Indeed, the Roberts Court's hot bench was on display during six hours of oral arguments this week. Between wrestling with unprecedented constitutional questions and the fate of 40 million Americans without insurance, the justices made time to crack wise; usually, the comedian was Justice Antonin Scalia.
While these justices are not exactly ready for the comedy circuit, they nonetheless lightened the mood in the packed courtroom.
Here are the five funniest moments from the Affordable Care Act arguments.
Take My Wife, Please!
The justices heard the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid on Wednesday. States would eventually kick in 10 percent of the cost of covering new beneficiaries or risk being tossed from the Medicaid program altogether.
Scalia likened this to a stick-up situation:
Perhaps Justice Elena Kagan's question wasn't all that important:
The Return of the Cornhusker Kickback
The Cornhusker Kickback was a lambasted deal to get Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska on board with the health care law -- a vote crucial for passage. The kickback would have had the federal government cover all of Nebraska's newly enrolled Medicaid beneficiaries, while states would eventually start paying 10 percent by 2022.
After outrage ensued, the deal was nixed from the final legislation, but Scalia pounced on it anyway to make a point during arguments over whether the Affordable Care Act can stand if a critical component like the insurance mandate was struck down:
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The cases challenging the Affordable Care Act had nothing to do with the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
But when the justices Wednesday had to figure out what they should send to Congress if the health care law's mandate was struck down -- the law as it was written, the law without some of its provisions, or nothing at all -- Scalia bristled at determining what lawmakers would have wanted by reading the 2,000-plus-page bill:
Later, Kagan and Scalia riffed on the clerks:
Congress Gets No Respect
The courtroom got a good laugh when Paul Clement, the attorney representing 26 states challenging the health care law, suggested that lawmakers could re-pass all the good provisions of the Affordable Care Act, should the law get overturned: