America’s funeral homes find new life hosting weddings, concerts and comedy shows


Over the course of her 20-year profession as a standup comedian, Ellen Karis has performed all types of unlikely venues, from bowling alleys to church buildings.

However later this month, she is going to do a gig at maybe the final place she ever anticipated to look — at the least whereas nonetheless alive. Specifically, a funeral residence.

Karis is certainly one of 4 comedians who will probably be acting at an Aug. 12 occasion at New York Metropolis’s storied Frank E. Campbell funeral chapel, the place the place providers for outstanding statesmen, socialites and entertainers have been held over the a long time. However when Karis and others seem, there will probably be no memorial tributes of any type.

It’s only a pure night time of standup that occurs to be at what Karis calls “the Tiffany of funeral properties.” And Karis says she couldn’t be extra honored to take part.


‘It’s all a part of a a lot bigger dedication to the group.’


— William Villanova, president of Frank E. Campbell funeral residence

“It’s going to be a part of my résumé,” she says.

The Campbell comedy present isn’t an entire anomaly, nevertheless. Funeral properties throughout the nation are more and more opening their doorways for a spread of life-cycle, leisure and different occasions, together with weddings, live shows and even the occasional co-op board assembly.

“It’s all a part of a a lot bigger dedication to the group,” says Campbell president William Villanova.

The funeral residence, the place such boldface names as movie star Rudolph Valentino, onetime New York mayor Ed Koch and comic Joan Rivers have been eulogized, started internet hosting leisure occasions in 2018, beginning with a Christmas live performance. Extra not too long ago, it provided a Broadway-style showcase, that includes stage veteran Karen Mason.

Villanova provides that the reveals are all free and open to the general public, together with the upcoming comedy one, so the concept isn’t about making a living — at the least within the direct sense. However he says the occasions place the funeral residence as a “place of consolation and safety” for native residents in the long term.

A reception at certainly one of Flanner Buchanan Funeral Middle’s occasion areas.


Shawn Spence

For different properties, there’s a direct payoff in considering outdoors the field. The Flanner Buchanan Funeral Middle, which operates 17 areas within the larger Indianapolis space, hosts about 500 non-funeral occasions yearly, in keeping with proprietor and chief govt Bruce Buchanan.

Weddings are a spotlight, however there’s no explicit restrict to what the corporate will do. “In all probability the largest occasion we did was a jazz live performance that ran over two days,” says Buchanan.

In some methods, the development is absolutely an outgrowth of funeral properties including occasion areas in recent times as a strategy to higher accommodate these planning memorial providers, says Bryant Hightower, president of the Nationwide Funeral Administrators Affiliation.


‘The most important occasion we did was a jazz live performance.’


— Bruce Buchanan, proprietor of the Flanner Buchanan Funeral Middle in Indianapolis

Hightower and others within the business say funeral properties realized that households had been more and more annoyed having to coordinate separate occasions — which means a funeral service, a burial and a gathering at a restaurant — in the identical day.

So, by offering an occasion and catering venue, usually a newly constructed area or a repurposed present chapel, residence operators might remedy a part of the dilemma for households planning funerals and create a brand new earnings stream for the companies on the similar time.

However as soon as the occasion areas had been up and operating, it turned apparent to residence operators that the rooms might perform in different methods. “It’s solely pure,” says Hightower.

Nonetheless, not each funeral residence has discovered the concept is smart.

Veteran standup comedian Elyse DeLucci is coordinating and showing on the Aug. 12 present on the Frank E. Campbell funeral chapel.


Courtesy Elyse DeLucci

“The group mentioned, ‘Good venue, however we don’t suppose we wish a child bathe at a funeral residence,’” says Nancy Brunner Sanden, a companion at Brunner Sanden Deitrick Funeral Dwelling & Cremation Middle in Mentor, Ohio.

Sander says that her firm makes good use of its catering facility for memorial occasions, however its makes an attempt at internet hosting weddings, birthday events and, sure, child showers haven’t proved as profitable.

Internet hosting a comedy present at a funeral residence could also be pushing the concept to a good larger excessive. However that doesn’t appear to faze the comics who’re taking part within the Aug. 12 occasion on the Frank E. Campbell residence.

Elyse DeLucci, the veteran standup specialist who’s coordinating and showing on the Campbell present, says comics are accustomed to discovering work the place they’ll get it. Plus, the pandemic has solely prompted many within the comedy group to be extra inventive find alternatives, she provides.

In the long run, she notes, it’s the laughter generated that counts, not the venue, be it a membership or a funeral chapel. “A room is a room,” she says.



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