What is a celebrity paradox? Basically, it’s an instance where one character in a universe refers to a different character in another universe played by the same actor. They’re winks at the audience. They’re meta jokes. They’re fun. Here’s an example before the 15 other examples: In a Mad About You episode, someone asked the character, Paul Buchman, if he’d ever seen any of Alien movies. Buchman responded that he’d only seen the first one. Paul Reiser, who played Paul Buchman, was of course in the second Alien film, Aliens. Wink wink, nod nod, ha ha.
Here’s 15 much better examples of celebrity paradoxes.
1. In Stargate SG-1, a reference is made to “MacGyvering” a situation in a scene with Richard Dean Anderson, who was of course, MacGyver.
2. In an episode of Mork and Mindy, Mork Meets Robin Williams, who is the actor who plays Mork. This one tore a tiny hole in the space-time continuum.
3. In Seinfeld, Newman and Kramer talk about the magic loogie theory in the spitting on of Keith Hernandez. They refer to the magic bullet scene in the movie, JFK, a scene that featured Wayne Knight, who plays Newman.
4. In a scene in Scrubs, JD tells the Janitor that he saw him in a scene of The Fugitive, which was actually Neil Flynn — who plays the Janitor — as a cop in The Fugitive (this is an amusing subversion of the celebrity paradox, since the Janitor concedes that it was, indeed, him who was in The Fugitive).
5. Likewise, in the second-season finale of Cougar Town, Ted from Scrubs is confronted by all of his old Scrubs co-stars in different Cougar Town roles. It nearly causes him to have a nervous breakdown.
6. This one is yet another subversion, of sorts: Creed Bratton on The Office jams on stage in a scene on The Office, and then in the confessional, talks about his time in the band, the Grass Roots, which is true. Creed Bratton is playing a character named Creed Bratton who used to be in the Grass Roots, just like Creed Bratton, the real-life person.
7. In an episode of The Naked Truth, starring Tea Leoni, there’s an entire episode about the real David Duchovny stepping out on his girlfriend. Tea Leoni, at the time, was his new girlfriend. In fact, at one point in the episode, someone asks, “Who is Duchovny’s new girlfriend?” and Leoni replies, “Oh, she’s just some dumb blonde on a sitcom.”
8. In one of my favorites, John Lithgow and William Shatner share a scene on 3rd Rock from the Sun and refer to a bad experience they had on an airplane. That shared experience is one that characters played by both Lithgow and Shatner had in Twilight Zone the movie and Twilight Zone the TV series, respectively.
9. In this episode of Sandford and Son, Fred Sanford enters a Redd Foxx lookalike contest. Fred Sanford, of course, is played by Redd Foxx.
10. I absolutely love this one, too: In an episode of Eight Simple Rules, the character of John Ritter — who played Jack Tripper on Three’s Company — has a dream in which he’s Mr. Roper on Three’s Company, and his daughter is in a Three’s Company situation.
11. In this Community one, Abed asks Annie how his Don Draper impression is; Annie is played by Alison Brie who, of course, also plays Trudy Campbell in Mad Men.
Bonus: Pierce Hawthorne’s favorite movie is Fletch, which starred Chevy Chase.
12. In an episode of Married with Children, Peg Bundy looks with disgust at a movie called Dutch while she and Al Bundy are in a video store. Dutch, of course, starred Ed O’Neil, who plays Al Bundy.
13. This one is not quite a celebrity paradox, but it’s close enough: In a scene on Raising Hope, Garret Dillahunt’s character kicks an NBC executive in the nuts for canceling My Name Is Earl, which was created by Greg Garcia, who also created Raising Hope.
14. In an episode of Castle, Nathan Fillion’s character dresses up as Mal Reynolds, a character that Nathan Fillion played in Firefly.
15. Finally, in this episode of House, M.D., the DVR of Gregory House shows episodes of Blackadder, a British show that starred Hugh Laurie, who plays Gregory House.