The Baroness T’s Death? Don’t Make Me Laugh





It’s amazing how quickly a tragic event sparks off jokes about the deceased. Before their blood runs cold, one-liners are flying round the stratosphere, says SHEILAGH MATHESON

From Princess Diana to the Queen Mother and Jimmy Savile, old or young, worthy or wicked, they are all fair game. No one is exempt from gallows humour. Even David Attenborough or Nelson Mandela will fall victim to callous wit when their time comes.

We were walking in Kew Gardens at around 11am on April 8th when the first text was received. “Margaret Thatcher’s dead. A stroke in the night.”

Seconds later the first joke arrived –’ she died of something miner ‘– and they followed thick and fast…

A miner strike, not a major stroke got her in the end

The Iron Lady died today. May she rust in peace

 Five minutes in hell and already she’s shut down the furnaces

Like Savile, she’ll be remembered for f****** miners

Margaret Thatcher wanted to be cremated but we’ve run out of coal

Where do all those jokes come from? Who thinks of them so quickly? Just as obituaries for prominent people are written well in advance and updated over the years if necessary, is there a stash of jokes stored somewhere, black humour in waiting, ready to be plucked from a file and circulated faster than you can say death rattle?

A stand up performer tells me it’s the way comedians are wired. Their brain cells are constantly on red alert for anything that can be repackaged and slanted into potential double-entendres, puns,  a play on words, views from the foothills or peaks, whatever wins a guffaw, laugh, chuckle or wry smile.

Twenty four hours later, there’s a public debate on BBC Radio about why people are so euphoric that they are throwing parties celebrating her death. Celebrity comedian Mark Steele is castigated for voicing his opinion jocularly, as MPs tut-tut and ask the public to curb their joy, respect the bereaved and allow them to grieve in peace.

Even those who knew her say Margaret Thatcher wasn’t gifted with a side-splitting sense of humour. She wouldn’t have  been bothered by being the butt of jokes about her death because she simply wouldn’t have got any of them.

I should say thanks to Maggie for giving us a laugh at the end, but I can’t bring myself to thank her for anything. Anyway, I’ve moved on.

Next up, the Boston bombing. Anyone got any good marathon jokes?