Michigan is the home of many famous people; most of the time, they’re musicians. But they’re not the only famous people to come from there. From actors and writers to sports figures, the state of Michigan is home to many talented people whose success entertained and inspired us.
Keep reading to learn about these 10 famous people from Michigan!
Famous Michiganian Actors
1. Dave Coulier
First on this list of famous people from Michigan is actor, impressionist, and stand-up comedian David Coulier of St. Clair Shores.
Coulier is best known for his role as Joey Gladstone from ABC’s Full House. He later reprised his role in the show’s follow-up series Fuller House. When he wasn’t doing impressions or watching the Tanner sisters, he hosted America’s Funniest People and World’s Funniest People.
Besides hosting and directing certain TV shows, Coulier also voice-acted in cartoons. He played Animal and Honeydew Bunsen in Muppet Babies, Peter Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters, and other roles. Outside of acting, Coulier did a stand-up comedy tour at 24 US Air Force bases.
2. Lily Tomlin
To loosely quote Magic School Bus-driving teacher extraordinaire Ms. Frizzle: “Take chances, make mistakes, [meet Mary Jean (Lily) Tomlin]!” How many famous people from Michigan have the voice of a schoolteacher who hosts crazy but enriching field trips?
Before acting, Tomlin did stand-up comedy. Rowan and Martin’s comedy series Laugh-In was where Tomlin gained stardom with her crazy characters. Besides voice work, she guest-starred in many TV shows and starred in the Grace and Frankie series with Jane Fonda.
Nashville was Tomlin’s film debut in the mid-70s. Other movies she starred in include The Late Show, All of Me, Nine to Five, and I Heart Huckabees. And on stage, Tomlin’s role in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe won her a Tony Award.
3. Hal Smith
All the way up from Petoskey, Michigan, is Harold (Hal) Smith. Andy Griffith fans recognize him as Otis Campbell, Mayberry’s beloved and self-incarcerating town drunk from CBS’s The Andy Griffith Show.
Smith is the King of Cartoons for his many roles in animated TV movies and shows. Davey and Goliath, The Flintstones, An American Tail, and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? are a few of them. Disney fans remember him as Owl in Winnie the Pooh (the 1977 movie and 1988 TV show).
On the radio, Smith was the voice of John Avery Whittaker of Adventures in Odyssey, his favorite role. Even when his health was deteriorating, he didn’t let it stop him from recording weekly episodes.
Famous Michiganian Writers
4. John Hughes
Among the famous people from Michigan, John Hughes is beyond the word. Anybody who loves 1980s films loves at least one of his movies.
Hughes is well known for writing, producing, and directing comedy and coming-of-age films in the 1980s and 1990s. These masterpieces include The Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Home Alone 1 and 2.
He also wrote and directed other well-known films like National Lampoon’s Vacation; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; and Maid in Manhattan. This one message to all entertainers and movie fans is simple: Don’t you forget about John Hughes!
5. Chris Van Allsburg
Who would have thought board games could be such thrill rides and that trains can take you to the North Pole? You can thank children’s author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg of East Grand Rapids, Michigan, for that!
His two of many picture books, Jumanji and The Polar Express won Caldecott Medals in the 1980s. They, along with Zathura, were later adapted into films in 1996, 2004, and 2005 in titled order. He had little involvement in Jumanji’s sequels compared to the 1996 adaptation.
Van Allsburg also provided illustrations for C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia book series. He was even a visual development artist for The Little Mermaid (1989)! Even with small credit in these masterpieces, they’re enough for him to be a famous person from Michigan.
6. John Grogan
John Grogan is one of the famous people from Michigan who made us fall in love with his exuberant Labrador retriever. This writer from Detroit is known for his bestselling memoir Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog.
As a journalist, he wrote for a few magazines and newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2003 when Marley passed away, Grogan wrote a column honoring his dog. The overwhelming response he received for the column motivated him to write the memoir two years later.
In 2008, Grogan’s book was adapted into a comedy-drama movie. Today, Grogan keeps a blog and speaks at writing conferences, universities, and other functions.
7. Sam Raimi
The Evil Dead was the movie that gave writer and filmmaker Sam Raimi his start as a famous person from Michigan. Born in Royal Oak, Raimi made movies as early as 10 years old! His visual style and inventive camera work caught the attention of critics and moviegoers.
Though he made Evil Dead into a series and created more horror films, Raimi is not exclusively known for this genre. He also directed other films like the crime–thriller A Simple Plan and the fantasy–adventure Oz the Great and Powerful.
He’s also famous for his work on the original Spider-Man trilogy from 2002 to 2007. This made Raimi the first director ever to adapt a comic book character into a live-action movie three times. Being the huge web-slinger fan he is, one could say that’s why the movies have such iconic lines and scenes.
Famous Michiganians Athletes
8. Serena Williams
Our list of famous people from Michigan shifts to the sports field, starting with retired professional tennis player Serena Williams. From the city of Saginaw, and since the 1990s, Williams is considered the greatest tennis player and athlete of all time.
Williams’ parents coached tennis for her and her sister Venus at three years old to ensure their success in life. Playing her way into the world rankings, Williams won her first Grand Slam title in the 1999 US Open.
In the 2000s, Williams and her sister rose in the rankings with their strength and athleticism. She won three more Grand Slam titles, calling it the Serena Slam. In total, Williams won 23 Grand Slam titles before officially retiring after the 2022 US Open.
9. Magic Johnson
Earvin (Magic) Johnson, Jr. is a retired professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers from Lansing, Michigan. In high school, a sports writer dubbed him Magic for his triple-double of 36 points and 16 rebounds and assists.
In 1979 after college, the LA Lakers drafted Johnson, who would win a series of championships and make the NBA Finals. For some fans, Johnson is a famous person from Michigan for his rivalry with former Boston Celtics player Larry Bird.
Despite his HIV diagnosis in 1991, Johnson played on the winning Dream Team in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. After his brief comeback with the Lakers in 1996, Johnson officially retired from basketball, later becoming president of basketball operations.
10. Tony Dungy
Last on our list of famous people from Michigan is Anthony Dungy, a former professional football player and retired NFL coach. From college to the Pittsburgh Steelers to the San Francisco 49ers to the New York Giants, Dungy sported impressive stats.
He started coaching in the 1980s, starting with the Steelers, in which he was the NFL’s youngest assistant coach. Later, as the Indianapolis Colts head coach, he became the first Black head coach to win the Superbowl in 2006.
After retiring from coaching in 2008, Dungy became a sports analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America. In 2016, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was added to its selection committee in 2020.
Wrapping up Famous People From Michigan
Talent can come from anywhere, and the state of Michigan is no exception. These famous people from Michigan contributed their work and talent in influential ways for viewers, readers, and athletes. And there’s more talent to come!
Interested in learning more about people and places from and in the Great Lakes state? Check out our Michigan page to discover what the state has to offer.