Awaiting death by firing squad, James Rodgers was asked for any last requests.
He considered it.
'A bulletproof vest?' he shrugged.
I've always loved gallows humour. When the stakes are high, go lowbrow. Tell the joke that lets air back in the room.
After all, it's only a matter of life and death.
I don't mean loose innuendo or 4chan darkness just for the hell of it.
This is humour as survival pack. Open in case of emergency. Break-glass gags.
The empathetic but stressed medical worker - or their patients, for that matter - choosing to laugh instead of cry.
The World War One trench soldier, wavering towards PTSD, high-fiving the hand of a buried comrade now built into the trench.
Daniel Craig's Bond, riffing banter while having his nether-regions thwacked.
Some of the benefits are obvious. Like swearing, a well-timed joke can relieve stress. There's a self-deprecating quality to it, which undercuts our natural tendency to self-importance, self-aggrandisement, self-regard.
And there's no bigger matter than death, that shadowy thing lurking in the corner for all of us.
In the Seventh Seal, a medieval knight plays Death at chess during the Black Death; a serious game, for a serious matter.
In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Bill and Ted play Death at Twister. Gallows humour.
Embracing gallows humour is proof of our ability to face down the unpleasant, even the existential, with a surrealist smirk.
When the stakes are high, choosing irony in the face of crisis gives us a powerful alternative to our default responses when under threat: fight, or flight.
Cause there's always a third option: just fucking laugh.