If I were to tell you that an upcoming episode of Law & Order (any edition) would feature a comedian in a bit part, then you would say, sure, why not. It has happened before plenty of times. In fact, enough times that the second annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival has a themed show called The Comedians of Law & Order, happening Saturday at the Bell House in Brooklyn.
Now in it's what got to be a whopper of a coincidence, the original Law & Order just wrapped its fourth episode of the upcoming 20th season, and that episode, called "Reality Bites" and tentatively slated to air Oct. 16, features five — count 'em, FIVE — comedians: Jim Gaffigan, Michael Showalter, Livia Scott, Baron Vaughn and Cole Escola. And there's nothing funny about the episode.
As Vaughn relayed to me — no spoilers, promise! — the plot revolves around a family of special-needs kids who were going to be portrayed in a reality TV show. "It's the opposite of funny," he said. "Just tragic."
Vaughn has two lines as a medical examiner. Scott plays the foreperson on the jury, and said being in the custom-built L&O courtroom was something else. "It's so impressive," she told me. She's also thrilled to become part of the L&O fabric. Showalter plays the reality-TV producer, so obviously, he gets to have some villainous lines, even if he may or may not be a villain. But we know in our hearts he's a hero, because he provided us with these lovely photos from the set via Twitter (@mshowalter)! Escola (Logo's new Jeffery and Cole Casserole) plays an autistic son of Gaffigan's character, and Escola wrote on his blog, "I have dialogue and a couple of scenes and that's all I should say because I don't want to give away any of the plot. I'm all wet 'n' sticky with excitement!!"
For Gaffigan, this Law & Order stuff must be old hat, right? He has been on regular L&O, SVU and Criminal Intent. He told me that walking onto the set and seeing so many familiar faces from comedy was a treat, but it wasn't intentional by any means. "We all got the jobs. It wasn't like, wouldn't it be cool if we had five comedians in one Law & Order episode," he said.
How did this episode differ from your past L&Os? "I play a guy who is somehow associated with possibly being a participant in a reality show," he said. "Considering that one of those (previous) times, I played a pedophile clown, and one time I played a plumber with an incredibly Greek name. And then the other ones I play a character where I was just the dim-witted guy…for New York actors, it's just so exciting to do that show, because it's been a staple for so long. It's also fun to do."
"When you're guest-starring on Law & Order, you get to play someone who, very close to you someone has just died, and then they say, 'Do that scene.' Or you've been accused of murdering someone. 'Do that.'" You'll have to tune in Oct. 16 to see if Gaffigan did either of those things.