A Comedian Walks Into A Funeral Home


Fiction - Humor/Comedy
264 Pages
Reviewed on 05/22/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

In A Comedian Walks Into A Funeral Home by Dennis Kelly, every area in Vince Locker's life is tragic. His comedy act for the LaughCom competition has just bombed, ruining any chance of the cash prize he desperately needed. Vince's life is in tatters; abandoned by his father as a child, an estranged wife, Jessica, who he seems to disappoint just by his mere existence, and living in his mother's house with his bipolar brother and facing foreclosure. As he stands on Smith Avenue Bridge, suicide seems the only option until he is rescued by a mortician named Truss. Vince meets another of Truss's rescues, Winona, who both see Vince's talent for comedy. They ask Vince to speak at a eulogy for a porn king and his performance is a complete success. As Truss Mortuary faces a brutal and illegal takeover bid, the body of a young woman is discovered. The events that follow see Vince embroiled in a murder investigation, a kidnap attempt, and threats to Jessica and his young daughter. As details of the murdered young woman are slowly revealed, Vince realizes that he has many ghosts of his own to put to rest. As Vince faces his painful past, mortuary assistant Winona is always there by his side.

A Comedian Walks Into A Funeral Home by Dennis Kelly is a laugh-out-loud comedy with an unusual plot that engages your interest from the first chapter. The humor is witty and intelligent. Each of the characters, even the minor ones, has great backstories which explain their actions as the story progresses. This is evident especially with the main character Vince; his Masters in Philosophy highlights how he analyzes and overthinks each situation and his constant negative inner dialogue. The dialogue is sharp and perfectly highlights the personalities of the characters. This exchange was superb: “If you were dead, lying in a casket, what would you want people to say about you?” “That’s easy. ‘He’s still moving.’” There is plenty of action, drama, and many personal obstacles for Vince to overcome which brings fantastic tension and layers to the story. I loved the twist towards the end regarding Vince's family history. There is also a very compelling exploration into grief, death, and the afterlife which I found extremely comforting. The relationship between Vince and Winona was developed beautifully. This is a brilliant story with thought-provoking subject matter and clever humor around usually dark issues.

Soumya Sreehari

Vince Locker is a comedian struggling to make ends meet. The only light in his life is his daughter for whom he wants to be a present father. With his ex-wife constantly nagging him to be a better provider, he walks a tightrope. When he bombs a comedy show that could have been his big break, it is the last straw. He ends up on a bridge, ready to take the plunge. He is rescued in the most dramatic fashion by Truss, the mortician. A Comedian Walks into a Funeral Home by Dennis Kelly is an intriguing story of a host of characters bound together by chance. As Vince gets back on his feet with a new form to his comedy act, he appreciates life in the face of death.

Vince is a comedian who turns into a humorous eulogist by a strange twist of fate. As he struggles to come to terms with his new work and life, he takes the reader through an extraordinary story. When Truss – a veteran mortician – saves Vince from suicide, a chain of events is triggered. In A Comedian Walks into a Funeral Home, Dennis Kelly explores the vagaries of life in a simple yet profound manner. I loved reading Vince’s journey with the most colorful set of characters. Everyone in Vince’s life has many layers of insights to offer. I loved the premise of comic eulogies as a celebration of life. I salute Dennis’s brilliant storytelling in an unconventional and creative setting. I highly recommend everyone to grab a copy of this heart-warming book.

Kayla Cook

A Comedian Walks Into a Funeral Home by Dennis Kelly is the story of Vince Locker, a failed comedian who, after his dreams are crushed, finds himself teetering on the brink of oblivion, which in this case is also known as the Smith Avenue High Bridge. Before he plummets to his death, an old-fashioned hearse arrives. Within are the mortician Truss and the corpse of Riva O’Malley, a destitute, unclaimed murder victim. The encounter saves Vince’s life and allows him to undertake a new calling: Providing comedic eulogies for Truss’s clients. Helping others find the closure he never could after his father’s disappearance twenty years earlier aids Vince on his journey of self-discovery, but for reasons he doesn’t understand, he can’t rest until he solves the mystery of Riva’s untimely demise and gives voice to her story. In his search for truth, Vince inadvertently kicks a hornets’ nest, landing himself and his loved ones in grave danger.

I selected this book expecting relentless humor with some drama and mystery thrown in. Instead, I found a deeply engaging, emotionally charged read with unique characters, nail-biting suspense, and moments of profound, beautiful prose. I felt the humor, while present throughout the novel, was largely overshadowed by the gravity of the subject matter. However, I honestly think it made for a more poignant read, and the comedic elements did serve to lighten the mood enough in many cases to keep the drama aspects from becoming overbearing. I really connected with the way Vince used humor to deal with life. Though I expected some of what came to light, I found myself absorbed by the mystery aspects of the story, and the ultimate outcome left me floored. This is a great story. I loved the originality and humor. I recommend A Comedian Walks Into a Funeral Home by Dennis Kelly for anyone with a dark sense of humor who’s interested in an enjoyable, singular read with lots of quirky moments and plenty of twists and turns.