SCOTUS Humor

I take great pride in the fact that of all the stupid things I’ve ever written, the one that has gotten by far the most attention was a 3 page joke “study” of Supreme Court oral argument humor called “Laugh Track” that took me about two hours to write. I published the “study” in an awesome legal journal called The Green Bag (this is the study). Adam Liptak of the New York Times read the study and thought it was funny enough to write a goofy piece about it for the Times. The NYT story ran on December 31, 2005. Because it was maybe the slowest news day of the year, the piece ran on the front page. Liptak’s article got a lot of attention and was mentioned in all sorts of radio and television and print stories. I did lots of interviews, including one with Jake Tapper for ABC’s Nightline in which I said “uhh” a lot.

In 2007, I did a follow up “study” which was published in the Yale Law Journal’s online companion site.

On my blog in 2008 and 2009 I ran a few updates, including pieces on Breyer and Kagan.

During Kagan’s confirmation hearing, Senator Schumer (whose chief counsel may or may not be a good friend of mine) referenced my original study when asking the nominee whether she might give Scalia a run for his money in the laughter department.

In January 2011, the Washington Post ran an article about a non-funny follow up study to my study published in the Communication Law Journal; the Post article mentioned my study several times. Then Liptak wrote this piece in the Times about the new study and my old study. As he reported, my reaction to the new study was that it “pretty sure it makes me want to die.”

In June of 2012, at the American Constitution Society’s Annual Convention, my former boss Justice Ginsburg referred to the study, and to me, though not by name, at about the 8 minute, 10 second mark, in what I think was a pretty funny speech about the 2011-2012 term.

In early 2013, Justice Sotomayor mentioned the study (though again not me by name) on The Colbert Report (at about 1:20).

A bunch of years ago, the hosts of Wait, Wait on NPR asked Justice Breyer about the study.  He said something like “being the second funniest justice is like being the shortest tall person.”

Justice O’Connor has a couple of pages about the study in her recent book “Out of Order,” which I reviewed in the Boston Globe.

Justice Kagan talks about the laughter study for like a whole minute in her conversation with Dean Minow at Harvard.  She refers to me as “somebody.” The link is here (around the 9:50 mark).

I’ve been keeping track of the laughs in real time on twitter.  Follow me at @SCOTUSHUMOR.  (Scalia won the contest again in the 2012 and 2013 terms).

“Laugh Track”: the gift that keeps on giving.

Who is the Funniest Supreme Court Justice graphic from NYTimes