Civil Liberties

Making Fun of In-Laws Still Protected Speech…For Now


A federal judge in New Jersey has thrown out a slander suit brought by the in-laws of a standup comedian who was making fun of them in her routines.

Sunda Croonquist's act describes her life as a half-black, half-Swedish woman married into a Jewish family. In 2008 she was sued by her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who claimed among other things that Croonquist's jokes made the mother-in-law look like a racist and described the sister-in-law's voice as sounding "like a cat in heat." (In compliance with the Seinfeld rule, Croonquist converted and attends a synagogue in Los Angeles.)

U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper of New Jersey ruled last week that the material was protected speech, and that the cat-in-heat joke was, as described in a previous ruling, "colorful, figurative rhetoric that reasonable minds would not take to be factual."

Cooper's 21-page ruling comes out as jibberish at, but more coverage of the case is available here, here and here.

Comedy is not pretty, and usually it's not even funny. Does Croonquist's act meet the highest standard in the land? See for yourself: Some of the mother-in-law gags are available on her site, and she'll be appearing at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood Saturday.

With all due respect to both Croonquist and Yaphet Kotto, Sammy was the greatest of the black Jews, and the true talent of the Rat Pack: