I was thinking about funeral scenes recently, and I realized the best rarely elicit the same effect an actual funeral is meant to. The best funeral scenes in movies and television provide no catharsis. These scenes avoid the absolute existential terror that death presents, as well as the pure heartwarming feeling that a group of grieving loved ones can create, in order to create something else, something uncomfortable but compelling.
Why do scenes like these resonate? It may just be that the heartwarming stuff and the terror we feel at funerals don't translate to narrative very often, and they happen very rarely in life. But that gross, uncomfortable feeling of not knowing whether to laugh or cry, which also happens at funerals, happens pretty much every day, as well. Each of the following scenes is funny, but the humor works so well because the dead characters are all rendered with some degree of actual tenderness -- the works never mock the deceased.
These clips are ordered from least spoiler-y to most spoiler-y, but since the scenes are emotionally ambivalent, knowing about any of these character deaths shouldn't ruin your enjoyment of any of the following works. The order is: Kids in the Hall, Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, The Big Lebowski, The Sopranos, and The Wire.
The Kids in the Hall - Reg
My favorite line in this sketch might be the remark that while Reg's hair was "always perfect," "you never saw him with a comb." The characters say such perfectly typical things about the memory of their friend, but it is also revealed they murdered him for no apparent reason. As with a lot of these scenes, that kind of callousness provides a weird relief. The sketch almost takes you to the abyss, then reveals it's just kidding.