Death is widely regarded as one of the worst things that can happen to someone. It’s also inevitable for each and every one of us; we just have to hope it comes in bed and not by city bus. Either way, when it finally does arrive, it’s the cause of some of the greatest pain the deceased’s loved ones can possibly experience.
In all this pain, it makes sense that for people who loved nothing more than to make people laugh, a room full of intense grieving doesn’t feel quite right. That’s where it can fall upon the person delivering their eulogy to deliver not only a retrospective, but to revive the energy of the dearly departed. Done poorly, of course, it’ll end with you on the curb in a torn black suit. But done right, it can bestow one last bit of light onto a dark day, just as the posthumous recipient would have wanted.
Here are five such hilarious eulogies…
John Cleese’s Eulogy for Graham Chapman
Cleese and Chapman, known for their membership in Monty Python, share one particular bit of enduring legacy: a sketch about a dead parrot. So when it fell upon Cleese to eulogize his comedic writing partner, as he explained, he could feel Chapman’s spirit over his shoulder, begging him to lighten things up a bit. It was a masterful and touching tribute, one that expertly drew out the timing of the first punchline until almost a minute in, both honoring the man and then tearing down the first half of the eulogy in the second. It was also a fulfillment of what Cleese thought Chapman would have wanted more than anything: for him to be the first to say “fuck” during a British memorial service.
Howard Stern’s Eulogy for Joan Rivers
If you think it would be nerve-racking to prepare a eulogy that’s anything less than sincere for the guest of honor, imagine the balls it would take to bring up the dead’s genitalia in the first sentence. But for a eulogy of Joan Rivers, delivered by Howard Stern — two comedians and entertainers known for making a living below the belt — it was perfect.
It was hard to find the right words to break such a fragile silence as presented by a funeral or memorial service. I highly doubt, though, anyone but Howard Stern would have figured out that those words were “Joan Rivers had a dry pussy.” The juxtaposition here was only enhanced by Stern becoming overwhelmed with emotion directly after this line, and struggling through the rest of his posthumous roast with tears in his eyes. By the time he was done, everyone had joined him in tears, and I don’t think anyone there could have said which were from laughing and which were from crying.
William Ziegler’s Obituary By His Children
The next eulogy is one that’s made its rounds across the internet and achieved a bit of online celebrity in itself, although the man eulogized wasn’t a celebrity at all. He was a retired fireman and father named William Ziegler, and when his children were tasked with writing his eulogy, they based it on what they knew best: their dad’s sense of humor. Remembering his love of forwarding them funny e-mails, including funny eulogies, they figured, probably correctly, that he would have loved to have one of his very own.
The eulogy is well-written and clever, and still rings completely sincere because of how it seems to communicate the essence of the man in question. After all, humans are more than a list of achievements. No one talks about a best friend saying, “He went to such a good college and had such a prestigious job.” The obituary is worth a read in full for the kind of lines that you can see eliciting ruddy-faced laughter from a good-natured dad — like mentioning his military service where he “only stuck it out for one war.”
Eric Idle’s Eulogy for George Harrison
Writing a eulogy is a terrifying responsibility. Writing a eulogy for one of the Beatles? That, as they’d say, is like writing a eulogy for Jesus, but bigger. Comedian Eric Idle, a friend of George Harrison, the Beatle that’s not John Lennon or Paul McCartney but also isn’t Ringo Starr, proved more than up to the task. His eulogy of Harrison, read during his posthumous induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is so dense with jokes it reads more like a monologue than a memorial, but again, it never feels wrong, because you can almost imagine the honoree gleefully listening from above.
A few highlights, though there’s too many good bits to cite them all, giving even more reason to read the whole thing:
So: posthumously inducted — sounds rather unpleasant: sounds like some kind of after-life enema.
But Induct — in case you are wondering — comes from the word induce — meaning to bring on labor by the use of drugs.
And Posthumous is actually from the Latin post meaning after and hummus meaning Greek food.
So I like to think that George is still out there somewhere — pregnant and breaking plates at a Greek restaurant.
He even cribs a great line from George himself, one that might only get funnier the more time that’s passed: “George once said to me, ‘If we’d known we were going to be The Beatles, we’d have tried harder.’”
Hulk Hogan’s Eulogy for a Still Alive Bam Margera
The last eulogy here holds two distinctions: 1) for being the most recently delivered; and 2) for being dedicated to a person who was not actually dead. A simple bit of confusion from the piledriver-addled brain of Hulk Hogan gives us one of the funniest eulogies ever delivered on Twitter or elsewhere, for his friend (who he’s clearly not in that good of touch with) Bam Margera: