Guilty Pleasures: Comedy and Law in America

ISBN : 9780190625764

Laura Little
272 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jul 2018
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Few people associate law books with humor. Yet the legal world--in particular the American legal system--is itself frequently funny. Indeed, jokes about the profession are staples of American comedy. And there is actually humor within the world of law too: both lawyers and judges occasionally strive to be funny to deal with the drudgery of their duties. Just as importantly, though, our legal system is a strong regulator of humor. It encourages some types of humor while muzzling or punishing others. In a sense, law and humor engage a two-way feedback loop: humor provides the raw material for legal regulation and legal regulation inspires humor. In Regulating Funny, legal scholar Laura Little provides a multi-faceted account of American law and humor, looking at constraints on humor (and humor's effect on law), humor about law, and humor in law. In addition to interspersing amusing episodes from the legal world throughout the book, the book contains 75 New Yorker cartoons about lawyers and a preface by Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor for the New Yorker.


Preface by Bob Mankoff; Introduction; A. On, About, In . . . Law's Intersection with Humor; B. The Power of New Yorker Cartoons; C. Humor Scholarship; 1. Humor Inventories; 2. Major Theories of Humor; a. Superiority Theory; b. Release Theory; c. Incongruity Theory; Chapter 1 On: Law's Effect on Humor; A. An Unwitting Passage into the Comedy Business: How Courts Become Humor Critics When Indirectly Regulating Humor; 1. Intellectual Property Law: Parody as a Favored Child in Trademark Law; 2. Tort; a. Defamation; b. Other Torts; 3. Contract; 4. Workplace Humor and Harassment Cases; 5. Endnote on Indirect Regulation; B. The Frontal Attack: Punishing the Jokester, Muzzling the Comedian, and Regulating the Punster; 1. Punishing the Jokester; 2. Muzzling the Stand-up Comedian; a. Fines, Punishment, and Supreme Court Opinions: Comedians as Outlaws Turned Heroes; b. Shaming by Self-Regulation: Beating Up on Each Other; C. The Unusual Case of Hate Speech; D. Humor's Push Back on Law: Censorship Humor; Chapter 2 About: Humor about Law; A. Lawyers; 1. Crafty and Cunning: Disloyal Lawyers as Allies of the Devil; 2. Money-Grubbing Vultures; 3. Proliferating Lawyers; 4. The Future of Lawyer Jokes; B. Judges; C. Juries; 1. Stupid Jurors; 2. Lazy Jurors; 3. Misbehaving Jurors; 4. Common Sense Jurors; D. Gender and Race Meet Humor and the Law; 1. Gender; a. Female Lawyers; b. Female Judges; c. Female Jurors; 2. Race; E. The Legal System and Legal Texts; 1. The Legal System; 2. Legal Texts; F. Can Satire Inspire Change?; Chapter 3 In: Humor in Law; A. Funny Lawyers; 1. Advice Giving, Media Spinning, and Social Justice Advocacy; 2. Negotiation and Mediation; 3. Adversary Litigation; B. Funny Judges; 1. In-Court and Extrajudicial Humor; 2. Humor in Opinions; C. Funny Legal Instruments; 1. Contracts; 2. Wills; D. Funny Laws; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index

About the author: 

Professor of Law and Government, Temple University Law School

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