No one told me it was a comedy, or I might have read it sooner. It was very easy to imagine the story illustrated by Edward Gorey.
Actually, Veronica told me that Melville wrote this as his response to everyone asking him to write a sequel to Moby Dick. Going into it with the idea of Cartman saying "screw you" certainly made it come across as a comedy.
To be clear, it's not a story full of punchlines. It's more like a comedy cowritten by Kafka and Douglas Adams, in which the hapless lawyer is utterly stumped by an employee politely declining to do his work. The lengths to which the lawyer is forced are pretty extreme, and yet, to anyone who avoids conflict, perfect reasonable.
Passive resistance for the win! Only now I'm going to have to stop dismissing Melville as unappealing, which I have successfully done for lo, these many years. On the plus side, I think a nameplate for my cubicle that said "The Scrivener" would be awesome.