Usually I try not to mix the law and my humor pieces, but sometimes the world forces me to do it. I came across a federal court decision which contained this language: “Humor is an important medium of legitimate expression and central to the well-being of individuals, society, and their government. Despite its typical literal ‘falsity,’ any effort to control it runs severe risks to free expression as dangerous as those addressed to more ‘serious’ forms of communication.”
That’s a lot of serious language about a light topic. What it says in plain language is this: humor is a legitimate form of expression. Not only is it legit, but it is necessary to the mental health of people, our society, and the government. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we are doomed. Doomed, I tell you, doomed. Despite the fact that most jokes rely on B.S. and exaggeration for effect, any attempt at regulating humor is just as dangerous as regulating what people can say in other forums. It’s a First Amendment right y’all – the very Constitution says lighten up and take a joke, man.
Obviously, I’m paraphrasing, but seriously. Funny is funny.
Of course, mean is also mean, and humor is subjective. You have the right not to think a joke is funny, and you have the right to be offended by whatever nonsense the jokester says. Jokes based on racial or sexual stereotypes are, at best, eye-rollers for me and more often than not make me want to lecture the teller and force them to sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap.
But not sue them. Part of freedom is the right to be unfunny in an attempt to tell a joke. Goodness knows if I got sued every time I tried to be funny and wasn’t I’d be bankrupt several times over.
The point is we should try. Life is so stinkin’ serious. Life forces you to deal with death and debt, taxes and thunderstorms, colonoscopies and car crashes. If you can get a good laugh out of any of those things, even a tasteless laugh or a marginally funny one, seize it with both hands and refuse to let go. The sad and stressful things will find you if you aren’t looking for them, the amusing things need to be found.
Look for them.
There’s a Mr. Rogers quote that goes around every time something tragic happens: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” That’s a wonderful sentiment and it does help you see the good in the world. For all the chaos and all the bad people doing bad things, there are always rescue workers, there are always people providing water and blankets and aid and comfort.
There are also always people trying to make you laugh, trying to distract you from those awful feelings that are kicking you in the belly. They’re helpers, too. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said so, and who am I to disagree?
 My day job
 What I wish was my day job
 Moore v. Cohen, et al., 19 Civ 4977 (JPC), p. 20, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Filed July 13, 2021.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.