What is Criminal Law Humour and Do I Like It?
Why are there so many Jewish comedians? From Jerry Seinfeld to Rodney Dangerfield to Mel Brooks to Larry David to Seth Rogan, what is it about the European Jewish culture that produced so many hilarious minds? After practicing criminal law for many years, to me I have come up with an answer – it is a culture that emerged from suffering and hardship.
There are other reasons of course, but humour is a defence mechanism against hardship that increases the odds of survival.
Criminal lawyers use humour for the same reason – to survive and persevere in difficult situations. Our clients are in a lot of trouble. The stress of a trial is sometimes indescribable. Reputations and liberty are on the line. Humour helps us manage all of this and do our jobs.
Criminal law humour is not for everyone. I learned this the hard way by telling a joke about something that happened in a case that I thought was hilarious to a non-criminal lawyer type who gave me a very nasty and austere look and then complained about me to a mutual friend of ours. It was a good lesson for me that criminal lawyers are a unique type of person and I should be careful about who I share our brand of humour with.
I will not say any of the jokes I have heard over the years because I do not wish to cause offence or provoke that nasty look. But if you are interested in criminal law, it is worth asking yourself: would I find it funny to hear a joke about a criminal case? Or would I find it offensive? Criminal lawyers often joke about their cases and the ones that do are more likely to persevere for longer on the job. Humour also can be a helpful asset in front of a jury.
Without humour it makes it that much harder to do this job. A criminal law sense of humour confers an evolutionary advantage on us, the way it did the Jewish community of Europe. I have seen enough criminal lawyers drop out to know.