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Law in Popular Culture

1980s-era lawyer jokes were unique to US, sociologist says

Posted Mar 28, 2014 11:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Nearly every country has stupidity jokes, though the ethnic target of the humor varies by region.

But just one country—the United States—saw a rise in lawyer jokes in the 1980s, according to British sociologist Christie Davies. Slate spoke with Davies as part of a series of stories on humor.

According to the article, “the so-called Great American Lawyer Joke Cycle of the 1980s didn’t spread anywhere beyond the United States.” Davies viewed the jokes as unique to America because it is the only country rooted in the sanctity of law at the same time those who practice it are scorned.

Davies is author of Jokes and Targets. In this book excerpt, Davies says lawyer jokes became popular as income differences widened between high and low-earning Americans, competition increased in the legal profession, and incomes within the profession varied significantly.

The jokes are a "strange tribute to the distinctive American virtues, to the emphasis on rights, legality, due process, limited government, free speech, rugged individualism, and the American dream that anyone can make it," he writes in this book excerpt.

Hat tip to PrawfsBlawg.

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