Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/18)
Legal Suppliers

Law and humour go together for Strigberger

Comedy came early into the life of legal humourist Marcel Strigberger.

“It was probably around Grade 2 after I came in late from a medical appointment,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com, explaining that the check-up had to be cancelled because the doctor was feeling unwell.

As Strigberger explained his absence, the teacher became an unwilling participant in an Abbott-and-Costello style double act: “doctors don’t get sick, you’re the one who’s sick!”

Meanwhile, the routine was going down well with the student audience, and Strigberger had an epiphany.  

“The kids thought it was hilarious, and I thought, ‘I like this,’” he says. “It was such an uplifting feeling to hear all that laughter. It was a turning point in my life.”   

Strigberger says his interest in the law followed close behind, explaining that it flowed naturally from his new position as the class clown. The one person in the room unamused by his debut show was the teacher, who punished him.

Strigberger also found his jokes made him a target for others in authority, forcing him to advocate for himself in various situations.

“If I thought I was treated unfairly, I would fight back,” he says. “I soon learned that lawyers deal with justice.”

After completing his BA, comedy took a backseat in Strigberger’s life, though he was able to do some freelance writing for CBC in Montreal while at law school, where he also wrote the faculty’s parody show, The Wizard of Laws.  

He has also written sketches for CBC radio and television programs, including Funny You Should Say That and Royal Canadian Air Farce, while his stand-up career has seen him share the stage with comedy icons Bob Saget, Howie Mandel, and Jim Carrey, among others.

During a 42-year career as a criminal, civil litigation and family lawyer, he also managed to cram in two books: Birth, Death and Other Trivialities and Poutine on the Orient Express: An Irreverent Look at Travel.

In addition, Strigberger has been published in a number of legal and non-legal publications, including the Toronto Star, Globe And Mail, Canadian Lawyer, and Lawyers Weekly.

He says humour was also baked into his approach while practising litigation, and says more lawyers could benefit from injecting a dose of humour into their personal and professional lives.

“Some are afraid to use it because they think they’re not going to be taken seriously,” Strigberger says. “But I think it’s an important skill. There’s research out there that suggests people who use humour generate more morale, creativity and respect. Life’s better when you look at it through the lens of humour.”

Since his retirement from law last year, Strigberger has begun work on his third book, a meditation on aging including frustrations with modern technology, and has also stepped up his public speaking commitments, where he continues to address judges, lawyers and non-legal audiences.

“The problem is that the law burns up so much time, and there’s only so much you can do at night and on weekends. I’ve never been able to do as much writing as I wanted to,” he says. “It’s only taken 42 years, but now is as good a time as any to focus on comedy and humour.”

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