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!).

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After taking Christmas Day off (a holiday miracle), I continue the Christmas theme today by pointing you to some film reviews from an unlikely source—law librarians.

Specifically, today I point you to the blog of the Law Librarians of Congress. Titled In Custodio Legis, the blog ranges far afield on topics that the librarians think may be engaging to legal readers. And so we get movie reviews.

What makes this post oh-so-timely is that the author decides to provide reviews of Christmas movies. And these are not reviews like many other folks would do them. You know, “If there’s any movie I’d suggest curling up with this season, it’s Miracle on 34th Street.” Not even close.

To get what I mean, here is how the assembled librarians examined that film:

“The film concerns a man named Kris Kringle, who works as a Santa Claus for Macy’s and who, by his shining example, inspires even Mr. Macy and his chief competitor to embrace the spirit of giving during the season. Kris, due to an unfortunate event, ends up being the subject of a competency hearing because he believes he is the real St. Nick!”

“New York State at the time of the movie (immediately after World War II) had several methods for committing individuals who were thought to be a danger to themselves or others. One such procedure was upon the finding of ‘… a judge of a court of record of the city or county, or a justice of the supreme court of the judicial district in which the alleged mentally ill person resides or may be …’. Kris is tried in New York City by a Supreme Court judge (in New York the Supreme Court is not a court of appeals). The local prosecutor represents the State and Kris is represented by his friend, Fred Gayley. The procedures followed in court are not very accurate. Fred is able to convince the court, in part through the sage advice of the judge’s political advisor, to accept the existence of Santa Claus. The issue in dispute then shifts to the validity of Kris’ assertion.”

Do you get the idea? These are reviews that lawyers and judges can sink their teeth into.

Library of Congress logo

Here’s some more:

“The Blog Team suggested Home Alone and Love Actually as other possible candidates. For Home Alone the legal issue would be at what age, if any, does Illinois state law allow children to be home alone. I checked the Illinois code on this point and found that Illinois defined a neglected minor as any child under the age of 14 who is left at home alone unsupervised by a parent or guardian for an unreasonable period of time. However this specific section of the Illinois code, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d) was not passed until 2009—almost 20 years after the movie originally occurred.”

I’ll leave you to discover what they said about Love Actually, and how they remind us that a viewing of Gremlins could be aided by a close reading of The Restatement of Torts.

Read the entire post here.

After you do that, be sure to bookmark the blog, because these are some brilliantly messed up individuals—exactly like many of my favorite people in the law! Merry Christmas Redux.

clueless Santa

This holiday season, you may not be the only one who is clueless about great gifts.

Last year as we approached Christmas, I linked to the talented Washington State Bar Association, which recommended some holiday gifts for lawyers.

I’ll do the same this year, but there is a reason I’m posting this on Christmas Eve, giving you virtually no shopping time:

This year, the WSBA’s shopping list is tongue in cheek. That is, you can’t actually buy these presents anywhere (and the links they provide are fake, so don’t try clicking them).

I suspect those who are still desperately trying to finish their shopping will not think the joke is too funny. But for those who are done—or beyond caring—enjoy the funny column here. And then have a wonderful Christmas.

Breaking Bad actor Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

If even Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman (played by actor Bob Odenkirk) said no to a client’s case, take a pass.

A benefit of reading and writing all the time is that you pretty regularly come across content that’s terrific and that you wouldn’t ever have imagineered yourself. Today, I’m pleased to pass on a comical and insightful piece that deconstructs the words of a potential client’s previous lawyer. Well done!

If you’ve ever listened in disbelief as a potential client explains what a previous attorney said, this post is bound to resonate with you.

Let me know what you think. Here is the Unwashed Advocate (whose hilarious “About” page is here), who opens:

“I often get calls from potential clients who’ve previously contacted other lawyers. Invariably, the following is said during these conversations. … I’d like to help … by translating what the other lawyer said. Here goes.”

Prepare to chuckle in recognition as he “translates the lawyerese.”

Keep reading here.

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.

On this Change of Venue Friday, there may be no more random news to share with you than ongoing preparations for the Zombie Apocalypse. And that planning is occurring right here in Arizona (our state, a leader once again).

It was about a month ago that I heard about a unique Iowa Law Review article penned by an ASU Law Prof, Adam Chodorow. His article? “Death and Taxes and Zombies.”

Read the abstract here. I would wager that throughout the SSRN database, this is the only article with the following keywords: income tax, tax policy, estate tax, trusts and estates, zombies, undead, vampires, ghosts.

News of the article came from ASU Law Dean Doug Sylvester, whom I was interviewing for a September Q&A in Arizona Attorney Magazine. Our conversation was fascinating, but even more noteworthy for his uttering the word “zombies.” That, in my experience, is a first.

Professor Chodorow is taken with all the challenging tax consequences that may flow from a zombie apocalypse

Coverage of the zombie article has come from near and far. In fact, one of the most humorous news articles can be found on Forbes.com, where contributor Peter J. Reilly explores Chodorow’s piercing questions, like “What if your bride becomes a vampire?”

Here is a little of the brain-eating analysis from Professor Chodorow’s abstract:

“The U.S. stands on the precipice of a financial disaster, and Congress has done nothing but bicker. Of course, I refer to the coming day when the undead walk the earth, feasting on the living. A zombie apocalypse will create an urgent need for significant government revenues to protect the living, while at the same time rendering a large portion of the taxpaying public dead or undead. The government’s failure to anticipate or plan for this eventuality could cripple its ability to respond effectively, putting us all at risk.

“This article fills a glaring gap in the academic literature by examining how the estate and income tax laws apply to the undead. Beginning with the critical question of whether the undead should be considered dead for estate tax purposes, the article continues on to address income tax issues the undead are likely to face. In addition to zombies, the article also considers how estate and income tax laws should apply to vampires and ghosts. Given the difficulties identified herein of applying existing tax law to the undead, new legislation may be warranted. However, any new legislation is certain to raise its own set of problems. The point here is not to identify the appropriate approach. Rather, it is to goad Congress and the IRS into action before it is too late.”

Congratulations to Professor Chodorow for taking a legal swing at the undead problem. Have a wonderful, zombie-free weekend.

L to R: Roxie Bacon, ASU Law Dean Doug Sylvester, Hon. Patricia Norris

We all learned at law school that an oral promise may rise to the level of a binding contract.

So you’d think UA Law Dean Ponoroff would have paused before agreeing to the challenge leveled at him earlier this week.

If we give you an ASU Law School shirt later this week, will you wear it in public?

He sat at the Board of Governors meeting Tuesday, and a passing parade of civil procedure rule petitions may have blurred his thinking and weakened his resolve (or maybe that was just me). Whatever the case, Dean Ponoroff agreed. “Yes, yes I would,” he intoned to a roomful of people who are trained to never ever ever forget anything.

And so, comes the Law Dean long about a Thursday morning. He enters a Biltmore conference room to participate in the annual Ethics Game Show pitting him and his team against a similar squad from ASU Law School.

You know what’s coming. Yes, he had a 100% cotton shirt in his future, courtesy of Bar Governor Lisa Loo. And ethically (at the game show), the Don had no choice but to don it. Here are a few photos (click them; they get bigger).

Dean Ponoroff and ASU Law School Dean Doug Sylvester helped the crowd laugh and enjoy the morning. Here’s wishing U.S. News had a ranking for that.

Of course, they were only part of a rousing and hilarious panel at the Game Show. Besides a turnabout T-shirt, it also included ASU Law and UA Law teams, in costume. And, just to add to the hilarity, ASU’s mascot Sparky was present to rouse his team—and to do pushups when the ASU team nailed an answer.

If you’re interested in milk-out-the-nose laughs combined with legal education, the Game Show is the ticket.

Panelists were Dan Barr, Kurt Zitzer, Susan Kayler, Keith Swisher, Kim Demarchi, David Sandweiss, Roxie Bacon, Hon. Patricia Norris, State Bar CEO John Phelps, Steve Hirsch, and Deans Ponoroff and Sylvester.

Congratulations to all the speakers, as well as emcees Lynda Shely and Pat Sallen, and moderator Hon. Ruth McGregor, on another successful and laugh-filled program (and ethics credit!).