Comedian Funerals Are Always About Who Crushed, Says Dana Carvey

What’s the appropriate tone at comedian memorials? Depends who you ask
Comedian Funerals Are Always About Who Crushed, Says Dana Carvey

David Spade was very funny at Norm Macconald’s memorialsays Dave Attell, this week’s guest on Spade and Dana Carvey’s Fly on the Wall podcast. But “let’s face it, Kevin Nealon crushed,” Attell said. “He’s such a gifted guy.”  

Carvey agreed about comedian memorials: “It’s always about who crushed.”   

“No matter how sad you are,” said Spade, the question remains, “Did he kill? Did he kill?”

“Nealon always kills,” said Carvey. “He’s got that style.”

Spade wasn’t sure whether to call Macdonald’s service a funeral or a memorial, but “with all these stand-ups there, it’s really going to be a mixture of sad and 'there’s no way no one’s not doing jokes,' even though it’s horrible.”

Even when Spade got serious at the service, showbiz intervened. “The hard part for me was going up and you’re getting a little misty and here comes a dolly shot,” he explained. “I was like, ‘Are we filming this?’” It’s hard to speak from the heart when there’s a film crew asking ‘Can we go again?’”

The Fly on the Wall conversation kept coming back to, “Who crushed?” “Conan (O’Brien) was great on that too,” said Attell. Spade agreed that the comic was “fucking funny.”

 Comedian memorials are almost guaranteed to have jokes, mostly because the deceased comics want it that way. Howard Stern was hesitant to deliver a eulogy at Joan Rivers’ funeral after her daughter Melissa put in the request, but Louis C.K. convinced him that Joan deserved a proper send-off. Stern delivered a profane tribute, according to Margaret Cho. “In the morose silence Howard Stern said, ‘Joan Rivers had a dry pussy,’” she wrote in The Huffington Post. “At first, the words just hung there, as no one knew exactly what to do. Of course, I started laughing hysterically, and everyone else, remembering who we were there to honor, followed suit. Howard Stern actually choked back tears as he continued — ‘Joan’s pussy was so dry it was like a sponge — so that when she got in the bathtub — whooooosh — all the water would get absorbed in there!’”

But not everyone appreciates gags at comedian funerals. When radio comic Harry “Parkyarkus” Einstein, father of Albert Brooks and Bob “Super Dave” Einstein, passed away, Milton Berle and George Jessel performed their routines at the memorial.  “I hated it. I hated it,” Bob Einstein told Jerry Seinfeld on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. He was so offended that he vowed never to get into comedy (a promise to himself that he’d later break).

So what’s the right move — being funny or being somber? Nobody seems to know. Macdonald’s memorial “was supposed to be a lighthearted thing,” Spade said on another episode of the Fly on the Wall podcast. “But you know, those things do get heavy no matter how fun you want it to be and no matter how much Norm wanted it to be light. You’re just thinking if Norm was alive, he wouldn’t want to be here because it’s an odd situation. And it’s hard to be at those things.”


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