Sunday, July 27, 2014

"I'll Be Right Back" -- And Other Famous Last Words

I've already confessed to having a warped sense of humor in several earlier blogs (see It's A Guy Thing, Why I Hate LiverGeezer Olympics: Competive Complaining, or What, Me Worry?).  It's time for another installment.  Warning:  this qualifies as an addition to my TMI or Oversharing series....

Things can be funny to me even when (or maybe because) the situation ordinarily calls for somber reflection, philosophical erudition, and compassionate consolation. Take death, for example.

There is nothing inherently funny about the final proof of our mortality. In fact, it can be terrifying if it is our own end we are contemplating, and terribly sad if involves someone who died before their time or if it is accompanied by unnecessary suffering. Still, the concept of death is maybe too often treated as simply negative -- anything that is inevitable should perhaps also be seen as having a lighter side.

One source of humor about death comes from the last words someone utters, often referred to as "famous last words" even when the words aren't attributable to famous people.  One of the funniest treatments of last words of some real historical figures is by Ian Cheesman of Cracked.Com, and I make no pretense at even coming close to the humorously warped level of his presentation (see Cheeseman, part 1 and part 2).  By the way, the fact that I'm linking to Cracked.Com should tell you something about my sense of humor.  Cheesman introduces his analysis this way:
"Everyone hopes to leave a legacy. To be remembered after our passing is the closest thing humans have to immortality, at least until cryogenics figures out how to reanimate Walt Disney's head. Some people try to pull off immortality with a lifetime of achievements and noble acts. But why piss away all that energy on altruism when you can simply spout one badass quote before you take the dirt nap and live on through eternity known as a guy who needed a second casket for his ....[censored]?"  (Cheesman, 2008, part 1)
Cheesman's choices include serial killer Carl Panzram just before being executed in Indiana (Hurry up, you Hoosier bastard, I could kill ten men while you're fooling around!"), Chief Sitting Bull confronting the soldiers who killed him ("I'm not going. Do with me what you like. Come on! Come on! Take action!  Let's go!"), Joan Crawford on her death bed when someone started to pray for her ("Damn it, don't you DARE ask God to help me."), and Karl Marx when someone asked him for his last thoughts ("Go away! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!"). Ok, I admit some of these aren't so much funny as admirably gutsy, but Cheesman's analysis that accompanies them is very funny and definitely my kind of humor -- I really recommend it.

In addition to the last words that famous people have said, there are quite a few that have been made up by some very warped minds -- kindred spirits to me.  Most of these pertain to situations where the speaker doesn't know these will be his or her last words (a key element in the humor, I suppose, and it helps to picture the situation). Here's a sample from various sources, including yours truly (for more go to
  • "Hold my beer and watch this..."
  • "Let's just keep on ignoring it and it will probably go away...."
  • "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing...."
  • "It doesn't look that deep to me...."
  • "I know a great shortcut......"
  • "They look friendly...."
  • "We need something stronger to get this fire going....."
  • "Did you hear something?"
  • "What does this button do?"
  • "I wonder where the mother bear is?"
  • "Look ma! no hands!"
  • "I'm sure this isn't the poisonous kind...."
  • "All you have to do is connect these two wires...."
  • "Stupid safety labels....
  • "Lightning never hits the same spot twice"
  • "Manual?  Who needs to read the dumb manual!" 
A final (pun intended) source of funny last words comes from tombstones.  Cemeteries are rich sources of information about a culture (see "My Favorite Cemeteries"), and the inscriptions on the grave markers can at times be very humorous -- in a warped kind of way.  Some of the cutest are epitaphs found on the 13 family tombstones at the Haunted Mansion attraction in Disney World and Disney Land.  The names on the markers are all actual people who worked on the design or construction of the mansion, but the nature of their passing is made up  Here's a sample: 
  • Rest in Peace – Cousin Huet – We All Know – You Didn’t Do It 
  • Here rests Wathel R. Bender – He rode to glory – On a Fender
  • Here lies good old Fred – A great big rock – Fell on his head R.I.P. 
  • In memorium Uncle Myall – You’ll lie here – for a quite a while
If you do an internet search for "funny tombstones" or something similar, you'll find most of the results repeat the same list of epitaphs and it is difficult to know if the authors actually saw the graves or are just re-posting the same list over and over.  Even so the sayings are still humorous.  Here's a few I like, taken from a great blog called My Wintersong, who is at least specific as to the location of the graves:

Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery:
Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.

In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery:
Here lays Butch,
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger,
But slow on the draw.

A lawyer’s epithet in England: 
Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is Strange.

Lester Moore was a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in the cowboy days of the 1880′s. He’s buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona:
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.

On a grave from the 1880′s in Nantucket, Massachusetts:
Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there’s only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.

And "finally"
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up
And no place to go

Ok, that's enough.  If you want to add your own suggestions or favorite last words, just post them as comments or email them to me and I'll include them (anonymously, in case you're still in the closet about your warpedness......)

See the comments for some reader suggested last words.  Also, here's an anecdote and an actual newspaper obituary that a friend who researches sports fan identity collected:
  • Accepting that the end was near, the funny grandfather and great-grandfather said earlier in the day there was an upside to death: at least he wouldn't have to watch another Bengals loss 
  • He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pallbearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.


Dennis Nord said...

a favorite of mine: Tell them I said something. Pancho Villa.

My neighbor died this past weekend. Named Blue, he was blue when they found him dead, not quite an epitaph, but a condition of passage. His brother said he was always saying, "I should start that blood pressure medicine." He was 44.

Coleen Hanna said...

I also have a warped sense of humor (about everything, including death). My father used to say, driving past a cemetery, "People are dying to get there." He also used to joke about "stiffs." Like me, he attended wakes of just about everyone. When he died, I stood next to his casket greeting people and I couldn't help but think, "Now you're the stiff."