William Dafoe is a very capable and very versatile actor who was born in Appleton, WI. His roles make this very clear. For example, Dafoe has played several individuals from real life, which include both T.S. Eliot and Vincent van Gogh. However, he is also a well-known actor for people who enjoy speculative fiction, not least because he played the role of Marvel supervillain Green Goblin in 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2021. Something that enabled Dafoe to claim a world record for the longest career as a live-action Marvel character shared with his co-star Tobey Maguire.

5. Liberace

Liberace was one of the most famous individuals to ever emerge from Wisconsin. He was an exceptional pianist. However, Liberace tends to be even better-remembered because of his flamboyant lifestyle, which made him one of the most recognizable figures of the era. For proof, look no further than the sheer number of works that have referenced him in one way or another, with an excellent example being Blade Runner 2049.

4. Les Paul

Chances are good that music fans have heard of Les Paul guitars. Some of them might have wondered how that name came to be. If so, they should know that Les Paul was an inventor who was also a very successful musician in his own right. After all, not everyone can sell millions of records. Never mind doing so back in the 1950s, which had a much smaller market than what exists in the present. Unsurprisingly, Paul was one of the people who made the solid-body electric guitar possible, as shown by how his prototype became the source of inspiration for the Gibson Les Paul. Moreover, he was extremely influential on recording as well as guitar-playing.

3. Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini wasn’t born in Wisconsin. Instead, he was born Erik Weisz in what was still the Kingdom of Hungary in what was still the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, his family moved to Wisconsin where they would remain for the better part of a decade. Later, the renamed Ehrich Weiss took the stage name of Harry Houdini, under which he would go on to become one of the greatest illusionists and escapologists of his time. The man stated that his stage name was meant to honor the magician Harry Kellar. However, there is speculation that it was also an adaptation of “Ehri,” which was his family’s nickname for him.

2. Orson Welles

When movie experts are asked to name the most influential movie-makers ever, chances are good that Orson Welles will be somewhere on those lists. Unsurprisingly, this means that Welles’s career saw numerous achievements of note. For example, he was the one who made Citizen Kane, which is still considered to be either the greatest or one of the greatest movies ever made even though it came out in 1941. Similarly, he was the one who did the radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, the impact of which is often exaggerated but nonetheless made his a notorious name. Besides his art, Welles was also very political, having been a member of the American Left throughout his entire lifetime. Something that contributed to his ostracization by the Hollywood establishment during the Red Scare.

1. Frank Lloyd Wright

Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, Frank Lloyd Wright is a strong contender for the position of the greatest American architect so far. He worked on more than 1,000 buildings over the course of a seven-decade career, so it should come as no surprise to learn that he had a huge impact on the architectural trends of the 20th century. Eight of Wright’s buildings are considered to be a single UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes both Taliesin and the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Wisconsin.

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