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This occasion was no different.
“If your plane was crashing, what would you do?” someone asked out of the blue (haze of medicine).
Naturopathic practitioner #1: “Call my parents.”
Medicinal enthusiast #2: “Pray.”
The person taking up a few minutes of your time today: “Tell a joke.” My friends looked confused at my answer. “WTF does that mean, JJ?”
Speaking through the haze, all I could mutter was something about not wanting my last act in the universe to be anything but positive.
Or to quote an updated Shakespearean proverb of our time, “YOLO, brolo.”
You only live once. And once it’s over — we’re done.
But our light continues shining into the netherverse. Our last act would thus be our last imprint on the history of, well, everything.
So I’d rather smile than scream or pray or try to connect through a phone I’ve never gotten to connect on an airplane. One last moment of bliss amidst the chaos that is our life. And if it were a joke with a positive connotation — all the better.
Of course, my words didn’t come out like this. I’m not always so good at explaining my odd way of thinking when pressed for time. (Nor while inhaling blue haze at a bong mitzvah.)
Most of my friends didn’t quite understand my point, but one had an all-knowing smile slowly creep over his face: “No, I get it, man.”
I may not have had time to think through what I wanted to say with my mouth typing that night, but the following men and women had months or even years to ponder what their last light on the world would be.
And they chose to have fun with it.
I get that too, man.
I hope you enjoy this list of funny famous last words.
“Good. A woman who can fart is not dead.”
These are the suspected last words of Louise-Marie-Thérèse de Saint Maurice…right after passing some audible gas.
She was a victim* of the French revolution.
A friend of Marie Antoinette and the heiress to the largest fortune in France at the time.
*Or justly prosecuted — depending on your perspective of $600 stimulus checks after not being able to afford rent for 9 months.
“How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? French fries.”
Who says murderers can’t have a sense of humor?
James French killed a hitchhiker in cold blood in 1958. He was granted leniency from execution and given a life sentence.
Even though he requested the chair several times, the criminal justice system didn’t want to listen.
So, he murdered his cellmate after treating him to a steak breakfast as a form of last meal. The judges changed their mind and sent him to the chair to fry later on.
“I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
Richard Feynman is often ranked as one of history’s top physicists.
His work on the atomic bomb, several important quantum physics theorems, and winning a Nobel Prize certainly attest to that.
He was also fond of pranks, jokes, and general mischief — a practice he kept up until his very last words.
“And now for a final word from our sponsor.”
Charles Gussman was an early creator of soap operas and a prolific radio announcer.
And he always had a knack for seeing the lighter side of things.
On his deathbed in his last moments, he took off his oxygen mask to say the above line before his dying light set in.
“I done told you my last request… a bulletproof vest.”
Another convicted murderer with a devilish sense of humor, perhaps.
James W. Rodgers was the last person in the US executed by firing squad until the Supreme Court later reinstated the death penalty in 1974.
When offered a coat before shortly before his execution, he replied:
“Don’t worry, I’ll be where it’s warm soon.”
“I’m tired of being the funniest person in the room.”
Del Close is a legend in improv circles. He was the unofficial coach and mentor of dozens of famous modern-day comedians during a long stint at SNL in its early days.
That’s not an overstatement.
He trained the likes of:
Dan Aykroyd, James + John Belushi, John Candy, Stephen Colbert, Andy Dick, Chris Farley, Jon Favreau, Tina Fey, Adam McKay, Susan Messing, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Bob Odenkirk, Amy Poehler, Harold Ramis, and Andy Richter.
If you’re interested, he co-authored a book on the intricacies of how to be funny in improvisation.
“Now is no time to make new enemies.”
François-Marie Arouet was a prolific French author of over 2,000 books and short pieces during his lifetime. He was also famous for his stance against organized religion and for the separation of church and state.
You probably know him better as Voltaire, his nom-de-plume.
When prodded by a priest to renounce Satan on his death bed, he said the above line.
The church refused to bury him.
Some of his close friends instead had him secretly buried at a church in another town where the priest was a personal connection.
“I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former, I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings, and princes. While in the latter are only beggars, monks and apostles.”
The inspiration for fanatical dictators all over the world, Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian philosopher and diplomat from Florence.
His most famous piece is thought by a few historians to be satirical, but most people believe The Prince was meant as a guide for new royalty.
It advocated rulers to not worry about being nefarious as long as the outcome was beneficial to the ruled. The ends justified the means.
I have a feeling most autocratic leaders chose to ignore the latter half of that intention.
Either way, he had a love for comedy and wrote several plays throughout his life to bring the joy of laughter to people around Europe.
“You have me well done on one side, turn me over and eat!”
The patron saint of comedians said something similar to this while being slowly executed overtop a roasting fire for his religious beliefs.
Here’s a brief idea of what happened to St. Lawrence in his last moments:
“The executioners therefore stripped him, laid him out on the iron grill, piled burning coals under it, and pressed heated iron pitchforks upon his body. And with a cheerful countenance [Lawrence] said to [the Roman official]: ‘Look, wretch, you have me well done on one side, turn me over and eat!’”
Witty to the end.
“This wallpaper is dreadful. One of us will have to go.”
The legendary Oscar Wilde, author, poet, and playwright, was thought to have said this as his final phrase in life.
Known for his sharp wit, flamboyant clothing, and a knack for interior decoration — these last words would certainly suit him if true.
Some of the people in the above list were not good human beings, but I can appreciate a little light even in the dark.
Having the strength and conviction to keep your sense of humor until the very end is certainly a quality I admire in a person.
I hope my own last words will be witty enough to be written down someday.
If you have the chance to choose, what will yours be?
Head over here for more of my shenanigans.