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Every year, Stand-Up NY, a comedy club in Manhattan, holds a competition to find the funniest lawyer in the city. The rules are clear: Competitors must be attorneys, amateur comedians and blessed with at least four friends willing to pay the $10 cover charge and two-drink minimum. In March, at the first of two rounds of competition, it did take two drinks — minimum — to watch some of the lawyers sweating on stage under bright lights. If it weren’t for the female stripper and the fat “professional” comedian who exposed himself, the evening might have had all the sparkle of a law firm management committee meeting. There’s a reason that clients pay lawyers for legal advice, not one-liners. But every time a wisecrack gets a laugh during a late-night round of document production, a little escapist dream gets hatched. And a club like Stand-Up NY is where such dreams lead. Of the lawyers who performed in March, some had done stand-up in college, or do other amateur nights around town. Some were even good. A big, bawdy crowd, packed shoulder to shoulder, laughed with — or at — every one of them. Keep in mind, though, that, for every comic, there were at least four shills in the audience. The comics ranged in age from 26-year-old Correne Kristiansen, a first-year associate at New York’s Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman who riffed on what classes law schools don’t offer but should (how to look busy while playing Minesweeper), to a 61-year-old solo divorce lawyer from Rockland County, in New York’s northern suburbs. The latter, Peter Steckler, read his jokes off index cards. Dressed in a shiny black shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, Steckler mused that he had once considered becoming a judge, but hadn’t liked the politics involved. Who wants to “stand on street corners,” he said, “and … shake hands with all the men, and kiss all the women’s boobies?” He looked up from his notes and stared pointedly at the audience. On cue, a coconspirator in the crowd offered weakly, “Don’t you mean kissing their babies?” Steckler hissed into the mike, “Louder!” The friend delivered his line with more gusto. “Babies?” asks Steckler. “Shit — no wonder I never got elected.” Ba-dum-BUM. The crowd was warm to Richard Lobel, a fourth-year in the New York office of Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski. The 31-year-old corporate lawyer explained that he had known early on that he “didn’t really have much of a choice as far as what I was going to do with my life. � I’m a Jewish boy from Long Island, I suck at math and faint at the sight of blood. It’s a short list.” Also popular was James Mallios, a third-year at New York’s Liddle & Robinson, who shared his secret for getting dates: He goes out in a group with a couple of good-looking gay male friends as decoys to attract women. By the time the women realize he’s the only available straight man in the group, he’s won them over with his charm. Mallios also won over the judges and stole the round. He goes on to the finals this summer. The winner gets a paid gig at the club. A few pros were added to the roster, perhaps the promoter’s idea of a naughty counterbalance to the presumed intellectualism of an all-lawyer lineup. Brooke Hazelton, a self-proclaimed ex-stripper, regaled the audience with stories from her past. Clad in black leather pants and a tight purple shirt, Hazelton said, “I told this guy once, ‘I’m a comedian and an actor and I just strip to pay the bills.’ And he said, ‘Good for you. Now act like you’re telling a joke and take off your shirt.’” She got laughs, but she also may have provided unfortunate inspiration to one overweight comic, who ended his act by unzipping his jeans and giving the audience a frontal flash. Yecch! Talk about foul — in the game of stand-up comedy, that was one ball way out of bounds.

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