Let's face it. If ever an occasion could use a bit of comic relief, a funeral can benefit from a bit of lightening up. However, the reality of the situation calls for extreme caution and perfecting the art of tactful speaking if you want to inject a bit of humor into a funeral or memorial service. Proceed with care if you wish to do so.
Consider Who the Guests Are
If you are attending the funeral of a comedian, it may only seem natural to bring humor to the table. After all, several of the guests are likely to be friends who were also comedians or into the comedy scene. However, most of the time, guests are going to be quite diverse. Even so, you can usually predict whether a group of guests will appreciate your kind of humor. Look at the age, careers, and backgrounds of the guests and discern whether your humor could likely be offensive. If it could, hold back.
Get the Approval of Loved Ones
Although you do not want to be a pest to someone in their time of grief, it's okay to ask the family and closest friends if they are okay with your use of humor at the funeral. A quick, polite question can be answered quickly. The loved ones of the deceased are likely to be able to discern whether the person would have appreciated a touch of humor at the memorial service.
Know Your Place
The best place for humor at a funeral service is during the eulogy. It's commonplace to tell amusing stories when you're sharing memories of the deceased. Using humor at any other point during the funeral is the exception to the rule. For example, if you're a pallbearer, the time to start making jokes is not while you are carrying the casket. Imagine the horror if all the pallbearers were cracking up laughing as they delivered the coffin to its final resting place. Instead, wait for the right moment.
Make Yourself the Heavy in the Joke
Never tell a joke at a funeral in which the deceased is the butt of the joke. That will horrify people who want to claim that the person is no longer there to defend themselves. So make sure that the joke is on you, and that you're the butt of the joke if you go for one during a funeral. Besides, humor only works well at a funeral if it's balanced with serious respect for the deceased as well as for the pain that the person's loved ones are experiencing.
Finally, when in doubt, take the safe road and err on the side of seriousness. If you are confident in both your tact and your sense of humor, go for it. Otherwise, save it for later on when everyone has a bit more time to heal from the loss.
If you have other questions about funeral etiquette, talk to someone familiar with funerals, such as employees of theFoster-Warne Funeral Home.