Behind the outrageous viral obituary people call the

ONEAn unusual article appeared recently in a North Carolina newspaper. “An oversized Jewish redneck lady died on Saturday in El Paso” article announced – before throwing himself through a thousand words of one of the most outrageous obituaries ever written.

Renay Mandel Corren – an “outrageous, fertile, red-haired matriarch” and “talented and sociable crook” – have “taken the run,” lamented the obituary. “There will be much grief in the many glamorous places she went bankrupt,” including McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where the Jewish mother and grandmother “first fell in love with ham and atheism,” and Fayetteville and Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina . where Renay’s dreams, creditworthiness and marriage are all buried ”.

The boisterous, manic homage took pleasure in undermining the respectful conventions of small-town obituaries – such as listing the deceased’s accomplishments (“Yes, Renay lied a lot”), domestic virtues (“Renay didn’t cook, she didn’t clean “), And she was lousy with money”) and hobbies (“jetty fishing, rolling joints and buying dirty magazines”).

The obituary promised a “very disrespectful and completely non-denominational memorial,” “most likely at a bowling alley,” adding, “The family demands absolutely no privacy or decency, none at all” – a condition that turned out to be the obituary quickly became known on Twitter, where thousands of readers named it a masterpiece.

“I just thought some friends would read it,” writer Andy Corren told me.

Renay grimaces. Photo: Andy Corren

I tracked Corren, 52 – described in the obituary as Renay’s “favorite son, the gay guy who writes cheesy obituaries in his spare time” – via email. After asking if I wrote to him asking him to “pay a subscription to the Guardian after he ignored yours desperate pleas all these years, ”Corren finally agreed to call me from his weekend home (a“ wretched little wind fortress ”) in New York State.

He said he was still in shock at her death. “But I didn’t want to miss the chance – would never miss the chance – to ensure that this absolutely fascinating libertine and vulgar that I was lucky enough to call my mother is remembered.”

He began to write the obituary while sitting next to her and read a few passages aloud before she died. “She laughed at a lot. She raised her eyebrows and mischievously despised some of it. “That was the extent of her participation. “She refused to indulge in post-life planning. She only planned the day she lived. “

It was a disrespectful obituary for a defiantly disrespectful person, he said, and a stylistic statement. Obituaries are expected to be factual and serious. “I’m not interested in formats or straitjackets that rob you of your humanity or try to create a completely artificial whiteboard. Who needs a testimony after their death? “

The obituary describes abortions and an affair with Larry King, but it said he actually toned down part of Renay’s life – to protect the living and dead, and because all statutes of limitations have not yet expired. “I didn’t mean to cause also much scandal. Let’s just say the North Carolina attorney general tweeted my mother’s obituary and my first thought was, I really feel like we should get a posthumous pardon.

Renay “only planned the day she lived”. Photo: Andy Corren

Corren is a talent manager who divides his time between Manhattan and the Catskills. He has also written, produced, and performed small-scale plays, and has two decades of experience writing “1,500-2,500-word tight pieces” to perform on storytelling shows such as “Sit ‘n Spin” and “hear this.“

But his loud obituary reads like something from one of the great comic book writers of the South – Charles Portis, shall we say, or John Kennedy Toole. “I come from three ancient and proud storytelling traditions – Jewish, gay, and southern,” he said. (He emphasized that the obituary is his point of view, and he does not claim to speak for his brothers.)

Corren has spent the past few days coming to terms with his mother’s death in his “dirt shack on a hillside,” complaining about the weak internet connection, and using his dog and a .22 rifle on the property to keep an eye out for dog-hungry coyotes. On Saturday he will return to New York to sing Kaddish – the Jewish hymn of the dead.

He was “deeply touched” by the readers’ reaction to the obituary, speculating that it may have something to do with the pandemic. With Covid killing so many people, “Maybe we all needed a laugh and a way to talk about death in a fun way.”

He is currently working on a writing project about a “stormy” phase of misbehavior in his early career in LA – “a redneck” Less than zero. “I asked what it was about. “Are you going to sit down?” he said. “Shocker! It’s about me and my family. “

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