Lawyer Joe Leibovich is a comedian and stand-up author


Law books. Joke books. After a few decades in courtrooms and on comedy stages, Joe Leibovich knows both.

Once a fixture of the Memphis comedy scene as the leader of an improv troupe known as Wiseguys and as a self-deluding character named “Joey Hack” (described by Leibovich as “a belt-washed Borscht – slash-Vegas Rat Park- era comic “), Assistant County Attorney Joseph R. Leibovich is generally too busy in his role as Litigation Team Supervisor at Shelby County Attorney’s Office Marlinee Iverson to devote much time to refine single lines and double takes.

But Leibovich, 54, continues to express himself creatively – and comically.

Joe Leibovich presents his new book, “Last Songs & True Magic”, at Novel.

His website, The Howling Monkey Radio Network (howlingmonkeyradio.com), home to long-running essays, humorous columns and podcasts such as “The Alert Spoilers” (in which he and various guests “list the five best or worst of something”) and “The Howling Monkey Reads the Comics “(in which he – sometimes joined by his young daughter – tries to understand why various newspaper comics are considered funny).

And he recently released his second book, “Last Songs & True Magic,” through his publishing brand, Enraged Fez (the logo is a seemingly angry Shriner-style hat, his tassel hanging to the left of his narrowed eyes and clenched teeth). A commercial paperback, it costs $ 11.99 and is available on Amazon and in autographed editions at the Novel Bookstore, 387 Perkins Ext.

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Leibovich’s first book, “Too Fat for Europe”, released in 2011, was a humorous and self-deprecating travelogue, inspired by an eight-day whirlwind trip to London, Paris, Rome and beyond, seen through the eyes of “a married couple who happen to be also comedians ”- the couple being Joe and his wife, Christiana Leibovich, who was the host of the former Looney Bin comedy club in Overton Square.

Now, arguably the most spotlight-hungry member of the Leibovich family is the podcast of Joe, sometimes co-host, the couple’s 10-year-old daughter Marlowe named after Philip Marlowe, the detective hero of novels. Raymond Chandler’s cops such as “The Big Sleep” and “The Long Goodbye”.

“We thought it was a cool name,” said Leibovich, who said he planned to name a male child “Boris” or “Roughhouse”. However, he did say that Marlowe is more of a Pixar fan than a Bogart fan. “We have not yet introduced our child to film noir,” he said.

Nonetheless, she is already what Barbara Stanwyck might call a tough lady. Leibovich said: “My daughter is some of my harshest critics, and she quickly tells me if my material isn’t funny.”

Unlike “Too Fat for Europe”, “Last Songs & True Magic” is an omnibus collection of 16 stories or what you might call McSweeney-style “pieces”. Most are humorous, like “Questions Raised by ‘Piano Man’,” which dives deep into Billy Joel’s signature song, asking “What is a real estate novelist? And “Who ever used the phrase ‘I knew it was complete’? “

Other stories, however, aren’t funny – or if they are, they’re not funny ha-ha, as the saying goes. “The Equinox Pattern” is a horror story, while the new “True Magic” develops an ingenious premise: what if there was a person in the world who could do real magic, but he wasn’t. good at it?

“I have read and written humor all my life,” he said. “It’s kind of been part of my literature from the start. I’ve read a lot of Woody Allens (the Allen books). I’ve read Dave Barry. I used to read the National Lampoon books. is kind of what I grew up with. “

But he said his new stories have a lot of heart and humor. “I think you will find that there is more heart and emotion than maybe in something I would have written 10 or 20 years ago. I think there is some substance to it. stories that go beyond a book full of jokes. “

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Born in Knoxville but a longtime Memphian since childhood (he is a product of Central High School and the University of Memphis), Leibovich said work and parenting responsibilities as well as issues of the COVID-pandemic 19 have curtailed his and his wife’s career in stage comedy for now.

The Wiseguys were about 30 members who came and went over a span of almost 15 years, performing regularly in Memphis and Tunica, but they seem to have “run their course,” he said. “There’s no big ‘Let It Be’ revival coming. We were hoping to bring in Peter Jackson to put our footage of the rehearsals together, but so far he hasn’t responded.”

Either way, Leibovich said there is value in stand-up comedy, just as there is in the practice of law.

“I’ve always said what we do is important,” he said. “On the surface it looks like people are doing stupid things on stage. But actually what we were trying to do is make people laugh, and especially after the last couple of years, that has some value.”

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis lawyer and stand-up comic Joe Leibovich releases new book


Nancy I. Romero