Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Good taste or bad sense of humor?

I made what I thought was a very witty remark in class today.

I was teaching a case in which the plaintiffs were suing a New Jersey-based defendant in state court in New York. The New York court had the option of applying the law of any of four different states to decide the case: New York, New Jersey, Ohio or Texas. Trust me, this can happen.

Anyway, the plaintiffs would win the case if the court were to apply the law of New York, Ohio or Texas, but would lose the case if the court were to apply the law of New Jersey. So I said:
So, if we're the plaintiff's, our strategy is: "anything but New Jersey." Which happens also to be a good strategy for all of you when planning your next vacation.
Pretty good, right? Dead silence. Are New Jersey jokes so worn out? Or offensive? How could that possibly be the case in a law student crowd in My Home Town?

Anyway, I had no choice but to resort to the age-old standup comedian's trick of deploying a well-worn "save" line, one that makes a joke out of the failure of the joke just told:
You should know that I made up that last joke on the spur of the moment -- it wasn't pre-planned. Does that make it funny?
Scattered, mild laughter. But they made me beg for it -- I felt so cheap.

Hey, good joke man. I would have laughed if I were in your class.

I hope you weren't expecting some witty riposte to that from me.
In my state we prefer Illinois or Minnesota jokes. Maybe they weren't aware that NJ was a state because its so little and shaped like a "J".
To Oscar:
Therapeautic message
Don't feel bad, ok? We all mess up sometimes. I disagree with MT a little, but I bet if you try again, using a shorter, catchier word Trust me, you'd have 'em.

Good luck finding that Iowa case out there somewhere.
I laughed.
I don't remember a lot of Jersey bashing in Kentucky either. Now Tennessee.. we'd make fun of that state.
I teach two important cases that shaped economic recovery in negligence: one is from New Jersey (Peoples Express) and one is from New York (Madison Avenue). I have a field day with the comparison. Ultimately, Madison Ave. triumphs if only because it is the more recent decision. That makes it all the more funny. Typically, if the students hadn't had a "kick NJersey's butt" attitude before, they walk away with it after that.
It's coming up next week -- I'll tell you how it goes. And I'll tell them to sign up for your classes in the future because you're all aboout NJersey and may present a different perspective on the odorous state.
It's a good joke, but I see two problems.

1. The "New Jersey is bad" perspective is a New York thing. A New Yorker putting down New Jersey feels like it would be a put down for all the unglamorous states -- like Wisconsin.

2, New Jersey actually is a good place to go for vacation. The shore is quite beautiful. Have you seen the sand on those beaches? The boardwalks? Only Turnpike people go on about the smell and so forth. Also, "The Sopranos" have made New Jersey seem cool.
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And on a lighter note than pure nuremberg trial , check out the funniest trial transcript ever! If it's not serious enough of a topic, well, just pretend it's the Brit's version of nuremberg trial !
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