The Funeral by Richard Matheson was a complete 180 degrees from his story I am Legend. I am Legend is a sad story about a man who is the last human on Earth after a germ changes everyone around him. The main character Robert Neville fights a losing battle to stay who he is against a world that now fears him. Then you read The Funeral, and the tone is rather comical.
The story starts out with a man, Ludwig Asper, hiring a Clooney’s Cut-Rate Catafalque for a funeral. As we read the story, we discover that it’s actually for him. I started to wonder if he knew he was dying and that was the reason for scheduling the funeral. But by the time Ludwig leaves we learn that he’s a vampire, and it’s really for him because he never really got the proper sendoff he wanted. I sat there and wondered who in their right mind would really want to through themselves a funeral.
I could not help but laugh at the reaction of the funeral director, Morton Silkline. At first, he gets angry at Ludwig in thinking that he is playing a joke on him and rightly so. I know I would be upset if someone came to me like that and I thought they were trying to play a trick on me. What made me start to enjoy this story was when Morton sees Ludwig fly out the window in the form of a bat he hits the floor. How many people would react this way? I don’t know if I would, but plenty just might do the same.
The comedy of the story continues on the day of the funeral. I about died with even more laughter when Ludwig gets in the coffin, and everyone says how great he looks in it. Even Ygor starts to cry about how wonderful his master looks. The only person in the room who seems to be out of sorts is the Morton, and he endures someone saying tasty to him, and he worries that they are talking about eating him.
Matheson gives us these descriptions of the characters that are supposed to say they are scary but the only person who is scared or frightened is Morton. A prime example of this is the character Jenny the Crone. She is described as a peak-hatted crone upon whose ceremented shoulder a black cat on her shoulder. She takes a liking to Morton and almost drags him to sit next to her. The real fun of the ceremony begins when Ludwig’s friend gives his speech about how great Ludwig was. Some of the monsters interrupt the service because they have other appointments. It’s supposed to be a funeral, and there is no sense of decorum through the whole process. In the end, it’s a complete flop, but Ludwig was rather pleased and even referred more of his friends to Morton.
I am not sure the intent of this story by Matheson, but I think he blended humor and horror well. The creatures he used were meant to bring imagines to minds of monsters we have read in other stories, but the premise for the story left it open for him to add humor to his story. The humor overall felt natural, and it flowed seamlessly into the story.