Wise Guy

When you think comedy and Belgium, think Frank Schuchat

Published in 2008 Colorado Super Lawyers — April 2008

“You can’t really teach people to be funny,” says Frank Schuchat. “You can help people improve how they tell their jokes, but people are either funny or they’re not.”

Schuchat, a local stand-up comedian and international trade lawyer, doesn’t consider himself, as he says, “in-your-face funny,” but rather “quick witted” in the manner of Johnny Carson or Jay Leno. “It’s setup, punch line, setup, punch line,” he says.

He gestures to a framed print hanging on the wall behind his desk: a copy of the Georgetown Law Revue. That’s “Revue,” mind you, a humor magazine that spoofed the illustrious Georgetown Law Review, and the publication Schuchat edited during his tenure at Georgetown Law School.

“Frankly, it was the most distinguished thing I did in law school,” Schuchat says with a chuckle.He adds: “It also helped me land my first job. While still in law school, I was interviewed for a clerkship with Catherine Kelly, a Court of Appeals judge in Washington, D.C. Her clerks asked me what else I’d been doing, so I gave them a copy. They thought it was terrific. And I got the job.”

After graduation, Schuchat took a staff position with the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation in Amsterdam. A year later, he returned to the States to work for the Office of General Counsel of the U.S. International Trade Commission. He then spent more than a dozen years in private practice in D.C., and seven years with various Denver firms, before co-founding Schuchat, Herzog & Brenman in Denver in 2002. He specializes in international trade law, general business law, negotiations and dispute resolution, and federal regulatory matters. He also serves as Belgium’s Honorary Consul for Colorado. Not exactly fodder for a Tonight Show monologue.

Ten years ago, though, Schuchat spotted a stand-up comedy class in the Colorado Free University course catalogue, and on a whim he enrolled. “It was more about how to handle a microphone without tripping over it than about actually telling jokes,” Schuchat says. But he did find out that Comedy Works in Denver hosted a weekly “New Talent Night.”

“I called in for weeks and weeks and finally got on the list,” he remembers. “I had a couple of lawyer jokes and got a couple of laughs. I started performing consistently on Tuesday nights.”

Paid gigs followed. “When the crowd is eating up your material, it’s great,” Schuchat says. He especially enjoys entertaining with intelligent humor. He recently performed at the Denver Bar Association’s volunteer appreciation reception by asking for a moment of silence for recently departed French mime Marcel Marceau. It worked.

“At Comedy Works, not everyone would get it,” he says. “You definitely have to theme your jokes to the group.”

Which is why it seems fitting to close with Schuchat’s signature line: “I only did about four minutes, but, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bill you for a full hour.”

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