Death on the couch

… or, The Grim therapist ‘therapist for the Grim (Reaper)’: today’s Rhymes With Orange cartoon, with its compounding of two cartoon memes, Grim Reaper and Psychiatrist”

(#1) The crucial element in the joke: the (normally metaphorical) idiom skeleton in the closet — here understood literally (in a world where Grim Reapers live)

Not the first Grim Reaper + Psychiatrist meme compound on this blog: from my 4/13/17 posting “Three more reapings”, this Bizarro cartoon in #1 there:


Somewhere, there is probably a Grim Reaper + Psychiatrist cartoon in which the Grim Reaper is the therapist, rather than the patient.

The idiom. First from OED2 (this subentry, in its entirety, from over a hundred years ago):

1. b. a skeleton in the closet, a skeleton in the cupboard, etc.: A secret source of shame or pain to a family or person. Brought into literary use by Thackeray, but known to have been current at an earlier date.
1845 W. M. Thackeray Punch in East in Wks. (1886) XXVI. 112 There is a skeleton in every house.
1855 W. M. Thackeray Newcomes II. xvii. 165 Some particulars regarding the Newcome family, which will show us that they have a skeleton or two in theirclosets, as well as their neighbours.
1859 W. Collins Queen of Hearts I. 182 Our family had a skeleton in the cupboard.
1881 E. J. Worboise Sissie ix She regretted having ever unveiled for her benefit the family skeleton.
1883 Harper’s Mag. Dec. 51/1 A household that..possessed no closeted skeleton.

The Wikipedia entry has more detail about the import of the idiom, plus an antedating:

an undisclosed fact about someone which, if revealed, would damage perceptions of the person; It evokes the idea of someone having had a human corpse concealed in their home so long that all its flesh had decomposed to the bone. … It is known to have been used as a phrase, at least as early as November 1816, in the monthly British journal The Eclectic Review, page 468.

The idiom has served as the basis for an enormous number of political cartoons, like this one:

(#3) Cartoon by L.M. Glackens, published in Puck magazine, 1/3/1912

But it’s also a favorite for gag cartoons, like this Gahan Wilson from 2003:


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