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Lawyers Tell Jokes About Lawyers For A Good Cause

Lawyers Tell Jokes About Lawyers For A Good Cause
Most of us know some lawyer jokes, but not many of us know lawyers who tell jokes. Tonight, the annual LAF-off comedy competition in San Diego features lawyers doing stand-up...outside the courtroom. We'll get a preview of this raucous night of comedy, and learn it's all for a good cause.

Most of us know some lawyer jokes, but not many of us know lawyers who tell jokes. Tonight, the annual LAF-Off comedy competition in San Diego features lawyers doing stand-up...outside the courtroom. We'll get a preview of this raucous night of comedy, and learn it's all for a good cause.


Patti Zlaket, attorney with the Casey Gerry firm, who is also a contestant and last year's LAF-Off Winner


Attorney James Pokorny, Master of Ceremonies for the LAF-Off

Heather Rosing, CFO of the firm Kline-Dinst and co-chair of LAF-Off

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and your listening to these days on K P B S. Lawyers have been called many things hysterically funny is usually not one of them but that's only because most people have not attended the annual laugh off standup comedy competition here in San Diego the laugh off funny event the chance to leave the audience rolling in the aisles tonight at the house of blues. Here to give us a preview are my guest. Is an attorney with the [CHECK]he was last years laugh off winner Patti good morning.

ZLAKET: Good morning Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And attorney James Pokorny as master of ceremony good morning.


POKORNY: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And Heather Rosing is an attorney with the [CHECK] and co founder of the laugh off.

ROSING: Good morning Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for coming. James I have to warn you for to try to keep it clean because I hear the lawyers are eager to exercise their first amendment rights.

POKORNY: Hell yes we'll keep it clean.

CAVANAUGH: Now what your duties.

POKORNY: They haven't told me I think what I'm supposed to do is stand up at the front well come every one there's going be a song right Heather the rolling stones start me up.

ZLAKET: You we hired them.

POKORNY: The tape i think I bring everything to order introduce the judges[CHECK]

CAVANAUGH: Yes we are unfortunately.


CAVANAUGH: How are these contestants chosen? Is there a [CHECK] about who are the funny lawyers are?

ZLAKET: Yes. Well for example he's kind of in the group but he is known in the legal community for his wit and human so every year since 2007 this is our goal we just done informal service to find the funniest people we had to are because the right people just seem to come out of the wood work to the and now you actually get people on a waiting list

POKORNY: Absolutely I have three or four people being lined up it next year wanting to do this.

CAVANAUGH: I think this is a wonderful idea and it's really funny to think of lawyers in the audience lawyers on stage behind the pack phone. You won last year so which was worse waiting go on stage on or the par exam.

ZLAKET: We could have a whole [check] and we could dim the light have Kleenex to start discussing that experience this was hot of fun and it is serve because doing stand up is not as easy as it looks but much more fun tan the bar exam I promise to oh that's at least exciting what was your stand up routine like I don't want you to do it for us if you could remember any of that would be but is it about legal issues.

POKORNY: No I wouldn't say it's about legal issues I had a life before coming a lawyer i was a professional musician and part of my I like to engage audience by telling stories of the years most of my stories have bone about funny thing in my life my love life oh people seem to enjoy that, hearing about just how tough it is it be single in this day and age and so and thought you know what I know and I'm not going to be good at standing up there and just telling so I told stories you know people like to hear that your [CHECK]

POKORNY: That's exactly correct.

CAVAANAUGH: James, what's the percentage of people of the lawyers who get up at this laugh off stand up at the mic and they talk about lawyer jokes is that basically what it is.

POKORNY: It's really not. I mean as Patti said she talked about her own personal experience she did a great job she was clear the the winner the we've had I'm not going to say names last year we had a guy playing go tar and singing is our [CHECK] of stuff had of it not and you applied [CHECK] out of a man and I've done stand up and stand is tougher because it's think you never done now I'm it. But you get you get off color joke you get everything it's a tough crowd wouldn't you agree Patti.

ZLAKET: Yeah that's night goes on they've had drinks and so I think that helps but it is an tough crowd it was not an easy. It was not an easy win and will tell you that.

CAVANAUGH: Heather, I want to bring you in to give us some background on this event you helped found this. This was the 5th annual as he was telling us and did you found this competition because you felt there was an a need {check]

ROSING: Well that as good question I will say an an initial this is a very [CHECK] these of us who hang out at the sit down dinners and those have a place but we decided we needed something different, new. This event volunteer program which is a pro bono low program which are [CHECK] in a fun way so in 2006 we brain stormed we sat down and then we saw that a bunch of legal add aids were doing a comedy competition so we basically [CHECK]we've been doing it ever since.

CAVANAUGH: Were you afraid that they be there wouldn't be any interest in people actually to perform lawyers performance at an event like this.

ROSING: Absolutely immediately we rejected the idea of auditions we thought we'd be luck though wanted to do it I think because it's something different than practicing law you get up there tell jokes it's complete departure from our profession secondly and think people were anxious to benefit the cost {check]

CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit more about the San Diego volunteer lawyer oh gram it helps indigent people what kind of legal services does it provide.

ROSING: Good question luckily I have four or five [CHECK]that it's been around since 2009 Amy Fitzpatrick fit I just have to give a call out to her on the show because shes an amazing woman, education law project else [CHECK] we help women who are victims of domestic violence, people who suffer from AIDS HIV. A whole variety of projects and they're {CHECK} we have hundreds of attorneys who offer their hours in with thousand for example 24 thousand hours of pro bono services to the various causes of San Diego volunteer program that's about five million dollar in legal services.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you very much for that. I'M speaking with Heather Rosing and James Pokorny and Patti Zlaket and we are talking about tonights event at the house of blues call the laugh off it is a standup comedy competition among lawyers here in San Diego and we're trying to figure out what in the world can be funny about that I all three of you before we sat down here to speak on the air. Who was it that told me that lawyers like actually like to hear lawyer jokes.

ZLAKET: Oh I think I was mentioning to you when you could me what kind of jokes do they like to hear, they like if when you make fun of them I found that I poked fun at of course myself in this profession and I think as earlier said we have to their ourselves so seriously so much of it time because we're doing serious work but when you finally get sort of with he that and start one another about it things that make us all [CHECK] where people seem to really respond to.

POKORNY: I think when you first start practicing Law the first time you go into court and you start to learn the system you realize that clients are relying upon you to carry their you are to take the role seriously but I agree we don't have to take our selves seriously we can crack joke in the hall way lighten up the judge as well in chambers so there's with two sides I think lawyers are okay with lawyer jokes.

CAVANAUGH: I want to open up the phones just a little bit to see if the are any lawyers who want in on this conversation talk about whether or not there's anything funny about being a lawyer or perhaps if you have a lawyer joke you want to tell. The number 1 888 895 KPBS. 1 888 895 5727 [CHECK] there's a kind of a legal ease story that kind of cracks lawyers up can you give us I hate to put us on the pot can you give us an example that would really go over well.

POKORNY: Well I told a joke to another group of lawyers about the fact that you know that we all sort of talking around a subject it takes us instead of going Tom A to B direct line we can go from A down to W to way M and then a circle and lawyers know that's true and whether it's part of the practice or part of strategy or just part of the game it happens and so I think I told the joke about settlement negotiation again and just was taking a chance and the crowd erupted and I said okay I guess I hit accord so again we don't always do thinks in an easy way but that's part of what makes it funny that's really funny settlement negotiation and you killed on settlement.

the language is import apt but there's an under tone for example if you don't agree at all what the judge is telling you it you preface your next comment with due respect to court what your really saying is your a horses ass {CHECK} your showing this respect to the court you can so it same to counsel as well apposing counsels argument is [CHECK] who means he's way off point we check we are latin terms that things like that it's fun that's had the latin we ever learn.

CAVANAUGH: Now I'm wondering Patti is there a problem when your writing your act because you kind of censor yourself just formally you know.

ZLAKET: I can't write things down I to sort of I can't do it I have to know in my way what I want to talk about and then I sort of practice you know with my dog and if he walks into the other room and know that I'm not killing it's not funny but I can't script it out like that it's just not the way that I work so when I'm practicing law everything is scripted out but not when I'm trying to be funny.

CAVANAUGH: So lets find out what the actual rules for contestants.

ROSING: Basically five minutes stand up comic routines out the years it's [CHECK] five minutes and if you don't finish in five minutes he has a horn and pulls you off the stage.

POKORNY: We have lights this year we have lights flashing in their face and then the drummer goes da da da but having done the stand up and Patti you are to and didn't hear that at all I was town said into the audience.

ZLAKET: I was sort of flirting with the drummer.

POKORNY: Can we talk about that the outfit you wore oh my gosh of course you won. As you can see Maureen there's not a whole hot of rules we just tell them to go up there be funny be sensitive to issue that a normal person would be sensitive of working in six minutes super funny Patti here your just not going to keep them.

CAVANAUGH: Are there any topics that are off base that are out of bounds.

ZLAKET: You know we don't constrain comedians our but we found a couple of things sometimes don't go over too well but you know generally you can say what you want but overly sexual tones tend to be a little less funny if people aren't laughing it doesn't matter how funnt they think that it is if you've it's just not a topic people want to hear if they tell you because you can hear crickets in room this is not a bunch of 18 year old at 11 o'clock at night after a bottle of tequila [CHECK] more dangerous so you just got to know your audience but I'm tell you I hear what Patti and say about it being a tough audience but I think it's some ways it's kinds[CHECK] they've never done stand up and they get up there and their nervous and they're not even that funny but I think the audience is kind to them.

CAVANAUGH: Patti I know you have to go on tonight can you may be give us a couple of minutes.

ZLAKET: Oh geez I could but then I would have to kill you I'm sorry you know I've been so busy this last to two weeks that I've just today start today think about what I want to do and may bring you into this somehow I may make fun of you and ruin my chances of ever coming back to KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: So what do you win when you win this thing.

ROSING: Five million dollars actually the first year I was in charge and we I think it was 20 dollars of [check] forget that I went and got that not because I was [CHECK]

CAVANAUGH: And so my goodness.

POKORNY: I'm holding before me a slightly used [CHECK].

CAVANAUGH: [Check] now the judging of the laugh off is kind of {check].

POKORNY: It is a number system I don't think there's a zero it goes one through nine the three judges listen do row teen and at the end of the it contestants depart the stage and confer a little bit and then we hold up the numbers and the crowd applauds or boos as they agree with the judges and then we add them all up so if you got throw [CHECK] had most got that that's pretty.

CAVANAUGH: Now I have to ask you these lawyer jokes and have to can you your favorite lawyer jokes.

POKORNY: You didn't tell us that you'd ask us now your putting us on the spot.

ZLAKET:: The one you were just referenced what do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean that has made me laugh over the years

CAVANAUGH: And nothing Heather?

ROSING: Well and wasn't brought on the show to be funny I was here the give information about the San Diego lawyer program so I'm just going to kick this one to Patty.

ZLAKET: I think I said I heard more lawyer jokes before i became came a lawyer and maybe people don't want to say them to me now.

POKORNY: Well I can think of one and this was during law school and it was criminal matter apparently he had to go on a business trip before the jury came back and when it jury came back they found in favor of this person in the [CHECK] showing how hold old I am and it said [CHECK] he got back was appeal that was the first lawyer joke I ever learned and it was in law school.

CAVANAUGH: That's not bad at all I wonder since you have the old hand hear Patti in the sense that you have won this competition with what kind of advice to you are it your competitors tonight.

ZLAKET: Well I think Heather's first piece of advice is the best don't go too long and if you win you need to be prepare said do it again and a again and again throughout the year because there must be a hundred at these other events so I performed five times last year as a result of winning the laugh off so if I pass the crown off to you know and what the one it the next winner that person will be busy. [CHECK]

CAVANAUGH: I have to tell everybody what's going to happen tonight. At four 30 the doors of the house of blues will open you can watch the aztec game and then show time for the lawyers funny the laugh off stand up comedy competition the time is at six 15. Thank you all so much for coming in and next time when you come back I want these lawyer jokes.{check}

ZLAKET: We'll reenact the whole evening it you next time.

MR. POKORNY: Next time a couple of nice big mugs and bring all the jokes you want.

CAVANAUGH: If you would like to comment please go online KPBS.