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How The Grim Reaper Helps Us Cope With Death Through Comedy [VIDEO]


This video from The New Yorker explains the origin, reason for, and history of The Grim Reaper aka Death.

Confession time. I’m fully aware of The New Yorker and have been for a while. Have I ever read one? No. If someone were to ask me what I know about The New Yorker, it would be 1) the logo (that elitist looking dude with the top hat and the monocle) and 2) their cartoons.

Even with my slack-jawed ignorance, I had a hunch The Grim Reaper showed up A LOT in their cartoons. After all, comedy is just a subversion of tragedy. There’s no greater tragedy than death. Hence, let’s laugh at Death. Humanizing death makes life more meaningful.

The Grim Reaper—that black-coated, scythe-carrying personification of death—has appeared in over one hundred and four cartoons in The New Yorker since 1937. But where was he prior to that?

My picks for the two most memorable Grim Reapers are probably my two earliest exposures to the character:

1. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (which TNY video briefly flashed)

2. Scrooged (my all-time favorite Christmas movie. Yes, I’m serious)

Not gonna lie. I’m scared to death of death. Any time I have a friend or family member pass away, I try to put myself in their position. I try to re-create what I assume they went through. What did it feel like? Was there panic? A struggle? Was acceptance blissful? Did they actually see The Grim Reaper? Was he… she… IT chill? Or chilling?

Watching TV shows like The OA and The Leftovers haven’t subsided my anxiety, they’ve exacerbated it. Even the show’s characters who’ve died multiple times and have come back to life battle with the process.

The Leftovers Hbo GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

My mother said she found my father on the floor of my sister’s upstairs bedroom after he suffered his fatal cardiac arrest. There’s no record of his last words or actions. If only our dog could speak.

I’ve heard stories, opinions, and interpretations of my paternal grandfather’s last moments. He was reaching out to something upwards, towards the corner of the room (“towards the sky”, “towards Heaven”, etc.) He was reaching out “to an angel”, “to your father”, etc.

Does plugging The Grim Reaper into either of those situations lessen the pain? I’d think that if both my father and my grandfather saw The Grim Reaper, they’d put up a fight, not point and laugh or hug it out.

Homer Simpson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But, what’s the alternative? Nothing. Is that even scarier? No entering a light, no stairway to Heaven, no out of body experience. Even now, trying to understand what that lack of ANYTHING is… experiencing what essentially isn’t experiencing… it can be paralyzing.

I love sleep, but the eternal sleep? If you can promise some primo dreams, maybe.

So, humanity created The Grim Reaper because NO ONE CAN GRASP OR HANDLE WHAT NOTHING IS. Joking about death is usually met with mixed reactions. Joking about Death with a capital ‘D’? A million times better. We had to brand and market death to sell life.

Which brings me to my last point. We invented Death to eventually mock death. We seek comedy to stave off the tragedy of death. So, where the hell have all the great comedy movies gone? I’ll address that in a blog post coming soon to a screen near you.

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