St. Peter and the bluesman.

The first of two less-than-reverent commentaries inspired by the death of B.B. King.

I’m thinking of B.B. King tonight … and also of a friend of mine here in eastern Pennsylvania, a smart, bitingly funny guy.

Like me, my friend is a veteran of the newspaper industry. Also like me, he shares an aversion to cliches. He enjoys calling out the hackneyed setup, the well-worn gag and the easy riff.

One of my friend’s least favorite cliches (he’s called it out a number of times on Twitter) is what I’ll call the Pearly Gates Editorial Cartoon.

You know the kind: They run in newspapers and make the rounds on the Internet after a celebrity dies. The celebrity is shown standing on clouds at the gates to heaven, while St. Peter — invariably shown behind a podium, like some sort of cosmic maitre d’ — gives forth with an obvious, sometimes cloying one-liner referencing the deceased’s life-work.

If the gag doesn’t sound familiar, you’ll recognize it if you view this cartoon about Dick Clark … or this one about Michael Jackson (rather harsher than most) … or this one about George Steinbrenner … or this one about George Carlin … or, FFS, this one about Stephen Hawking, who hasn’t even died yet.

(Those examples, by the way, are drawn from a single page of Google Images results for a search for “pearly gates cartoon.” There are more examples. Many, many, many more.)


Somewhere in America, as I type this, at least one editorial cartoonist is drawing a portly black man in a tux, holding a hollowbody Gibson in his hand, standing patiently in front of the Eternal Podium as St. Peter opens his mouth and lets fly with a hagiographical one-liner.

(Take a moment, close your eyes and picture it in your mind.)

Because you, the readers of Neck Pickup, deserve better, I offer you …

Ten Captions For The B.B.-King-At-The-Gates-of-Heaven Cartoon
That Might Actually Make You Laugh

1. “Oh, good! Lawrence Welk is always looking for new sidemen.”

2.  “Man, I love your sauce! Put it on everything. You’re that B.B. Que guy, right?”

3. “We’re currently processing decedents from the year 1975. Please take a seat in section 33,107. We’ll be with you shortly.”

4. “The thrill is gone! You like that? I thought it up myself.”

5. “What’s the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

6. “I’m sorry, sir. Cut a record with U2, the gates stay closed. A law’s a law.”

7. “We don’t have ‘blues’ here, per se … Hey, do you know ‘Roll Out The Barrel’?”

8. “The realm beyond these gates is ruled by Arn-Shoggoth, a tentacled, slavering, gelatinous despot whose sole emotions are anger and cruelty. Enjoy your eternal stay!”

9. “FREEBIRD!” *hysterical snorting laughter*

10. “I’m sorry Lucille never let you kick the football.”

One thought on “St. Peter and the bluesman.

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