Even when Al Lubel earned his degree from the University of Miami Law School in 1981 and moved to Newport Beach to practice law, his dream of one day cracking up nightclub audiences with his insightful wit outweighed his vision of spellbinding juries with his legal legerdemain.
So when he began working out of a Balboa Island law office, he also started turning up at amateur nights in a Costa Mesa bar on Harbor Boulevard.
"I remember at night I'd look at the audience and wonder why they were staring. And during the day I'd look at the jury and think: 'Why are they laughing?' "
Lubel, who quit practicing law in 1987 to devote his full efforts to comedy, went on to win the $100,000 first prize in the 1988 "Star Search" comedy competition.
But his experiences as a lawyer still play a major part in his act, which, ladies and gentlemen of the comedy jury, will be on exhibit at the Irvine Improv through Sunday.
In a phone interview from his home in Toluca Lake, Lubel said he first thought of becoming a comedian when he was an undergraduate at the University of Miami. (He organized and hosted "Gong Show" nights on campus.)
Once he became an attorney working mostly on criminal cases, he became somewhat disillusioned with the law.
"I like the performing part of it more," he said, "and more time was spent in the research and the business side of it rather than the performing part."
And even then, as he saw it, "the jury wasn't a big enough crowd."
The ex-New Yorker said his mother wasn't happy when he gave up law for comedy, "but when I got more success at it, she relaxed."
She no doubt breathed a sigh of relief with his "Star Search" win, which he said not only made him more recognizable but gave him "more confidence and credibility" as a performer.
Lubel hasn't had any second thoughts about forsaking the law for comedy. "I might some day want to take cases that interest me," he said. "But, no, I don't miss it all from day to day."
Actually, his legal background hasn't been a total loss.
"I think being a lawyer has helped me, in terms of being a comedian, in looking at things from all perspectives," he said.
And the law is still a big part of his act, a portion of which is spent talking about weird court decisions--such as the San Diego woman convicted of manslaughter for killing her husband. The judge fined her $25,000 and no jail time. Observes Lubel:
"So the court is saying to angry spouses: 'Save up!' "
Thursday, Jan. 24, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 25, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 and 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 27, at 8:30 p.m.
The Improv, 4255 Campus Drive, Irvine.
In the Irvine Marketplace shopping center, across Campus Drive from UC Irvine.
$7 to $10.
Where to call