There are very few taboo subjects left these days, but the one that will eventually come to us all still leaves many people uncomfortable. Renowned US comedy Aactor and writer Kim Kalish, however, is sufficiently undeterred to proudly present The Funny Thing About Death, tackling the subject head on, because death is a funny thing in many ways.
A heartfelt comedic story of personal grief
It’s not fifty minutes of jokes about mortality, however. Instead, it is a heartfelt comedic story of personal grief and the means of living with it. When people ask, “Are you OK?” she suggests that they are only giving the sentence which in their head continues along the lines of, “I hope so, because I really don’t want to hear that you are still grieving the loss of your twenty-three-year-old boyfriend, because I don’t know how to handle it or what to say”. She goes on to assert that it really is OK not to be OK, especIally if the love of your life has just died in an accident at work.
It’s a heavy matter and there are moments of tear-jerking sadness as she weaves stories about herself, her family and friends, joyful trips she took with her boyfriend, their experiences together and the songs and places that will always remind her of him. Interrupting this potentially heartbreaking saga are descriptions of people, incidents and observations that add a good measure of humour to the proceedings. Death is not just a funny business to deal with, it can also be surrounded by comic and sometimes hilarious events, from visits to sex shops, to impulsive buying and a bizarrely-timed karaoke, along with people whose amusing idiosyncrasies persist even in the darkest of times. Welcome to the family whose multinational mix is full of stereotypes that just happen to be true. There’s nothing like a room full of Jews and Italians to lift your spirits, even if it's only temporarily and often rather annoyingly.
While we’re on the subject, Kalish is based in California, but as they say, "You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the girl”. Hence, she’s brassy and bold, yet enormously endearing and full of anecdotes. She’s honest and open, shares her deepest feeling, gives in to emotions and wears her heart upon her sleeve. She moves around a lot and we follower her wherever she goes, engaging with her words, waiting for the pause and relishing the punch line.
“If you didn’t laugh you’d cry” is a popular maxim, but in Kalish’s world these are not an ‘either/or’. There’s room for both and each is an essential to life (and death). It feels something of a privilege to hear her story, but it helps her well-being to tell it and it can helps us. At the end she speaks words of wisdom that we know to be true but often fail to observe. Ultimately it is a message of hope, and where would it be without humour?