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Nina L. Kaufman felt something was missing — a little something to spice up her life, something that might even help her on the job at New York-based law firm Paltrowitz & Kaufman. “So I started going to comedy classes. I had an inkling I should try to be funny,” she said. “I’d been dreadfully dull beforehand. I’d gone to law school, see. “Then, of course, there’s my personal life. An all-consuming nightmare. I mean, did you ever do online dating?” she asked. “How come when guys put up their photographs, they’re always in a group? “Or else it looks like they’re standing over on the other side of the Hudson River?” Ba-da-bing! The result? Nina Kaufman took last year’s top honors at the annual “Funniest Lawyer Contest” at Stand-Up New York Comedy Club. The first of what usually becomes three rounds of competition is set for the evening of March 6. The final winner — judged by a panel of his or her peers — stands to receive a one-night paid booking at the Upper West Side club. Robert Anzelowitz is the impresario in charge of specialty evenings at Stand-Up New York. “Funniest persons in different categories, it’s what I do,” he said. “Some nights work well, some are disaster areas. Never, ever go to see a therapist who thinks he’s funny! “Lawyers, though — now they’re funny,” he said. “Frustrated hams. All of them.” Take, for instance, T.C. Tanis, the New Jersey lawyer who won a few years ago. Back in his class clown days at New York’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he claimed, “The professors would say to me, ‘What are you doing in law school? You have a skill.’ “And those lectures on criminal law,” said Tanis. “Everything’s compared to an ax murderer. Is a thief better than an ax murderer? Is a rapist better than an ax murderer? I mean, why is ax murder the most heinous crime? “As murderers go, a guy with an ax is doing you a favor. One chop and you’re dead, whereas using a blunt instrument could be a lot worse. You never hear about a shrimp fork maniac, or a grapefruit spoon killer.” Ba-da-bing! But seriously, folks, there can be a practical method behind the mirth. “You’re walking a fine line, of course,” said Joshua Gropper, a solo practitioner in personal injury litigation. “But I use humor a lot. It’s an ice-breaker. Humor causes people to like you. And in this business, you’re selling yourself.” Kaufman agreed. “Comedic technique involves timing and pausing and emphasis,” she said. “So it’s an amazing tool in any realm of public speaking. And most lawyers have to do some kind of public speaking.” Another alumnus of the Funniest Lawyer Contest is Dina Werfel, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney who now works for the national placement firm Mestel & Company. “Comedy can get you out of a hard time with the judge,” said Werfel. “And it’s always good during job interviews. “I still perform. Every year at our Christmas party, for instance. “I sometimes think it’s the only reason my boss keeps me around.” After winning the contest some eight years ago, Karen Bergreen did not stick around — the law, that is. She left her job as a clerk for Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr. (formerly of the Southern District of New York but now on the 2nd Circuit bench), and has been a comedian and comic writer ever since, playing such club venues as Caroline’s, and popping up on television shows such as “Comedy Central” and “New Joke City with Robert Klein.” A graduate of University of Minnesota Law School and a former associate at Chicago-based Winston & Strawn, Bergreen takes her comedy very seriously. “It’s a creative endeavor,” she said of comedy. “I love the law, but the practice wasn’t as exciting to me as being creative. “It’s not like I juggle or something. I consider myself a writer. I love the thrill of writing a joke and doing it and making people laugh. My family thinks what I’m doing is a little kooky, but they’re supportive.” Now that she is firmly in show business, Bergreen hesitates when asked her age. “I really don’t discuss that. I look younger than I am, and I want to keep it that way.” Kaufman said she keeps on searching for romance on the Internet. “No good dates yet,” she reported. “But hope springs eternal.” Meanwhile, she finds plenty of joke material. If you think you are funny and would like to try your luck March 6 in the “Funniest Lawyer Contest,” dial (212) 877-4766 and ask for Bob.

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