Gotham Comedy Club in NYC held a "Funniest Lawyer" contest and – who knew lawyers were so hilarious you couldn't decide – it was a tie! Jocelyn Chia is actually a former corporate attorney who specialized in capital markets, M&A and private equity. She's now head of corporate events at The Magnet Theater, providing improv, public speaking and other creative training for companies including Google and LinkedIn. Tares Vazquez is a staff attorney for a big firm who works in document review – not for the gratifying "You can't handle the truth" monologues, but for the work-life flexibility. Both are competing Tuesday July 15 at Gotham against the winners in other categories, including funniest teacher and funniest sales rep, for the ultimate title of "New York's Funniest Professional." It's like the Miss Universe pageant, only with fewer swimsuits (we hope) and more jokes. We interrogated the lawyers and here's what they had to say.
What made you want to get into law?
Jocelyn Chia: I went into law school thinking I was going to do something along the lines of becoming a lawyer in the United Nations, the State Department or on Capitol Hill. However, like many law students graduating with heavy debt, the lure of working for a Big Law firm was too tempting, and I ended up becoming a corporate lawyer instead.
Tares Vazquez: A lot of people apply to law school for the same reason that college-aged kids get suckered into pyramid schemes selling knives door-to-door. They heard stories about some idiot who managed to make over six-figures in their first year and they ignore the fact that for the most part everyone else they know ended up bitter and in debt. I thought I knew better and wanted to work in public-interest law, but these student loan payments are no joke! I tried to sell out the first chance I got.
Jocelyn, why did you leave law?
JC: Even within my first year of law school, it became quite clear to me that law was not my passion. There were definitely students at Georgetown for whom law was clearly their calling, and I was not one of them. One couple I knew would actually have dates where they listened to recordings of Supreme Court arguments over a glass of wine, and that was their aphrodisiac!
Jocelyn, how do people react when you tell them you're a former lawyer? High five? Chest bump? Is your mom disappointed?
JC: Most people don't even blink an eye. Former lawyers are so commonplace, people usually react by saying "Oh, my so-and-so is a former lawyer too." That's often followed by a "He/she is much happier now!" My mom, however, is devastated. She still harbors hopes that I will change my mind and return to the law, and still emails me legal job postings.
Tares, you have joked about being a 'fake lawyer.' Aren't you breaking some law by saying that? Are you really a lawyer?
TV: Sometimes people will come up to me after a show and ask if I'm really an attorney which I think is hilarious. Lawyers aren't exactly looked upon favorably, so I don't know why anyone would lie about being one. I guess I was attempting to be tongue-in-cheek about my actual job description. Temp lawyer doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
We recently heard how trader brains worked differently than regular people's brains. How are lawyer brains different?
JC: Lawyer brains have been trained to come up with a perfectly constructed argument for why something should be so, and then turn around and come up with a perfectly constructed counter-argument that destroys the first argument. This is why people in relationships with lawyers can never win an argument! We already see the argument you are likely going to come up with before you have even thought of it, and have our counter-argument ready and waiting when you do.
Lawyer brains are also constantly on the look out for legal liability. We can't help it! Just last week I was at a café and a waiter dropped a glass, and a shard of glass flew onto my table, landing right next to my friend's dish. She goes "Wow, I hope none of the glass entered my food." My first thought was, "Ah hah! A law suit waiting to happen!"
Does having a legal background help with stand-up comedy?
JC: In some ways, yes. Some of the best jokes are based on air-tight logic – a comedian states a ludicrous sounding proposition, and then comes up with the arguments for why he is right, and at the end of the bit the audience is like, "you know what? I see his point!" The downside though is that lawyers tend to be extremely long-winded … [Editor's note: Sorry, we had to cut you off so Tares could speak.]
What was the best lawyer joke you ever heard? Or, were none of them good?
TV: There are only 3 lawyer jokes. The rest are all true stories.
Hit me with your best bit (law-related).
TV: Everyone thinks that lawyers make a lot of money, but I've got six-figures in student loan debt and a glorified temp job. That's like buying a house, and then setting up a lemonade-stand to pay off the mortgage.
JC: Lawyers drink a lot of alcohol, which makes us really sh*tty lawyers. Somehow alcohol doesn't make me a sh*tty lawyer though. It just makes me an amazing . . . slut. (Yeah the men really like that one, they always ply me with drinks afterwards! )
More jokes, please:
JC: Mattel just launched Entrepreneur Barbie, with her own LinkedIn page. Under "Experience," she has listed "Skating, disco dancing, and ruining the body image of millions of girls worldwide." (Here's a clip of Jocelyn's winning set.)
TV: I treat my student loans like they're herpes. They pop up every month, reminding me of that one bad decision I made …
… but I just keep pretending I don't have them!
If you can't get enough of funny lawyers, check these guys out tonight at Gotham Comedy Club at 7pm. Plus, check them on the Interwebs: Jocelyn on Twitter @jocelynchia and on her YouTube channel. And Tares on the Twitters @TaresVazquez and on Facebook.