May 2004 (v6 i6)
Going down in elevators since 1997
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funeral review
by Bradley Jackson, Administrative Assistant
After “living” the last three years just out of reach of Death’s quivering sickle, Austin native Wilson Thanisch was finally laid to rest in a highly anticipated, yet completely disappointing, ceremony last Saturday at St. George’s Church. I’ve been following Thanisch’s steady decline in health for the past six months, and it’s safe to say that I was pretty jazzed about reviewing the funeral; however, the ceremony was the definition of underwhelming. I honestly can’t remember the last time I looked around at an audience and saw more yawns than tears. Bleh!

Thanisch, a standard family man with a wife, three children, and eight grandchildren, passed away due to natural causes, but believe me, there was nothing natural about the drab and dispassionate nature of the ceremony.

I never met this Wilson character, but from the clichéd nature of the speeches given by those who knew him, I can only assume he was the most boring person to ever exist. There was no conflict, no drama, no self-immolation — everybody must have loved this guy.

When his youngest granddaughter, 7-year-old Katherine Greene, read a poem she wrote called “The Gratest (sic) Grandpa,” I almost started laughing. Not only was the poem atrocious and rife with grammatical errors, but little Greene’s delivery was more awkward than Reginald Vel Johnson, TV’s affable Carl Winslow, eating a banana out of a pipe — and only half as arousing. “You always was the bestest grandpa ever/ and now I’m left to play with my imaginary friend Heather,” is just one instance of this seven-year-old’s heinous meter, prosody and enjambment.

In my opinion, if this guy was so amazing, he deserved a little more than the standard “he led such a great life, but he’s in a better place now” routine. However, I believe most of the blame rests on pastor Zack Utley’s half-hearted performance as the bereaved yet stoic master of ceremonies.

Utley, best known for his stirring eulogy at the Kevin Goodman funeral three years ago, has received several complaints lately on what is being described as “phoning in his performance.” There used to be a time where if pastor Utley was speaking, I’d be there front and center, no matter who died. But sadly, that’s not the case anymore. I guess it’s just about the paycheck for Utley these days.

Additionally, the soundtrack was terribly lackluster, with organ player Alex Leach ripping through a miniscule repertoire of sad but hopeful funeral clichés such as “It is Well With My Soul” and “Candle in the Wind,” while soloist Kyle Spencer added vocals so off-key that I pity the shower he practices in. Just once I’d like to see Leach try a song by The Eurthymics or Phil Collins, but apparently that would be “tastelessly contemporary.”

And don’t even get me started on the set design, or lack thereof. The coffin resembled a cardboard cutout I made in fourth grade, the flowers smelled like my grandmother’s spotted hands, and Thanisch’s outfit looked like it had been picked out by a colorblind raver. If you ask me, I’d rather be buried wearing jorts than this boring suit-and-tie business.

Speaking of outfits, what’s the deal with people wearing all black at funerals these days — come on, it’s spring! I know you’re at a funeral, but liven up a little.

I even took it upon myself to crash the post-funeral gathering at the Thanisch house, and just before I was thrown out I had the unfortunate “pleasure” of sampling some wretched casserole, watered-down punch, and stale chocolate chip cookies. The Thanisches weren’t content to simply mourn death; no, they had to recreate it in my mouth.

Because of the obvious decline in creativity in the funeral business these days, I’m sure that when old Mrs. Thanisch croaks — which judging by her fragile state at the ceremony could be any day now — that I’ll have to review her dreadful funeral, too.
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