One of the most enduring undercurrents of nastiness in American humor is the lawyer joke. I used to laugh at them myself but then I got a hunch about what was up with these jokes and they aren't funny for me any more. The essence of the matter is that, even at this late date in the war against our legal system, everyone knows we have been living at a time and in a country where life runs quite firmly under the rule of indifferent law. Its breaches and abuses are only the more shocking and scandalous to us because of how strong our expectation has become that law and justice go together. Those of us who cede much responsibility to the state, those of us who size up most of the problems we encounter in terms of what we could do to make matters better and all of us in between: we all stop at the stop signs and we all pay our taxes because maybe we think its the right thing to do and for sure we know there is a law about it. The priesthood who know the twisty paths of the law is seen as having power to make the law work for their client so they are dreaded as masters of the beast and the agents that finally render the law less than indifferent. It is imperfect but closer to logical and fair than any other system ever implemented.
But just wait. If you knew indifferent, logical and fair workings would never find in your favor, would you admit you were out of step or would you lobby, slander and harrass to narrow the laws to your liking and remove judges who took the liberty to steer the imperfect process through the dry paragraphs of law so each particular case had its best shot at justice? When law can no longer be interpreted and when a lawyer can be called unfit to run for president just because he IS a lawyer...then something else is the beast, on other shoulders the fearful power will have settled. What will we have when we don't live under the rule of law? What will the jokes be about?
Various persons and institutions are held up as the powers that be but it is only true and indifferent power that can cast a shadow on our equinimity and a joke can shine a brief light in that shade.