Judge John Hodgman Episode 244: Commedia della Morte


Jesse brings the case against his dad, Joseph. Joseph insists that his children hire a mime for his funeral (when the time comes). Jesse insists that a funeral is a time for grieving, not miming.

Thanks to Axel Kaegler for this week's case name!



A mockup of a mime audition by Joseph


Another famous mime!

Let's not overlook Anthony Daniels.

Funerals are for the living

I agree with the other poster - that funerals are for the living. Joseph can request anything he pleases for his funeral but his children will carry out his wishes. I have seen family members caused undue pain and hurt because they are unable (for various reasons - time, money, laws) to carry out bizarre or rigid wishes of the deceased.

While it sounds like the mime could be carried out by Joseph's family - do they want that? In seeking your own rigid last wishes to be fulfilled - seemingly on a whim - this is actually a very selfish way to leave your affairs for your loved ones in a time of great sorrow for them.

Instead maybe you can trust your children to carry out your funeral with dignity and humor in a way that honors your memory and their love for you. A funeral is not actually about the deceased per se - but the feelings, emotions and memories the living have of you.

Leaving your family with the both funds and the flexibility to carry out your funeral in the way that works best for them to honor you, is in my mind, the best last gift you can give your family.

Joseph sounds like Trump, and

Joseph sounds like Trump, and I really cant decide whether it detracts from or enhances my appreciation of this episode.

I'm quite surprised that this

I'm quite surprised that this episode contained no mention of John Cleese's eulogy of Graham Chapman in either the cultural reference or ruling. It's such a resonating example of the combat between grief and honouring the nature of someone's memory. https://www.funeralwise.com/plan/eulogy/chapman/

People always react to things in their own particular way, but as much as the son thinks a mime is in poor taste, he might want to remember: When Joseph is gone, he will no longer be able to offer his brand of levity and mirth. As much as I can relate to the strong desire to not have a mime interrupt mourning, there's something beautiful in the act of having one last bit of (wanted and/or unwanted) levity from someone who will never be able to interact with you again.

mime relevance

i was really hoping the mime-quote cultural reference at the top of the show would have been from the world's truly most famous mime, david bowie.

Purpose of funeral/wake

As always, the judge rightly rules in favor of personal expression and choice. Joseph can ask for and, if he engages the services of a good lawyer, ensure the performance of his own wishes for his post-mortal services.

However, the judge missed an important crux in not pointing out to Joseph that funerals and wakes are not FOR the deceased. He's dead, beyond caring. The living, the family and friends of the deceased, have good reason to shape these celebrations and rituals of mourning in ways that will give them the opportunities to remember and mourn for the person they have lost. And, as a practical matter, it is almost always the surviving family who actually make these choices.

Obviously, the survivors who are given the task of planning services could be as thoughtlessly insensitive as Joseph claims to want to be in planning his own. They might dishonor the memory of someone with Joseph's lively sense of humor, for example, by banishing all hint of humor from the proceedings. And they might insult the other mourners by hiring a stripper to jump out of the coffin---just to take people out of their grief, you know.

Joseph should plan and pay for the practical essentials up front, think about the details, leave a list of suggestions as specific as pleases him, talk about the ways he hopes these suggestions will care for the needs of those he leaves behind, and then, when he actually dies, he should climb in the stinking coffin (or spill into the bloody urn) and shut the hell up! Jesse and his siblings can take it from there.


The photo showed up AFTER I submitted my comment. I guess this is what happens when I use a browser no longer supported by Microsoft. (Company computer, not my choice.)

I'm dying to see the evidence in this case.

The State Farm mime superimposed over the casket is something I need to see. I don't think I'd be okay with this nonsense, but I admire the man's audacity.