June 10, 2004

We begin eulogizing in five minutes

I swear this never happens to me, but I was just commissioned by Slate to write a humor piece and simply couldn't... perform. The subject was the Reagan funeral, and I assure you it wasn't taste that kept me from fulfilling my comedic duties. I had a pretty good idea and everything -- a souvenir program in the mode of the convention guides I worked on for Modern Humorist -- but I just couldn't work up any good jokes. Well, I came up with some OK ones, but as my editor aptly put it, they were not good enough to overcome the taste barrier.

I've posted one of two pages I managed to eke out -- a pardoy schedule of pre-funeral events -- after the jump, along with the excellent cover that Slate art guy Josh Payton mocked up. The second page was marginally funnier so I've pitched it elsewhere as a separate thing. Look for it on this site in the next few days.

I had just begun to console myself that maybe there was nothing funny to be done with this subject, when, like you, I was forwarded this. So I have no excuse.

And on that note, click [More] to enjoy Mourning in America. Now all I need to do is find a more appropriate subject for next humor piece. Hey, have you seen Ray Charles' new coffin? Neither has he!


Go ahead, make my national day of mourning

A State Funeral is as close as America gets to a royal event, a pageantry as meticulously choreographed as a Ron Reagan Jr. dance recital. Ronald Reagan left 300 pages of instructions for the ceremony, instructions he personally agreed to, as long as no one made him read the whole thing. This is a week that will not soon be forgotten. CNN is assuring that by cutting its one-month anniversary package now.

4:40 p.m.: Ceremonial panicky fleeing of the Capitol due to rogue aircraft. This poignant tradition dates to the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, during which a diseased carrier pigeon crashed into a Senator wearing a comically tall hat, which was the fashion of the time.

5 p.m.: Jumbo jet carrying the body of President Reagan arrives at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. To symbolize that this plane can never again perform such an honorable task, it is ceremonially retired from service. The flight crew is shot.

6 p.m.: Casket is transferred from hearse to horse-drawn caisson and carried slowly down Constitution Avenue. The route is lined with white Americans from all walks of life straining for one final snapshot of the deceased president. The caisson is pulled by three mounted horses, three riderless horses, a black, a woman, two Jews, and a cripple. The casket is followed by a single riderless horse with empty boots reversed in the stirrups, to symbolize that the previous rider had been mounted backwards and forgot to take his boots with him. This horse is Smarty Jones, earning a brief reprieve from the glue factory. Behind him is a single welfare queen riding a jet-black Cadillac.

6:45 p.m.: Twenty-one F15 jets fly overhead. One pilot soars heavenward in the “missing man” formation and is shot down by the always-vigilant Star Wars missile defense system that so ably guards U.S. skies due to the foresight and financial investment of the Reagan administration.

7:00 p.m.: Personnel from each branch of the military carry coffin up West steps of Capitol. Howitzers fire a 21-gun salute, triggering minor heart attack in Dick Cheney. Military band plays The Battle Hymn of the Republic, ignoring crowd request for Freebird. Coffin is laid on wooden platform originally built for Abraham Lincoln’s all-night poker games. Days of practice pay off, as anchors from every network and cable news station manage to repeatedly say “catafalque” without tripping up. Nancy Reagan, looking frail but dignified, is forced to endure speeches by hack politicians.

8:30 p.m.: Rotunda opened for public viewing. Though officials make clear this means the entire public, somehow, very few nonwhites show up. Is this one of their holidays or something?

Nearly 3 million mourners file past Reagan’s casket to pay their respects after waiting for hours in the hot sun. Emergency medical technicians hand out free sunscreen to the whitest mourners.

A bunch of other stuff. There’s a chance it’ll be on TV.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Well I thought it was funny.

Re Ray Charles: At least Elvis Costello won't have to worry about enduring any more awkward moments by accidentally running into him somewhere.

Aircraft should not wear rouge.

Editor lives up to his name. Fixed.

Pretty funny, but I can see why you had difficulty with the story. This is the funniest post Reagan's death piece I've seen to date: Utter Wonder.

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