15 Comedic Actors Who Appeared on Law & Order


Actors and actresses known for their comedic work can often get boxed into that particular genre. Yet during its 20-year run, Law & Order never shied away from casting both established and up-and-coming comedians in dramatic parts. Here are 15 of them. 

1. Jim Gaffigan

Best known for his work as a stand-up comedian, Jim Gaffigan’s appearance during Law & Order's final season had him playing an adoptive father with a household full of children who ends up accused of killing his wife. The twist? The children all have special needs, a situation Gaffigan's character believes makes his family ripe for their own reality show. His deceased wife was apparently a bit less enthused about the idea. The episode was Gaffigan's second Law & Order appearance; he popped up in a 1998 episode, too (plus twice on SVU and once on Criminal Intent).

2. Anthony Anderson

Though his early attempts at stand-up comedy ended in failure, Anthony Anderson has gone on to build an eclectic acting resume made up of all kinds of roles in a variety of genres. Despite that work history, he is most often talked about for his comedic ventures on shows like All About the Andersons (his first starring sitcom), The Bernie Mac Show, and his Emmy-nominated role on Black-ish. Yet Anderson proved his dramatic chops with his role as Detective Kevin Bernard, the serious and sometimes-conservative partner of Detective Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto), in the series' final two seasons.

3. Samantha Bee

From 2003 to 2015, Samantha Bee has served as a correspondent for The Daily Show, where she conducted interviews at the Republican National Convention and offered a theatrical interpretation of Fox News' The Five. Somehow, Bee made time in her schedule to take her turn on the Law & Order guest star rotation. Playing a talk show host on a show eerily similar to The View, her character becomes part of a blackmailing scandal when one of her former female staffers threatens to reveal their affair ... then ends up dead. 

4. Chevy Chase

Between Saturday Night Live and comedy classics like Caddyshack, Fletch, and Vacation, Chevy Chase has been a household name since the mid-1970s. Though rumors of difficult behavior have plagued him for years, Chase was willing to play a man arrested for drunk driving who spirals into an anti-Semitic rant reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s unfortunate tirade in a 2006 episode.

5. Rob Corddry

Rob Corddry trained at Upright Citizens Brigade, worked as a correspondent for The Daily Show, and created and starred in Childrens Hospital all before taking on a dramatic role in a 2009 episode of Law & Order. He played the owner of a website that was partially responsible for the death of a fashion photographer after they published his personal information online. 

6. Michael Showalter

Wet Hot American Summer co-creator Michael Showalter appeared in two episodes of Law & Order: First, in 2000, as a forensics expert; then, in 2009, he played a sleazy reality TV producer looking to exploit the family of a fame-hungry man (played by the aforementioned Gaffigan).

7. Jerry Stiller

From his work as one half of the husband-and-wife comedy duo Stiller and Meara to his Emmy-nominated role as Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, Jerry Stiller has been a major comedy force for years. But Stiller went outside the box when he guest starred on two episodes of Law & Order. First, in 1992, he played a lawyer defending a man of fratricide in the show's second season. Stiller's second appearance, which coincided with his time on Seinfeld, saw him playing another attorney—this time a real estate lawyer who is ill-equipped to defend his cousin of murder. 

8. Janeane Garofalo

After spending the bulk of the 1990s performing stand-up, starring in romantic comedies, and working on popular comedy series like Saturday Night Live and The Larry Sanders Show, it seemed like an unusual career move when Garofalo appeared in a two-episode Law & Order arc in 1997. As a movie producer in the show’s seventh season, she gets entangled in an investigation when the head of a major film studio is found decapitated.

9. J.B. Smoove

In the early days of his career, comedy was an after-hours thing for J.B. Smoove, who would perform in various clubs after work. Eventually he managed to attract the attention of some major network players and ended up writing for, and occasionally appearing on, shows like Saturday Night Live and Def Comedy Jam. Like a rite of passage for most New York actors, Smoove also guest starred on an episode of Law & Order playing the "criminal of the week" in 1998. 

10. Jason Jones

One year before his wife and fellow The Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee made her Law & Order debut, Jason Jones guest starred in two episodes of the show in 2009. Playing Len Pewls, an unsavory reporter, he first shows up in the episode "Promote This!" as the host of a talk show whose special episode on illegal immigration is seen on an iPhone by a group of jurors, which creates issues for the D.A. Jones showed up again a few months later as the same character, who is this time covering the story of a jewelry shop owner who killed a couple of would-be burglars.

11. Susie Essman

Susie Essman is probably most recognizable as the wife of Larry David’s manager Jeff on Curb Your Enthusiasm. But she’s been working as a stand-up comedian for more than 30 years. And over the past two decades, she has shown up on two episodes of Law & Order, plus additional guest spots on Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit. She first appeared in 1997, but her second appearance on the show in 2004 had her playing a member of New Jersey’s Organized Crime Task Force who gives Detectives Briscoe and Green the information they need to solve a murder that occurred at a popular mobster restaurant. 

12. Tony Hale

People started taking notice of Hale when he starred as the dim-witted Buster Bluth on Arrested Development. However, during Law & Order’s final season, Hale went the dramatic route to portray a desperate father willing to do anything to bring his daughter back into the country, after her mother moves her to Brazil.

13. Candice Bergen

The daughter of a famed ventriloquist, Candice Bergen stated that because of her good looks she never thought comedy was a possibility, even though she felt most at home in the genre. It wasn’t until she landed the title role in the series Murphy Brown—and won five Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes for her work on the show—that Bergen was able to really come into her own. At the same time she was perfecting her comedic timing on shows like Sex and the City, Bergen decided to book a spot on the legendary NBC crime show in 2004, playing a judge presiding over a murder case who ends up having her life threatened. Bergen must have enjoyed her time on the Law & Order set, as she returned a year later to play the same character on a handful of episodes of Law & Order: Trial by Jury.

14. Lewis Black

Though most people recognize Black as a seasoned comedy veteran, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that he began performing stand-up. Black actually began his career as a playwright, then segued into acting, where one of his earliest roles was as a porn director with ties to a young actress who dies from an overdose. 

15. Donnell Rawlings

Often recognized for his work on Chappelle’s Show, Rawlings hadn't always wanted to go into comedy; he had served in the military and planned on becoming a police officer. But one night, while at a comedy club after work, he began heckling a comedian, and was dared to come up onstage. He never looked back. Rawlings began fine-tuning his natural ability at open mic nights, but eventually decided he wanted to focus on acting. While taking classes in New York, he booked a 1998 episode of Law & Order; it was his first on-screen credit.

Matthew Simmons/Getty Images
How Accurate are Hollywood Medical Dramas? A Doctor Breaks It Down
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy get a lot of things wrong when it comes to the procedures shown on the screen, but unless you're a doctor, you'd probably never notice.

For its latest installment, WIRED's Technique Critique video series—which previously blessed us with a dialect coach's critique of actors' onscreen accents—tackled the accuracy of medical scenes in movies and TV, bringing in Annie Onishi, a general surgery resident at Columbia University, to comment on emergency room and operating scenes from Pulp Fiction, House, Scrubs, and more.

While Onishi breaks down just how inaccurate these shows and movies can be, she makes it clear that Hollywood doesn't always get it wrong. Some shows, including Showtime's historical drama The Knick, garner praise from Onishi for being true-to-life with their medical jargon and operations. And when doctors discuss what music to play during surgery on Scrubs? That's "a tale as old as time in the O.R.," according to Onishi.

Other tropes are very obviously ridiculous, like slapping a patient during CPR and telling them to fight, which we see in a scene from The Abyss. "Rule number one of CPR is: never stop effective chest compressions in order to slap or yell words of encouragement at the patient," Onishi says. "Yelling at a patient or cheering them on has never brought them back to life." And obviously, taking selfies in the operating room in the middle of a grisly operation like the doctors on Grey's Anatomy do would get you fired in real life.

There are plenty of cliché words and phrases we hear over and over on doctor shows, and some are more accurate than others. Asking about a patient's vitals is authentic, according to Onishi, who says it's something doctors are always concerned with. However, yelling "We're losing him!" is simply for added TV drama. "I have never once heard that in my real life," Onishi says.

[h/t WIRED]

When The Day After Terrorized 100 Million Viewers With a Vision of Nuclear War

Before Nicholas Meyer's made-for-television film The Day After had its official airing on November 20, 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan and his Joint Chiefs of Staff were given screening copies. In his diary, Reagan recorded his reaction to seeing Meyer's graphic depiction of a nuclear holocaust that devastates a small Kansas town, writing:

"It's very effective and left me greatly depressed. So far they [ABC] haven't sold any of the 25 spot ads scheduled and I can see why. Whether it will be of help to the 'anti-nukes' or not, I can't say. My own reaction was one of our having to do all we can to have a deterrent and to see there is never a nuclear war."

Just a few days later, the rest of America would see what had shaken their president. Preempting Hardcastle and McCormick on ABC, the 8 p.m. telefilm drew a staggering 100 million viewers, an audience that at the time was second only in non-sports programming to the series finale of M*A*S*H. According to Nielsen, 62 percent of all televisions in use that night were tuned in.

What they watched didn't really qualify as entertainment; Meyer stated he had no desire to make a "good" movie with stirring performances or rousing music, but a deeply affecting public service announcement on the horrors of a nuclear fallout. He succeeded … perhaps a little too well.


The idea for The Day After came from ABC executive Brandon Stoddard, who had helped popularize the miniseries format with Roots. After seeing The China Syndrome, a film about a nuclear accident starring Jane Fonda, Stoddard began pursuing an "event" series about what would happen to a small town in middle America if tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States escalated to catastrophic levels. Films like Dr. Strangelove had depicted moments between politicians debating whether to use powerful weapons of mass destruction, but few had examined what the consequences would be for the everyday population.


Reagan had dubbed the Soviet Union "the evil empire" in 1982, so the time seemed right to bring such a project to TV viewers. Stoddard hired Barnaby Jones writer Edward Hume to craft a script: Hume drew from research conducted into the effects of nuclear war and radiation fallout, including a 1978 government report, The Effects of Nuclear War, that contained a fictionalized examination of how a strike would play out in a densely populated area. Stoddard also enlisted Meyer, who had proven his directorial chops with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but considered the assignment a "civic responsibility" more than a creative endeavor.

Meyer and the film's producers selected Lawrence, Kansas (pop. 50,000) as the setting for the movie and got permission from city officials to turn their town into a post-apocalyptic landscape. Throughout the summer of 1982, tons of ash, dirt, and rubble were trucked in and spread over the ground; food coloring blackened farming crops. Thousands of locals were enlisted to portray victims of a nuclear attack, agreeing to roll in dirt and have their hair shaved off to simulate a miserable death via radiation poisoning.

Meyer believed that setting the film in a small town would make it more impactful and relatable to audiences. "Other movies that had attempted to deal with the subject of nuclear holocaust had always been set in big cities," he recalled in 2003. "But a great number of people in the United States do not live in big cities, so they were witnessing an event that seemed to bear scant relation to them."

That pursuit of realism wasn't always to the network's benefit. ABC originally planned a four-hour film to run on two consecutive nights, but filling up that much commercial time proved to be a challenge. Fearing a graphic and partisan display of anti-nuclear propaganda, many loyal advertisers refused to let their spots air during The Day After. (Meyer later joked that all the "generals" pulled out, including General Mills and General Foods.) They were ultimately able to sell a little over 10 minutes of commercial time, which prompted executives to condense the movie to a two-hour presentation. Meyer, who thought the script was padded to begin with, agreed with the decision.

ABC sensed that the film would be provocative and took unprecedented steps to handle the inevitable viewer response. A 1-800 number was set up to field calls from people concerned about an actual nuclear disaster; the network also issued pamphlets that acted as viewing guides, with fact sheets on nuclear weapons. Psychologists warned audiences would experience "feelings of depression and helplessness." Meyer was, in effect, making a disaster movie with the characters being offered no help of rescue. The film had been openly endorsed by anti-nuclear organizations as being a $7 million advertisement for their stance, and some TV industry observers wondered whether ABC would even air it at all.


Prior to The Day After's November 20 debut, actor John Cullum appeared onscreen and delivered a warning. Calling the film "unusually disturbing," he advised young children to be led away from the television and for parents to be prepared to field questions older kids might have.

A still from 'The Day After' (1983)

With that, The Day After commenced. It was every bit as terrifying as viewers had been told it would be. For the first 50 minutes or so, actors like Jason Robards, John Lithgow, and Steve Guttenberg established their characters in Lawrence, largely oblivious to an incident on the border of East Germany that triggered an armed response from both Russia and the U.S. As missiles fell, a mushroom cloud vaporized the community; those who survived were doomed to brief and miserable lives as radiation destroyed their bodies.

Dramatizing what had previously been a sterile discussion about nuclear defenses had its intended effect. Viewers shuffled away from their televisions in a daze, struck by the bleak consequences of an attack. The people of Lawrence, who had a private screening, were particularly affected—it was their town that appeared destroyed. Residents exited the theater crying.

What ABC lacked in ad revenue it more than made up for in ratings. The mammoth audience was comparable to Super Bowl viewership; the network even presented a post-"game" show of sorts, with Ted Koppel hosting a roundtable discussion of the nuclear threat featuring Carl Sagan and William F. Buckley. Sagan is believed to have coined the term "nuclear winter" on the program, while Secretary of State George Shultz argued the necessity of harboring nuclear weapons to make sure the nation could protect itself.

The experience stuck with Reagan, who signed a nuclear arms treaty—the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty—with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, leading to longstanding speculation that The Day After may have helped sober political attitudes toward mutually assured destruction.


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