Standup Sunda Croonquist, born in Paterson, N.J. to a an African American mother and a Swedish father, was sued two years ago for allegedly defaming her Jewish mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law.
On Friday, a U.S. District Court judge in Trenton ruled that the comedian's routines expressed opinions, not facts, and so were protected as free speech.
Ironically, in one YouTube video, Croonquist says, "These are not mother-in-law jokes, because you can't make this up."
One reason the in-laws got riled is that Croonquist wasn't discreet about their identities, naming sister-in-law Shelley Edelman, for example, in a bit calling her the kind of "Jewish broad" who says nyihnt at the end of every sentence, like a cat in heat."
Judge Mary L. Cooper called such remarks "colorful, figurative rhetoric that reasonable minds would not take to be factual."
Shelley and husband Neil, of Morganville in Monmouth County, brought the suit, along with Croonquist's mother-in-law, Ruth Zafrin, who lives in Brooklyn. Croonquist and her attorney husband, Mark Zafrin, live in Beverly Hills. His firm represented her.
In her act, Croonquist tells jokes like: "I am a black woman with a Jewish mother-in-law, OK? Now you know the only thing we have in common: We don't want to get our hair wet."
"Drama from the moment I met my mother-in-law!" she continues, telling how her husband decided to introduce her to family at a Passover seder - and advised her not to mention being black, as if his mother wouldn't notice.
"But she noticed and that's when I noticed that Jews can't whisper," Croonquist said. ". . . Latinos know how to whisper, blacks know how to whisper . . ..
"I meet Ruthie for the first time, and she says, 'Thank you so much for coming, have a seat, and Elliot, put my pocketbook away."
And so on.
Croonquist shared reactions on her blog in June.
"I can't begin to tell you how sad this is," she wrote. "My children are so sad not knowing who their family is. Not ever knowing their cousins, and worse than that. Their grandmother, aunt and uncle is suing their mom."
"It's not every day a comedian is sued by their in-laws!," she continued on www.sundalive.com. "Most people pick up a phone if they don't like a joke. Let's focus on the good things on life like my children's shoe addiction."