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by: Max Burbank

Knock knock.
Who's there?

No one knows the ending of this classic joke. The person being asked can't say 'Death who?' because they're dead. There may well be an amusing answer to the question 'Death who?' (I favor 'gesundheit!') but we'll never have that chuckle in any sense other than hypothetical, just as we'll never have a certain answer what lies behind the mortal curtain. Shakespeare called Death "The Undiscovered Country" I think. I'm pretty sure that quote is attributed to The Bard by some Klingon in Star Trek VI, and that's good enough for me, even if I've totally misremembered every aspect of it. I'm middle aged, so for all I know it could have been Rodney Dangerfield quoting Stephen King in "Back to School" and referring to Death not as 'The Undiscovered Country', but as something that gave him 'No respect.' It hardly matters.

The point is, it's mid January, or as we call it in New England, "The hopeless season". I'm sure Norwegians have it worse than we do, but I'll be damned if I care about a bunch of Polar Bear sucking Swiss bastard Viking Eskimo Pies or whatever the hell they are up there.

Unspeakable Swiss Bastard

If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (and screw all of you who don't) this is the time of year where you know the days are getting longer but you also know it's too little too late to keep you from making a choice between suicide and murder. As a little reality check, I want to remind you that neither of those are good choices, unless you plan to kill someone anonymous with no motive at all, which is actually pretty easy to get away with. So I hear.

Anyway, here's my point: Death is inevitable and it comes to all of us. This being the case, any time you spend dreading death is taking a chunk of time you're still alive and making it suck. Unless you enjoy dread, in which case kudos to you, gentle reader, as you probably enjoy life significantly more than I do, and you can stop reading. But if you fall into the non-dread loving camp (he wrote, beginning a sentence with a conjunction, thereby subtly setting you up for his convention flouting premise) read on and join me in laughing at the Grim Reaper! Remember, with the loss of a single 'E', the Sickle Wielding Specter of Doom is transformed into the 'Grim Raper', which now that I think about it isn't very funny at all. Unless it's prison rape, which is well known to be hilarious.

In Ingmar Bergman's classic "Seventh Seal", the figure of
Death is personified as 'Drippy the Chess Playin', Cell Mate Rapin'
Death Seal', a three year old female Gray Seal coaxed into
playing the role of Death by threatening her pups.

'Oh, now, just a second there, well known Internet humorist Max Burbank,' I can almost hear you saying aloud as you read this, 'everyone knows there are a million ways to die!' While this is technically true, I'll thank you to shut your clam snatcher and let me 'handle' the 'comedy'.

All the myriad ways to die fall into two camps: Unexpected and Lingering.

Suppose you are quietly reading a humorous internet article, never knowing that a Ninja Shadow Warrior has silently risen up behind you with a really big Ninja Gun. Just as he is about to fire at a range so point blank your brain will be cubicle jelly before you even hear the shot, the ceiling of your cheaply constructed work place collapses, crushing you and your Ninja Nemesis instantly, snuffing out your lives in less than a heartbeat. It doesn't get much more unexpected than that, my dead friend. Especially for the Ninja! One moment you're a living, breathing human being with dreams and hopes and the next you're an unpleasant biohazard someone is going to have to clean up, probably some hapless Mexican illegal doing a job you won't. You never saw it coming, you don't know when it happens, and since you can't tell Saint Peter how you died, your doomed to loiter outside the Pearly Gates, squeegeeing the limo windshields of presumably better prepared souls on their way to paradise. Those are the rules. God's rules. Anyway, that's what so called Papist 'scholars' would have you believe.

Any other type of death is lingering.

'But just a moment, Award Winning Funnyman Max Burbank!' you shout, helpfully increasing the number of times my name comes up in a Google search, 'you can't tell me getting trampled to death while running with the Bulls at Pamplona and wasting away from Lou Gehrig's disease both qualify as lingering!' As is frequently the case with you, you are very wrong. I told you to let me do this, and with good reason.

The 'Running of the Bulls' at Pamplona is an ancient custom
that explains why Spaniards ought to stick to making Tapas.

Suppose during a discussion of interest rates on a non-traditional loan with colorfully nicknamed, well-dressed gentlemen, you inadvertently step out the sixth floor window of the building you work in. Leaving aside for a moment the curious irony that you work on the ground floor, you may well be under the impression that you are about to be provided with a fairly quick death. I suppose it's forgivable that in the understandable panic caused by attempting to stand on a non-solid surface high above a very solid surface, you have forgotten that the perception of time is subjective. Hopefully you have also failed to notice that I used the word 'irony' incorrectly.

Mmmmmmm. Tapas.

Which experience seems to pass more rapidly: reading an entertaining and humorous bit of Internet Comedy by Max Burbank, the Funniest Man Alive (trademarked phrase) or getting your teeth cleaned by a sadomasochistic Bulgarian Dwarf so-called 'dental hygienist'? While both experiences last the EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF TIME (owing to your cave man like habit of laboriously forming each word you read with your lips when you read 'silently'), the teeth cleaning seemed to take forever; Meanwhile, the 'Always LOL Max Burbank Experience' (trademarked phrase) whizzed by in a mere moment!

Unpleasant experiences are always lingering, and I think we can all agree that getting your teeth cleaned and plunging to a certain and horrible death are both unpleasant experiences!

How, you may well ask, are the two types of death, (to recap, 'Unexpected' and 'Lingering') funny? Unfortunately, in the process of detailing the two types of death for you, I have forgotten. It's quite likely I'll remember before I finish writing this article and will share the answer with you, unless you die unexpectedly while reading it.

As I alluded in my opening Joke, no one knows. If you thought for even a moment upon reading the 'header' of this section, that I did know, then more fool you.

Some people believe that when they die, they will go to a 'heaven' where they will be entertained by watching you and all your friends in 'hell'. Other, darker people (and some filthy hippies) believe that when the body dies, the immortal soul is 're-incarnated' according to a principal called 'karma', a word many of them think they 'understand', even though most of them are full of 'shit'. Atheists believe that when you die, that's it, you simply cease to exist. Surprisingly, Atheists require no more anti-depressants than Jews, which is to say every one of both groups pops them like they're cherry flavored Pez. Scientologists believe that when you die some sort of top-secret sci-fi crapola goes down immediately after all your money and property are transferred to The Church of Scientology. All sorts of people will tell you they know what happens after you die, but they are all lying, every single one of them. No dead person has ever told a living person anything at all with the exception of Jesus and we all know he's no more real than the Easter Bunny.

"I am The Way and The Light and Just Pulling Thine Leg.
Seriously, brethren, try the Veal, Yay, even the least of thee."

And here's the funny part: You'll only know if there's life after death if there IS life after death. If there isn't, you will only know what scientists call 'Doodly-Squat-Crap.' So the science camp, which is all about empirical knowledge, knows they will never know, and the religious camp which is all about magic and clapping your hands to bring Tinkerbell back from the dead, might get to know. Ironic, yes? And that time I used it right.

Okay, I'm not a 'math guy' and if you're reading this instead of some egg head journal, chances are you aren't either, which is good for me, because if you were a 'math guy' you'd probably soon have reason to believe that I, World Renowned Modern Day Mark Twain Max Burbank (Copyright) am, like many other filthy hippies, full of 'shit'. That being said, it is with MATHEMATICAL CERTAINTY that I make the following statement: The funniness of Death is a Function of Proximity.

Here's an example. During the recent execution of Saddam Hussein's half brother, his 'head' 'accidentally' 'came off'. To lonely pock marked teenagers, seething marginally employed cubicle vermin and other frequenters of You-Tube, this is understandably hilarious. To other Americans, it's kind of funny, but just the head coming off part. To Shiites, this is a serious matter of God's vengeance, but you have to admit the head part makes you laugh the kind of laugh that happens when you think of something silly during evening prayer and you know you shouldn't laugh but that just makes it worse. To Sunnis, this act of revenge masquerading as justice isn't funny at all. To Saddam's headless half brother, it's simply beyond the pale, especially the facts that many news outlets don't even bother to dignify him with a name beyond 'Saddam's half brother', certainly not the one article I bothered to Google as 'research'.

See? The closer you get to the actual death, the less funny it becomes. That's why if I don't know you, your death will be a knee-slapper, while if I love you, it will be an inconvenience. That's why when my doctor tells me I have testicular cancer I won't laugh at all despite the fact that the word 'testicular' is almost always funny. In fact, research shows that even when coupled with the word 'cancer' the word 'testicular' remains funny until attached to the phrase 'Max Burbank, you have'.

My privates look exactly like this.

Historical distance can also make things funnier. Had Jerry Seinfeld gone back in time and released the episode where he and a girlfriend engage in heavy petting during a screening of 'Schindler's List' on the day after Auschwitz was liberated, it might have been less well received, even factoring in that audiences of that day didn't know who Schindler or Seinfeld were. Fifty some odd years later, everyone agrees the Holocaust and it's brutal murder of millions of Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals, is fertile grounds for chuckling. Just ask any Iranian, a people known for the ribald and irreverent take on the casual removal of petty thieves' hands. This historical distancing is one of the most hopeful aspects of human nature and allows us all to look forward with eagerness to future sitcoms playfully spoofing Darfur.

Despite the proportional reduction of Death's humor potential as it approaches you personally, I want to encourage you all to laugh at your own mortality. It's not easy, but it is possible. In closing, I'll leave you with a few helpful tips that will make your own unavoidable demise at least a little bit funny.

  • Run up a really vast amount of secret credit card debt for really pointless crap. Who wouldn't laugh thinking of a grieving spouse discovering a maxed out Discover card overloaded with multiple purchases of 'Cannonball Run' DVD's and subscriptions to 'Cat Fancy'?

  • Nothing makes me smile more over my eventual death than knowing my attic is stuffed with bizarre and possibly dangerous sex toys. I never use 'em, but when I die and my kids have to clean out my house, will they know that? For double laughs, I paid for all those sex toys with... MY CREDIT CARDS!

  • Make sure that no one gets a penny of your estate until they spend a night in a haunted house. I'm laughing right now imagining the deepening irritation wrinkles in my wife's brow!

  • Donate your body to science and then blow yourself to smithereens! See, they can't get any of your internal organs! And they thought they would! Funny, right?

  • Spend the last two decades of your life pretending to be a miserly malcontent. This will encourage relatives to treat you well while you abuse them, and funnier still, you'll know that instead of the reward they're competing for, all they'll end up with is mountains of credit card debt for things like 'Cat Fancy' magazine and Sex Toys!

  • Upon entering your Golden, sexually inactive years, have a clown face tattooed on your 'Rig' so that the wiener is the clowns nose. You can't be sure who, but someone dealing with your corpse is bound to get the shock of their life! Who knows, maybe you'll give some poor mortician a fatal heart attack, and that's seriously funny, because they are not you, you've never even met them, and they're dead!

Well, that's all, folks! See you in hell unless you're more better than me than I think you are, or there's no God in our pointless universe and we both just rot!

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