Top Three Stand-Up Comedians Who Were Lawyers

Mark Thudium Columns, Lawyer 14 Comments

It shouldn’t seem strange that a profession such as law, with all of its dull, earnest subject matter and buttoned-up disciples, produces as many professional funnymen as it does. After all, you hopefully read on this site every day how well a Bitter Lawyer can translate into a comedic one.

For whatever reason, there’s something about a Juris Doctor degree that draws closeted stand-ups into its tractor beam.  Some become lawyers just to make their mamas proud. Others are lured by the promise of a more lucrative career—or at least one that doesn’t (usually) include the word “struggling” in the job title. But every year, for better or worse, a handful of brave souls ditch the prestige of law to pursue a life in the two-drink-minimum spotlight.

One example is Alex Barnett. Over the years, Alex has chronicled his transition from Ivy League-educated law firm partner to humble comedian in a series of columns he wrote for the New York Daily News. “Creating a funny routine is as hard or harder than writing a persuasive brief that a lawyer would submit to a court,” he confessed in November 2009.

Well, as much as we’d like to care about the comparisons and struggles, the net result is that you’re either funny or you’re not. (And Alex is.)

Many lawyer-comedians have tried to make us laugh. These are simply the ones, we think, who do it best.

3. Demetri Martin

Should a law school drop out make the list?  Well, yes—if he’s really damn funny. Comedian Bob Newhart flunked out of law school, and if he were slightly more . . . umm, current, he would have made the list. So we let Demetri Martin slide and put him at #3. After all, he still made “the list” of famous NYU Law alumni.

Anyway, after two years of excellent grades, Martin dropped out of NYU Law as a 2L in the late 90’s.

“In the summer after my first year, I was a White House intern in Bill Clinton’s domestic-policy office,” he told A.V. Club.  “When I returned for my second year, I decided to find something I liked more. So at the end of the school year, I dropped out to pursue a life of temp jobs and open-mics.”

And it worked out. Last year, Martin starred as the lead in the Ang Lee-directed film Taking Woodstock. But mostly, he’s done some pretty hilarious stand-up comedy since being a 2L—and even has his own show on Comedy Central.

2. Al Lubel

Al Lubel is a classic example of a man who became a lawyer to please his mother. Practicing law and stand-up comedy simultaneously in Los Angeles, he knew it was time to pick a direction when “[a]t the comedy clubs, the crowds would stare; in the courtroom the juries would laugh.” So he quit the law, and a year later, he won the $100,000 grand prize for his comedy routine on Star Search.

Most recently, you may have caught his cameo in the Adam Sandler movie Funny People, where Judd Apatow explores the world of a stand-up comedian.

Despite success, he does admit to miss being a lawyer.

“I’d like to have one more trial, something serious like a murder trial because as my client’s fate hangs in the balance I’d like to see his reaction when I whisper in his ear…I’m a comedian!”

1. Greg Giraldo

Hardly your average Harvard Law grad-turned-Skadden associate, Greg Giraldo is now best known for being hilariously insulting—often on Comedy Central roastsPunchline magazine rated his comedy album, Midlife Vices, the best of 2009. We first discovered Greg as a guest on Adam Corolla’s podcast when they kicked off the interview by having a hilarious rip session on law school and lawyers. Listen to it here.

Update: Sadly, Giraldo died from an overdose in September 2010. Here’s a tribute that someone put together shortly after his death.

Alright, sticklers. Who’d didn’t make the list that should be on there? Lambast us for it.

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  • Guano Dubango

    Very interesting.  What about the flip side?  There must also be some comedians that went on to become good lawyers, no?  I want to marry a good looking female lawyer with a sense of humor, but all of the law women I have attempted to woo into marriage are sour-faces, and look like they just ate a rotten banana.  If these women would only smile, perhaps they would become more attractive.  The women need cleaner teeth.  I do not like yellow teeth.  I suggest women interested in marriage not walk around with such scowls on their faces.  It is not attractive at all.

  • BL1Y

    I’m confused, I thought this was top 3, not bottom 3?

  • PGuy

    This is pearls before swine. One thing all true lawyers have in common is a complete lack of a sense of humor. this is necessary, because if people like LF10, BL1Y, Mr. 162, or the various Bitter and Abused folks had any capacity for humor at all, they wouldn’t be able to ignore what a complete and total joke their lives have become. Snark away, you losers. The rest of us are here to laugh AT you not with you.

  • Anon

    Giraldo’s da man!  Funny as hell!  Bl1y: The more you post, the more it becomes clear why you’re unemployed!

  • Cheryl

    Let’s hear your top three, Bl1y.  Annnnnd go!

  • BL1Y

    One time a partner in charge of one of our projects held a meeting during which we were all scolded for not billing enough hours.  Half the people in the room had been given notice that they were being laid off.  This guy was the Andy Kaufman of lawyer comics.  …Or just a terribly confused and out of touch old man.

  • Rudy

    Greg Giraldo is awesome funny.

  • puhlease.

    After I saw him perform one night, I have to say that Demetri Martin is such a douche. If he never passed the bar, hell, if he never even finished law school, then why is he on this list?

  • BurkahBarReviewBabe

    The best stand-up comedian / former lawyer is Dean Obeidallah of the Sultans of Satire crew. Through his comedy, he’s brought a lot of positive attention for the middle eastern community. Fordham Law Grad. Check it:

  • BL1Y

    Demetri Martin would be pretty respectable if he weren’t trying so hard to look 10 years younger.

  • Anonymous

    I think that all 3 of these men are dick-weeds.  If you want a good stand up comic, you must listen to Jackie Mason.  He is the greatest.

  • Fonzie

    You forgot Rich Fulcher from the Mighty Boosh (he’s big in the UK, maybe less so in the US). From an interview with him on the BBC website:
    “Mom I’m Not a Lawyer
    Now Rich, is it true that you really went to Law school, and your parents don’t know that you’re a comedian?
    Fulcher (laughing): I did a show called Mom I’m Not a Lawyer which was exactly about that topic. Well, they sort of think I’m an agent now, so every time I tell them I’m working, it’s about the show I’m doing… so I’m almost there. And I did go to Law School for three years, and I graduated and took the bar. But I realised I didn’t want to practice when I realised that… how do you say it? That it was boring as f**k.”

  • Alex Barnett

    Just want to thank Mark for the shout-out.  I’m still pursuing comedy, and hopefully getting funnier.  And, maybe, one day, I’ll make this list of very funny people as not just an honorable mention (which is most gratifying) but with a number.
    If anyone wants to see my stuff or contact me, please go to:
    And to any lawyers out there who are thinking of chasing the dream—do it.  You’ll be so happy you did.

  • Josh

    What about John Cleese (Monty Python, etc.)?  He went to law school at Cambridge.