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Hate Your Mother-in-Law? You Could Get Sued!

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No joke: Stand-up comic Sunda Croonquist is being sued by her mother-in-law for turning her into a punchline. Momlogic spoke to the mother of two about the family drama.

Sunda Croonquist

Did you hear the one about stand-up comic Sunda Croonquist? Her mother-in-law is suing her for the jokes she's been telling about her in her act.

Not so funny, huh?

The lawsuit, filed last year, claims the Jersey-born comic made false, defamatory, and racist jokes about her mother-in-law, Ruth Zafrin. And it's a litigious family affair. Not only is Zafrin suing, so is her daughter, Shelley Edelman, and Edelman's husband, Neil.

The bicoastal Croonquist, who is also biracial --- her mother is African-American and her father Swedish -- converted to Judaism when she married her husband, Mark, an attorney who is representing her in the suit.

Croonquist is baffled by her relatives suddenly not being able to take a joke. "I didn't see it coming," she told us. "It's not over jewelry or money, it's over a joke." Jokes she's been telling for over 10 years without a complaint from anyone in her immediate family. Not even her husband was concerned about his mom being used for comedic fodder.

One of the jokes Croonquist believes to be the catalyst for the suit is the story she tells about the first time she met her mother-in-law. "I walk in, I say, 'Thank you so much for having me here, Ruthie.' She says, 'The pleasure's all mine, have a seat.'" Then, Croonquist, in character as her mother-in-law, delivers in comic sotto voce, "'Harriet, put my pocketbook away.'"

If Croonquist's mother-in-law gets her way, the hard-working comic will have to remove all references to her in-laws from all her comedy routines, blogs, and recordings -- decades of material she's been performing in comedy clubs all over the country and on national television.

Ironically, Croonquist is really a Jewish mother-in-law's dream come true. When she married into the Zafrin family, she converted to Judaism, and keeps a kosher home. Both of her children, Aviva, 8, and Tovah, 6, attend Jewish schools.

What's no laughing matter is the toll the rift is taking on her children. She tells momlogic, "I'm a mom, and that comes first. For me to have to explain it to my kids, why we're not in touch with aunt and grandmother and brother-in-law, is painful. Ruth Zafrin is my children's only living grandparent."

Not only is her family torn apart -- so is Croonquist's business. "It's affecting my work. All the stuff I do about my family is clean. It's family stuff. I get hired to do family shows."

Should Croonquist's family learn to take a joke?


next: TV Crew Attacked by Garden Hoe-Wielding Grandma
36 comments so far | Post a comment now
Karen S August 26, 2009, 4:07 PM

That example sounds more like a joke about the comedian being half-black than about her in-laws being Jewish. This story is absolutely crazy. I find it amazing that the lawsuit wasn’t immediately just tossed. Those poor kids.

N August 26, 2009, 4:42 PM

i would never let those humorless assholes see my children again

Daryl August 26, 2009, 7:02 PM

Wow! I guess the MIL doesn’t care that she’s just lost her son and grandkids.

Nicole August 27, 2009, 9:23 PM

This lawsuit sounds bogus but I think it’s a symptom of other issues in Sunda’s relationship with her mother-in-law. It seems that Sunda’s mother-in-law has never really accepted her because she wasn’t born Jewish.
Maybe Sunda’s mother-in-law feels that she’s not serious about Judaism and only “converted” to get married to her husband. How typucal of Gentile women to have a quick secular “conversion” to Judaism to please her Jewish husaband. Their Jewishness lasts as long as their marriages.
I think the lawsuit is ridicoulous but maybe the mother-in-law has valid concerns about her daughter-in-law’s ties to Judaism which sounds pretty flmsy to me.

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