Getting to the gist of the jest

January 2016

(gist: from Old French, gesir, and Anglo-French, cest action gist)

Law grads turned stand-up comics Jess Salomon, BCL/LLB’04 and David Heti, BCL/LLB’09 opine on whether the law has a sense of humour.

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Jess Salomon

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David Heti


2004

Year of graduation

2009


I was chasing my dream of working in human rights and international affairs and law seemed like a concrete way to do that. Coming out of undergrad, I felt kind of useless and felt this would be a good way to give back.

Reason for studying law

I had a lot of reverence for the idea of law, coming into it: rights, obligation, the person, all these things. It was a professional school.

I had a good time here! My first year, I dated a guy who was the Law Student Association president and I felt like the First Lady for a few months. I was full on into it.Comedy was not on my radar at all during law school. I couldn’t have lived those two worlds – I am an all or nothing person. I was in and then I was out. It would have been a totally different experience for sure.

Experience as a law student at McGill

I ran for class president my first year and in my first week here, I put up a poster that was a big joke and it was taken down. I was like, ‘Why am I in trouble?’ Procedurally, I felt like it was a systemic issue because I had run it by the authorities and they said okay and stamped it. But it’s telling because it shows that I had more a comedic impulse than a legal impulse, I think.I did not win. The class was better off with someone else leading them.

Articled with the Department of Justice in Ottawa.

Upon graduation

Articled with the Department of Justice in Toronto.

With comedy, you are sort of on the outside of society looking in. Comics are detached a little bit from life as you are sort of commenting on it. There is a window for subversion by using the law to make change and that was what sort of excited me to get into it, working within the system and making change from within using those tools.
It’s a different mechanism than the subversion you get through humour.

Law vs comedy: broad strokes

Every field has its own image of success and the idea of a lawyer is of someone who is very successful.
Comics have to make themselves look miserable. That’s their image.
Lawyers have to look well put together.

Selected as a semi-finalist for the SiriusXM Top Comic competition in 2015.

Performed at clubs and festivals across North America, including Just for Laugh’s OFFJFL, and three solo shows at the Montreal Fringe.

Comedy career highlights, so far

Released album “It was ok,” in 2014, then in 2015, re-released album through American independent comedy label Stand Up! Records.
Teaches a comedy writing course at McGill.

There is something in the way that you make a joke and in the way you make a legal argument.You have to zero in on what is the issue here. You start with a premise and there is a justification that goes to explaining the premise. You take power away from things when you laugh at them, which is one way of making it not like a punishment. Let’s laugh about this, make light of it and maybe bond in that moment and find common ground.

Law vs comedy: in action

Law and comedy are both rhetoric. They are forms of communication.
Comedy brings this emotional, intellectual or physical response (if you are laughing) to a situation.

Both are about making you aware of these fine categorical distinctions. You go around thinking your world is normal to you. And all of a sudden, it’s presented in a new light.


I have burned every bridge. Comedy has to work out for me. There is no going back – I would not be taken back anywhere.

Why they do what they do

On stage, which is my office now, I can make the jokes I want to make. It’s such a cliché, trite thing, but in comedy, you can get away with what you want.

@jess_salomon: There’s an “It burns when IP” wifi network in my building. Guess I’m not the only comedian.

@jess_salomon: Is it normal that I get scared when people want to high five that I’m going to miss?

@jess_salomon: Looking for a next-level out-of-the-box forward-thinking marketing company to help me monetize the work I do in my dreams. PM me. Thx.

Sample Twitter quip

@davidheti: Appropriating whatever I can. Whatever’s cheapest, easiest.

@davidheti: Tired of not understanding a thing until I experience it.

@davidheti: Being sorry means having to say I love you.

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