Jodi Weisberg delivers the humorous goods at the 2015 lawyer-comedy competition (photo by Ruth Howe, Rotary).

Jodi Weisberg delivers the humorous goods at the 2015 lawyer-comedy competition (photo by Ruth Howe, Rotary).

I’m happy to report out the following news I received about an annual lawyer-comedy competition. (No, not comedy about lawyers; comedy by lawyers.)

In the past I’ve written about this annual competition. You can read my coverage here and here.

Congratulations to Jodi Weisberg, Bob Howard, and Matt Storrs.

Jodi Weisberg won the 2015 annual John O’Connor Comedy Competition. She is the only two-time winner of this contest, which began in 2011. She has been performing stand-up comedy for more than a decade.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and the Rotary 100 Club, began this competition in honor of John O’Connor, who had a wonderful sense of humor, and was a past President of the Rotary 100 Club.

“It is always such an honor and a thrill to perform for Justice O’Connor and her family,” said Weisberg. “It is a wonderful feeling to make her laugh!”

Weisberg won the competition in 2011, was a judge in 2012, and not allowed to compete in 2013-14. She was invited to perform this year. Bob Howard placed second, and Matt Storrs took third place.

First place prize was $2,500, and Rotary donated $2,000 to the University of Arizona, where Weisberg received her M.S. and J.D. degrees.

John and Sandra Day O'Connor in their Paradise Valley home (undated photo)

John and Sandra Day O’Connor in their Paradise Valley home (undated photo)

Among those featured in tonight's Bill of Rights Comedy Concert will be (L to R) Chris Bliss, Dick Gregory, Lewis Black, Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, Tom Smothers, and John Fugelsang.

Among those featured in tonight’s Bill of Rights Comedy Concert will be (L to R) Chris Bliss, Dick Gregory, Lewis Black, Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, Tom Smothers, and John Fugelsang.

A quick item today urging you to enjoy some free expression to its most hilarious extent. “Let Freedom Laugh!” Bill of Rights Comedy Concert debuts tonight. It is headlined by Lewis Black, who will be accompanied by Dick Gregory and Tom Smothers; rising stars Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, and John Fugelsang; and special appearances by Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, and Penn Jillette. The event will be telecast on AXS TV (more detail below), and it is the brainchild of Chris Bliss and MyBillofRights.org. Yes, the same people who brought that stunning Bill of Rights Monument to downtown Phoenix. Not only did Arizona get the first monument (slated to be installed in every one of the 50 state capitals). We also witnessed the organization’s first comedy event, held at Phoenix Symphony Hall back in May 2012. The newest and most recent concert was shot at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Interested in how and when to watch it on your own TV or device tonight? Go here for more information for your location. Celebrating the Bill of Rights may never have been as hilarious as this.

Sixth Amendment monolith unveiled by then-Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, December 15, 2012.

Sixth Amendment monolith unveiled by then-Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, December 15, 2012.

You think elections have gotten personal? In Arizona, one candidate wields the wooden stake. (Happy Halloween!)

You think elections have gotten personal? In Arizona, one candidate wields the wooden stake. (Happy Halloween!)

Today is the Change of Venue Friday that precedes Election Day. And it’s also Halloween. So I am going to take a few scary risks: (1) This post could sway a major Arizona election, and (2) After reading this, your Halloween—and government—may be even more frightening than you had expected.

AZ Mine Inspector logo

The state race I’m discussing drills down to the core of who we are as residents of a Western state. Of course, I refer to the Arizona Mine Inspector race.

I must declare a conflict right away, as our own 18-year-old daughter has declared her own intent—just to her family and a few friends—of being a write-in candidate for this very race. With no actual mining experience or education, I do not expect her to prevail. #prouddad. But duly disclosed.

The pitched battle for Mine Inspector is being waged to unseat incumbent Joe Hart, who has been in the position since 2007. Here is some background on Hart from the official state page. And if that’s not enough, here is a Wikipedia page about him. (Yes, there is a Wikipedia page for Arizona’s Mine Inspector; if you don’t have your own page yet, you’re clearly not trying very hard.)

But what has been a sleepy and relatively uncontested race has been changed this year by a write-in candidate committed to … ridding Arizona’s mines of vampires.

Ian Kobe is the fellow’s name, and his campaign may make you chuckle and creep you out all at the same time. You can see more about his wooden stake-based campaign on his Facebook page.

Here are a few images/status posts from his page:

 

Ian Kobe State Mine Inspector 2

Ian Kobe State Mine Inspector 3 Facebook post

Ian Kobe State Mine Inspector 1 skull and crossbonesI must add that I’ve been surprised at the small (or no) coverage given to this unique approach to mine safety (which, let’s admit, is a pretty good fake and comic campaign). But it seems that Kobe has cornered the market on Dracula-free tunnels.

Have a great—and oh-so-frightening—weekend.

Comedians at Law logo

They’re in town Jan. 30.

Note: This post was updated to reflect the fact that on January 24 organizers consolidated two shows into one. The show at the Tempe Improv was consolidated into the Stand Up Live show on Thursday. All Tempe tickets will work in Downtown.

As I’ve said before, lawyers make me laugh. And occasionally, that’s their goal.

Next week, you and I have the opportunity to see that second kind of attorney—the intentionally funny ones. That’s when a slate of talented lawyer–comedians take the stage at Stand-Up Live in Phoenix.

So let me start by saying you should buy tickets (no, no one paid me to say that). Click the link above to get to the ticket page. And when you get to the payment page, adding the word LAWYER to the promo code box gets you half off (did you hear me? Half off!).

I plan to be at the Phoenix event (yes, I paid for my own ticket), and I’m looking forward to it. As you may know, I have a rich and Borscht Belt history of admiring comedians. Here is a post I wrote about a local competition of attorney–comics.

Next week’s events include the comic genius (or at least idiot-savant-ness) of attorneys Bob Howard, Nancy Stanley and Matt Storrs. They will follow the headliner, Matt Ritter.

Their joint efforts are part of what’s called Comedians at Law, self-described here:

“Because of their passion for comedy and their desperate desire not to practice law, the Comedians at Law joined together to travel the country, deliver their diverse and intelligent brand of humor, and entertain audiences at law schools, bar associations, law firms, comedy clubs and anyone else willing to cut a check that can be used to pay down their student loans.”

“The reaction has been overwhelming. Comedians at Law are in demand, and members of Comedians at Law have appeared on Fox News “On the Record,” CBS, Sirius/XM’s “Raw Dog” Comedy (as guests and as guest-hosts of their morning program), and in The Wall Street Journal and CNN.com. Comedians at Law: Good at Law. Better at Comedy.”

Want to see more? Here is a video about those legal humorists.

So who’s with me? If you plan to be at the Phoenix event, let me know. It’d be nice to meet others who like to laugh at lawyers (in a good way!).

It’s been a long week. Time for a laugh.

Scott Rose of the Cavanagh Law Firm, Phoenix

Scott Rose

I’ve been offering you arts-related content this week (e.g., here), and today I remind you of an event that honors the art of the wisecrack: the Second Annual “John J. O’Connor Phoenix Rotary 100 Humor Contest.”

The event will be on Friday, February 1, at noon, and is sponsored by the Phoenix Rotary 100. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will be the guest of the Club that day. As lawyer and emcee Scott Rose has described Justice O’Connor’s husband John, “He was a great lawyer, quite the raconteur and President of our Club in 1977-78.”

I wrote about last year’s inaugural event; you can read “Try the Veal, Tip Your Lawyer” here.

Some additional photos from that event are here, on the magazine’s Facebook page.

John J. O'Connor Humor Contest finalists with Sandra Day O'Connor, Oct. 2012

2012 contest finalists and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. L to R: Ryan Nelson, Matt Shorrs, Justice O’Connor, Jodi Weisberg (first place), Trevor Cox and Bob Howard

The important thing to note now, today, is that there is a deadline approaching for those among you who think you’ve got what it takes, comedically. You have two weeks to complete the application, available here. Of course, if you have hilarious friends, feel free to pass this on.

Don’t delay. Applications should be in as soon as possible because there will be preliminary judging on January 24 at the Phoenix Country Club. And as Scott says, acts “can be 3 – 6 minutes of classic stand-up comedy, funny stories, war stories, humorous anecdotes or whatever they choose.”

Prizes? Yes, there are prizes: $2,500, $1,500 and $500 to the top three contestants. And $2,000 will be paid to each of ASU, UofA and Phoenix School of Law on a rotating basis (ASU being the recipient this year).

If you’ve got the chops, it’s time to trot them out to an appreciative public. Fellow lawyers look forward to laughing along with you.

Have a great weekend.

John and Sandra Day O'Connor in their Paradise Valley home (undated photo)

John and Sandra Day O’Connor in their Paradise Valley home (undated photo). (Click for Arizona Attorney Magazine story.)

Tonight—TONIGHT, y’understand!—a troupe of lawyers will try to make you laugh. On purpose, rather than the other by-accident kind of way.

At a downtown Phoenix comedy club, the lawyers of Comedians at Law will aim to find the humor in your legal life, your livelihood, and everything you may hold dear. And there’ll be drinks. Here is a description from their publicity material:

“In 2011 six attorneys with backgrounds in government, politics, private practice and business got together to form a business that relied on their collective expertise. But when Strippers-At-Law was a miserable failure they realized, fortunately, that they were also all stand-up comedians. With that realization, Comedians at Law was born. C-section.  Because six grown men would have been a very difficult natural birth.

(click for larger version)

“Combining their diverse and intelligent brand of humor with a desperate desire not to practice law, Comedians at Law has travelled the country entertaining law schools, comedy clubs and anywhere else with someone willing to cut a check towards six sets of student loans. 

“The group’s six members represent a cross section of law and comedy, but what they all share in common is an unbreakable bond of having disappointed all of their parents. Members of Comedians at Law have appeared on CBS, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Fox and CNN.”

More information and tickets are here.

And here is the troupe’s own website (and yes, they’ve got merch they want to move). They’re even on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m pleased to see some attorney comics on the scene. It was just last fall that the inaugural John J. O’Connor Humor Competition was launched (read about it here). And according to tweets from Comedians at Law, one of that event’s comics—Phoenix School of Law student Matt Storrs—will share a mike for part of tonight’s show.

Curious how to get there? Here’s a map:

I leave to you, dear reader, to determine whether it is truly “comedy so good it should be illegal.” But I did feel waves of familiarity wash over me when I read their tagline: “Bad at Law. Good at Comedy.”

If you go, let me know if you agree.

Example of stonework to be used in Arizona monument to the Bill of Rights.

A May 13 comedy concert at Symphony Hall in Phoenix promises an impressive roster of nationally known comics. Tickets, expected by event organizers to sell out quickly, go on sale at 10:00 a.m. today on ticketmaster.com.

The concert aims to raise funds for the installation of a Bill of Rights Monument in Wesley Bolin Plaza at the State Capitol in Phoenix. The planned dedication this coming December would signal the first such installation in the United States. No state or other public monies are being spent on the monument; organizers say they must raise $400,000 to complete the project. (State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield is on the Executive Fundraising Committee.)

Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss, executive director of MyBillofRights.org, is spearheading the monument project. He worked with event expert Danny Zelisko to develop the comedy evening. Comics slated to appear will be Lewis Black, Bill Engvall, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dick Gregory, Kathleen Madigan, Tommy Smothers and Steven Wright. Musical guests from the band Little Feat will be Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett.

Bliss says that individual ticket prices are reasonable and well worth the comedy talent that will be on display. But he urges anyone interested in a “Hall of Fame comedy experience” to consider purchasing special VIP seating. Called the Founders Circle and President’s Circle, the seats are described more fully here. According to Bliss:

“Founders Circle seats include an invitation to the artists’ reception before the concert, and a signed lithograph (by all the artists) of the event poster. The President’s Circle is available to individuals, but is also for businesses and firms of any size that want participate in this truly historic project. Individuals at the firm/business make their tax-deductible contributions to MyBillofRights.org, and both the individual and the firm/business get recognition in the concert program and on our website, along with a block of premium seats determined by the total amount. Or businesses can contribute directly through the fiscal sponsorship of the Arizona Community Foundation.”

The Monument is touted by Bliss as a historic legacy for the state, “one that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will get to visit and be inspired by.”

For more information, see my previous coverage here, here and here. And view a story by a local Fox affiliate here.

A longer story on the Monument project will appear in the May Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Poster for May 13 comedy concert

Example of stonework to be used in Arizona monument to the Bill of Rights.

Updated with more information as of March 9:
A lawyer, a stonemason and a comic walk into a bar

No, that’s no good. How about …

What do you get when you cross Justice Lewis Powell with comic Lewis Black?

Hmmm.

Sorry, I’m working on possible ledes for a story in an upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine. And it involves some odd mashups of professions.

Poster for May 13 comedy concert

On Change of Venue Friday, I typically take us far astray from law practice. And why not? Let’s get this weekend started.

Today is no different, for I get to share news of an upcoming comedy concert. Of course, it’s not entirely divorced from law. For it is related to the creation of a Bill of Rights Monument in Arizona, the first of its kind in the nation. (I wrote about it here.)

Today, at a noon press conference at Symphony Hall in downtown Phoenix, the talent-packed bill was announced for a comedy concert that will be a major fundraiser for the Monument. Appearing at Phoenix Symphony Hall on May 13 will be:

  • Lewis Black
  • Bill Engvall
  • Bobcat Goldthwait
  • Dick Gregory
  • Kathleen Madigan
  • Tommy Smothers
  • Steven Wright

And then there will be musical guests (from Little Feat) Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett.

Chris Bliss and promoter Danny Zelisko discuss the May 13 comedy concert, at Tom's Tavern, Feb. 29, 2012.

For good measure, I understand that comic Chris Bliss will also perform. (Chris, of course, is also the Executive Director of MyBillofRights.org, the event organizer.)

Tickets will go on sale Monday, March 19, at 10 a.m., and they’re likely to go fast (reserved seats will be $53 to $98 + convenience fee, via Ticketmaster, and at Phoenix Convention Center box office).

(A previous event, on Wednesday, February 29, at Tom’s Tavern in downtown Phoenix was the venue for a gathering of lawyers and judges committed to getting the memorial erected. Those attendees got a preview of the May 13 comedy lineup.)

Danny Zelisko and State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield, at Tom's Tavern, Feb. 29, 2012

My story on the project will appear in the May Arizona Attorney. In the meantime, here are some more photos from the event at Tom’s Tavern. Have a great weekend.

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Finalists and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. L to R: Ryan Nelson, Matt Storrs, Justice O'Connor, Jodi Weisberg (first place), Trevor Cox and Bob Howard

Lawyer jokes rarely sit well with the profession, and for good reason: Those jibes are often mean-spirited and, worse, inaccurate.

But an event last week turned that rubric on its head. The John J. O’Connor Humor Competition offered up some of the funniest people in the profession, all for a good cause.

It was held at the monthly meeting of the Phoenix Rotary 100, generous and gracious hosts. And as you may have guessed by the event title, the effort is founded on a legal legacy.

John O’Connor contributed much to the profession and to the Rotary, as well as to his community and family. He and his wife, Sandra Day O’Connor, made a huge impact on the state.

Jodi Weisberg

Given that impact, it is not surprising that friends of the family asked the O’Connors what they could do to commemorate John’s life—a scholarship, an annual lecture?

What was surprising was the O’Connor family response: Let’s integrate some comedy to recognize John’s love of humor.

And so the competition idea was born. Winners would receive real dough–$3,000 for 1st place down to $500 to 4th place, all of which was to be funneled back to law students or law schools.

Specially selected comedy judges culled the group of applicants to a manageable number. And then on October 14, the final five lawyers and law students strode up to the stage and offered their best three to six minutes of comedy. To add to their pressure of playing in front of a full house, Justice O’Connor herself kindly attended (and she smiled and laughed occasionally, too!).

Lawyer Scott Rose outdid himself as emcee—he should have gotten a little of the winner’s purse himself!

(Thank you to UA Law’s Nancy Stanley, who got me a ticket to the event and who served as a pretty humorous lunch partner herself!)

To capture the day’s spirit, I will share the best joke or two from each finalist. That determination was made by me, based on my own laughable comedy standards—and the room’s response that day. Complaints or disagreements should be sent to the appropriate department.

In reverse order:

Fifth Place: Ryan Nelson, 3L at Phoenix School of Law

  • As the school year goes on, law school gets to be a more and more competitive place. In fact, you’re more likely to find Moammar Quaddafi in the library than a copy of the 2011 Probate Statute Book.

Fourth Place: Trevor Cox, 1L at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University

  • I’m a law student, so naturally I’m here because I smelled lunch.
  • Benjamin Franklin said the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance. Clearly he never went to law school.

Third Place: Matt Storrs, 1L at Phoenix School of Law

  • My mom told me that God never gives us anything we can’t handle. He must have a blind spot when it comes to mortgages.

Second Place: Bob Howard, lawyer at Jekel, Howard & Thomas, Scottsdale

  • My practice is in divorce, or, as I call it, anti-family law.
  • There are two marital statuses: single and pre-divorce.

First Place: Jodi Weisberg, Solo practitioner, Phoenix

  • As I get older, I find I care so much less about so much more.
  • When I was growing up, if I had ever told my parents I had googled myself or someone else, I would have been in big trouble.
  • When I was 7, my brother told me I was adopted. I asked my mom, who said, “Yes, dear, it’s true. But they returned you.”
  • Despite what you may have heard, women lawyers don’t now and have never suffered from subpoena envy.

Congratulations to all those who took part in this fantastic event.

More photos from the event are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.