January 21, 2011
An Analysis of Laughter's Function in Supreme Court Oral Arguments
NPR recently featured an interview with litigation consultant Ryan Malphurs at Which Supreme Court Justice Cracks The Most Jokes? The answer to the question is Justice Scalia. The interview covers some of Malphur's findings in “People Did Sometimes Stick Things in my Underwear” The Function of Laughter at the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 Communication Law Review 48 (2010). Malphur's article focuses upon the effect of laughter, not the role of humor, during Supreme Court arguments. From the article:
Most readers would agree that generally the impact of humor is laughter, but I focus upon the impact of the resulting laughter upon the communication environment of oral arguments. So for these reasons, this study emphasizes the role of laughter rather than humor. The delineation between humor and laughter is important in the analysis of laughter’s function during Supreme Court oral arguments, not only to prevent interpretive challenges, but also because, historically, studies of laughter have fallen under the larger canopy of humor theory and readers should not confuse a study on laughter with a study of humor.
Only 28 pages long, Malphur's article might make a interesting Friday afternoon read. [JH]