I’ve stumbled across a disturbing link between comedians and lawyers.
No, it’s not that they’re human. A staggering 47% of comedians in Australia have either studied or practised law. While I let that ridiculous number sink in, we should all be asking why the heck did they give up the corporate high-life to do something that terrifies any well-adjusted human?*
I put four comedians on the stand. I ask three simple questions. Will they answer in English or elaborate lawyer-lingo?
Strap yourself in for more drama – and less ads – than an episode of Judge Judy.
Meet the defendants
Craig Reucassel is part of “a satirical media empire which rivals Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in all fields except power, influence, popularity and profitability.” It’s The Chaser BTW.
Alice Fraser has done a gig in a butcher’s shop next to a rotating meat display, which she said was much more stressful than being a corporate lawyer. Her eyes are blue. You’re going to have to trust me on that.
Amos Gill isn’t some kid with potential who’s learning the ropes. He’s there now. The Herald Sun said that. I won’t tell you the colour of his eyes because you can see them for yourself.
James O’Loghlin is the most lawyer-ish looking person here. He appears quite serious and commanding, but he’s pretty darn funny. That suit must’ve cost a few hundo at least. #LawyerMoney
Let the cross-examination begin!
Why did you even go into law? I mean, you do need an unfairly generous IQ and some impressive HSC results.
Mainly because I liked arguing. As one of those annoying school debaters the ability to argue professionally drew me to the law. But I also found some of the subjects interesting, for instance human rights law very interesting. Contracts Law not at all interesting.
I didn’t have a better plan? No really, I got the marks, my dad said it was a good set of things to know, and I figured it would be nice to learn about the structures we use to run the world.
I was in the debating team all through school, so studying law seemed like going pro. Now you just need Twitter. I was terrible at maths but could waffle on in history and English. But it was settled when I watched The Castle. I knew I wanted to be Dennis Denuto.
Because I got the marks and didn’t know what else to do. I was going to do Arts, but thought I should combine it with something more vocational. 5 years later I’d become a lawyer. I had this idea of being a court advocate – and I eventually ended up doing that as a criminal lawyer – but many lawyers never set foot in court.
Four #lawyers who quit to become #comedians. Three simple questions. Here are their answers. Click To Tweet
When was the moment you decided enough! – it’s time to become a comedian?
I only realised I wasn’t going back to the law after about 8 years in TV. We started the Chaser newspaper and ended up doing our first election show for the ABC while I was still at uni. I always thought it was just a hobby that would end any moment and I’d end up back in the law. Now any return to the law is more likely to be as the defendant.
I can remember it, but I can’t describe the event (libel laws being what they are). It was mainly an accumulating sense that, looking at the money I was earning per hour, I would happily spend that amount of money to buy my time back. So I think of myself as a very well paid comedian, spending the money I’m not earning on my freedom. Cheap at the price!
When I found out that lawyers can’t leave the bench and walk around the court. No leaning on the jurors box, pointing wildly at people. You just stand here and say “may I please the court?” Visiting the Family Law courts.
I was working as both a lawyer and a comedian for 8 years from 1991. It’s great to have a dream, but it’s smart not to put all your eggs in one basket. I enjoyed being a comedian, but I didn’t know if I could rely on it as my main source of income. So I’d come home from my job as a lawyer, have a nap and then go out to a comedy club. After 6 years of that I went part-time as a lawyer, and then in 1999 I felt secure enough to resign. I think the turning point was when I got sick and realised that I was run-down from doing both jobs for so long.
LAWMEDIAN: Lawyer who decides to throw in the towel to become a comedian. #LifestyleChoices Click To Tweet
How does a background in law help you in comedy?
The law does help you in our career, although less so on the comedy front. We are constantly dealing with legal challenges for our scripts or stunts. Even though we never covered this kind of stuff in law school it’s still useful to have a bit of an idea how the law works.
I think legal training helps you be reconstructive and analytical. It also drills into you an awareness of how much your time’s worth. So you find yourself working fairly hard, compared with some other comedians. I think comedy can be a very easy job or a very hard job, depending on how you approach it. I like working hard, so for me it’s a hard job that makes me very happy.
I find that my comedy is me prosecuting an idea, using jokes as evidence. A law degree is also a nice thing for your nan to tell her rotary friends you have.
Both law and comedy are similar in that;
– they are both about using the language. Layers are very careful and precise with words. Similarly, a good joke has to have the exact right words in the exact right place. For both you have to like words
– they are both about grabbing the attention of an audience and persuading them of something… whether it’s to laugh(comedian) or to listen to your argument in court (lawyer)
– both work at night a lot (but lawyers also work all day)
a legal background is of course also very valuable when there’s negotiations, or with a contract
Being a criminal lawyer gave me great perspective. When you do a bad comedy gig, the temptation is to think everything’s a disaster. Fronting up to court the next morning to represent people who had far bigger problems made me realise that a bad gig wasn’t so bad after all.
If you’re considering a comedian for your next event, you’ll want the tricks on how to book the perfect one.
Would you rather laugh or be sued? Let me know in the comments below!
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