Despite the show’s melancholic themes, Six Feet Under had a unique take on dark comedy that came through even the darkest moments.
Few shows explore the theme of death with as much dexterity and depth as Six Feet Under. The classic HBO show is lauded for its exploration of morose themes, including coming to terms with one’s own mortality, dealing with grief, and choosing a path in life.
Despite the show’s melancholy themes, Six Feet Under has a darkly funny underbelly that permeates even some more of the more somber scenes. Here are ten of the funniest moments from one of the most darkly humorous shows in the HBO roster.
Keith Sings Celeste’s Song
Keith and David have one of the strongest relationships in the show, even if it is tempestuous at times. Keith doesn’t always let his soft side show, but he gives viewers – and David – a glimpse of it when he sings and dances along to one of Celeste’s songs.
Since he doesn’t know the words, Keith makes them up: “You could be the one, shave my legs for free.” David soon joins in with Keith’s impromptu performance, giving them a brief moment of glee. This is before Keith sleeps with Celeste while David is being terrifyingly carjacked – providing a fleeting funny moment that foreshadows a dark period in their relationship.
Olivier Says Something Right
Despite her rocky relationship with Brenda, Margaret Chenowith is one of the most popular characters on the show. Sharply funny and relentlessly uncompromising, she provides great moments of comic relief throughout Six Feet Under.
In season 4, she has to undergo an emergency hysterectomy. While Billy and Brenda try (and fail) to console her, it is her partner Olivier who ultimately lifts her spirits. When he tells her he’s “selfishly wondering” how long it will be before they can sleep together again, Margaret is heartened. “Wow,” she says, “finally somebody said something right.”
Ruth Shoots Her Ex-Lovers
After years of repressed grief, Ruth, the Fisher family matriarch, is a ticking timebomb. She’s prone to angry outbursts, all of which come to a head towards the end of the final season when Ruth fantasizes about shooting each of her ex-lovers with a shotgun.
Ruth is not a violent person. She’s shown to be prudish, tender, and dutiful, though she finds a more defiant side following Nathaniel’s death. The shotgun scene shows Ruth as a woman reborn, accepting of herself as someone who doesn’t need a relationship – especially one where she has to deal with the ridiculous tendencies of her exes. The fairground backing track adds to the whimsical way in which she dispatches each of them, one by one.
Claire & Ruth Watch The Nutty Professor
Ruth has a tricky but loving relationship with all her children and desperately attempts to rescue the relationship she has with her daughter Claire. In the first season, she tries to bond with Claire by renting out some videos to recreate the evenings they used to share at the movie theater.
One of the videos is The Nutty Professor. Claire can’t stop laughing, while Ruth sits in uncomfortable silence before finally appraising it: “This is an entire movie about expelling gas.” The difference in humor shows a generational divide more than a personal one, but Ruth’s sadness at the rift between her and her daughter brings a dark tone to the otherwise absurd scene.
Dorothy Sheedy’s Death
The death scenes that precede each episode of Six Feet Under range from woefully sad to disturbingly funny – and Dorothy Sheedy’s death falls into the latter category. When a truck full of inflated sex dolls stops suddenly, the dolls escape from their netting and start floating up into the air.
Dorothy Sheedy, a religious woman with thick glasses, spies the mysterious figures floating up towards the heavens, and believes the Rapture is upon her. She dashes out of her car and into a busy road, and the inevitable occurs. It’s one of the most darkly funny deaths on the show.
Brenda Insults Maggie
After Nate’s sudden death towards the end of the final season, tensions between his wife Brenda and his love interest Maggie finally come to a head. This is largely because Nate dies soon after he sleeps with Maggie for the first time.
When Maggie brings a gift to the house afterward, Brenda is suitably scathing. “Is this some Quaker thing?” she asks. “You f*** someone’s husband to death and then bring them a quiche?” Under the circumstances, it’s a breathtakingly dark line, heavily featuring Brenda’s trademark sense of humor.
David Discovers A Baby In His Cupboard
In the wake of the trauma of the carjacking, David wants to solidify his relationship with Keith, and he begins to experience fantasies related to the idea of fatherhood. The show semi-subtly references this when Keith finds a whole lot of eggs in the fridge – then hammers the point home when David dreams about discovering a Chinese baby in their kitchen cupboard.
The scenario points to a longing in David – not just for a baby, but to give someone a home. It’s relevant that the baby is Chinese – clearly, her biological parents are neither David nor Keith. So David’s wholesome delight when he discovers her is both funny and poignant.
Ruth Wears Claire’s Jester Pants
As a teenager, Claire experiments with drugs a fair amount over the course of the show. In one particularly wholesome trip, she sews a pair of jangly jester pants and gifts them to Ruth. Ruth is over the moon and wears them down to breakfast the next morning.
Claire is on a comedown, and the sight (and sound) of Ruth in the pants drives her to despair. Ruth, meanwhile, loves the pants, and yells at Claire: “I may just wear these pants ’til the day I die.” The huge gulf between them at that moment almost makes it sad, but the ridiculousness of the pants is too funny to forget.
Claire Puts A Foot In Gabe’s Locker
Claire and Gabe have a pretty toxic relationship. Soon after they get together, Gabe tells his classmates that she’s sucked his toes. Horrified by the foot-related graffiti scrawled across her car, Claire decides to get her own back on Gabe.
She poaches the severed foot of a recent Fisher & Sons customer and hides it in Gabe’s locker. The moment is as crazy as it is cathartic – and it proves how bizarre it is to live in a funeral home, yet how accustomed Claire is to it. As she later puts it, “I know stealing a foot is weird. But, hello, living in a house where a foot is available to be stolen is weird.”
Nate Is High At The Dinner Table
This iconic scene from the opening episode of season 2 is a fan favorite. Nate accidentally takes an ecstasy pill David had stashed in an aspirin bottle the season before, causing him to arrive at a family dinner sweating and high.
From telling Nikolai he’s beautiful, to hitting on Brenda right there at the table, this scene is full of awkwardly hilarious family tension. Nate’s wholesome, unknowing smile as he compliments his family and pours out way too much wine is so pure that it contrasts perfectly with the darker themes of the show. In this moment, and perhaps only this moment, Nate’s cup (literally) runneth over – and it takes a misplaced ecstasy pill for him to achieve it.
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