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"Gawsh, did ya say you think I'm really six feet tall?"
"No, I said you'll soon be six feet under."
"Aw shucks... wait, what?"
A stock character in The Western, the Undertaker is the guy who will take a tape measure to you in the street, right before your big gunfight (or hanging) so he can build you a coffin. He'd be fairly nondescript, if it weren't for that morbid cheerfulness and focus with which he goes about his death-oriented business.

Usually he's got a somber air befitting a man of his line of work. That doesn't stop him from occasionally showing a grim smile and sharing a bit of dark humor with those he considers the Soon-To-Be-Deceased. In the Old West, death is a part of life that comes sooner than in Eastern cities and the Undertaker may have a variety of coffins and "last suit you'll ever wear"s in stock. The scary "keep off the grass" Undertaker is used mainly in children's dramas where sneaking into the graveyard at night is required. Often a part of his creepiness is that he is overdressed, meticulously formal and too clean. Unless of course he does more with the bodies than just take them to be buried, in which case he may overlap with the Mad Scientist and have a similarly unkempt appearance.

Keep in mind that most of these interactions will be with The Hero alone as most of the townsfolk have learned to avoid him.

Occasionally though, both he and the town doctor will rush out side by side after a gun fight since neither of them can load up the loser alone.

The origin of this trope is murky, but some have suggested that it originated during the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages. The undertaker became someone to be feared, because if he had been called it usually meant there was plague in your neighborhood and everyone you knew was likely to die. Some people even thought the undertakers caused the plague, so it wasn't uncommon for them to be killed by their fearful neighbors. The prevalence of corrupt undertakers who would sell dead bodies to physicians (highly illegal in most of Europe and the Middle East at the time) certainly didn't help.

Compare The Coroner and Creepy Mortician. If you're looking for the wrestler, see The Undertaker.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Done both cheerfully and creepily in Black Butler where the undertaker is an important source of information on the bodies of murder victims. This ties the archetype in to the many coroners seen in crime dramas where the professionals involved are either cheery eccentrics.

    Comic Books 
  • Undertakers in the Lucky Luke comics usually sport yellow or pale-greenish skin and are very cheerful at work, only sometimes miffed when some of their prospective clients are lacking professionality and shoo them away when they break out their tape measure. Some of them even keep pet vultures. Lucky Luke's creator and longtime illustrator, Morris, also had the habit of using drawings of people he didn't like (especially teachers) for those roles. The most used one is named Mathias Bones (appearing in all the 1971-1992 adaptations including Daisy Town, Ballad of the Daltons and the first animated series and voiced in French by Roger Carel), has very pale-greenish skin and is said to be a caricature of Boris Karloff. Though often neutral he is not above giving instructions to the desperados and other villains about whom to kill, as he put straight a workaholic.
  • Undertaker is a comic book series starring Jonas Crow, a wandering, misanthropic undertaker who also happens to be a former Union Army Sharpshooter. The series plays with and pays homage to many of the classic Lucky Luke undertaker tropes, such as the grim humor and pet vulture, while still playing them more realistically and in a darker atmosphere.

    Films — Animation 
  • An undertaker was shown in Balto, making tiny caskets for the sick children that everyone thought were going to die. It was used to convey the tragedy of the situation, as the undertaker himself seems very mournful.
  • An undertaker is seen measuring and hammering a coffin together for Rango in Rango. For extra creepy, it's a spider.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • One briefly appears in Back to the Future Part III when Marty is headed for a gunfight with Buford Tannen, measuring Marty for his coffin while the latter is still upright and breathing.
  • Marshall (that's his name) in Carry On Cowboy is mistaken for dead early on and measured up by the undertaker. Later, when he is off to heroically save the town, the undertaker gives him a reassuring grin and tells him not to worry, he kept the measurements just in case.
  • The only character who earns an honest living in the Clint Eastwood film A Fistful of Dollars is the the undertaker. And he's pretty cheery too, until Clint's character wipes out the remaining gang members. (Upset about running out of business?)
    Joe: Get three coffins ready.
    [later, after gunning down four men]
    Joe: My mistake. Four coffins...
  • High Noon. On hearing Marshall Kane is going to stay and fight Frank Miller and his men, a store owner eagerly tells his carpenter to start making up several coffins, as no matter who wins there will be a demand. He's embarrassed when Kane comes round as the carpenter is banging away in the back, and discretely tries to get him to stop. Kane is unimpressed, and sarcastically says he'll leave them to get on with their coffin-making.
  • Knife for the Ladies: Orville is the town's undertaker (and barber). He has a very morbid (and mercenary) attitude on life.
  • From a movie parodying every western trope under the sun, Lemonade Joe's undertaker is exactly as expected. He's pleased whenever there is shooting and a body.
  • In Never Grow Old, protagonist Patrick Tate is a carpenter and undertaker in the small frontier of Garlow. His business starts booming when Dutch Albert and his gang take over the town and start turning it into a Wretched Hive.
  • A typical Western undertaker is forced at gunpoint to aid the Santee gang in their attempt at Breaking Out the Boss at the start of More Dead Than Alive.
  • The Outlaws IS Coming!: The town of Caspar has two very cheerful and efficient undertakers who appear within seconds of the sheriff being shot to load him into a coffin. and they perform the typical comedy bit of measuring the stooges for their caskets as soon as they are appointed deputies.
  • The Tall Man in Phantasm started out as a mortician during the American Civil War.
  • The Quick and the Dead has an undertaker who can tell the height of newcomers just by looking at them. While they're on horseback.
  • Rio Lobo: The local undertaker arrives after Whitey and his companions are shot down, drawn by the gunshots before anyone even calls him.
  • Van Helsing has an undertaker character who tries to convince Van Helsing that killing vampires is a bad thing (vampires only need to kill one or two humans a month to survive, but when humans fight back they start killing for revenge), casually measures him for a coffin during conversation, and is found digging graves in the middle of the night because "you never know when you'll need a fresh one." He is very heavily implied to be The Quisling to Dracula and tries to kill Van Helsing with a vague "it's in my nature" as an explanation, and when he is killed by a werewolf he neatly falls into the fresh grave.
  • The cooper in Yojimbo, the film A Fistful of Dollars was based on.

  • The Sowerberries from Oliver Twist. In The Musical, Oliver!, they get to sing about how wonderful their work looks at the funeral.
  • The Undertaker was a series of paperback westerns about an undertaker-turned-gunslinger.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dead Man's Gun: "Buryin' Sam" centers around a pair of undertakers who rob the dead who come into the possession of the cursed gun when widow asks for it to be buried with her deceased husband.
  • In the Doctor Who Cattle Punk episode "A Town Called Mercy", the town's undertaker is rather helpful, giving a motivational speech to the Doctor after he ends up Marshall of the town. But he can't help pulling out the tape measure each time the Doctor turns his back to him.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The Undertaker, while well known as a wrestler, no longer fits the Western Character. He began as a mortician character before evolving as a guy has gone from using death to intimidate his opponents to a zombie to the Grim Reaper to a Dark Messiah Cult leader to a Badass Biker and back again as The Artifact. These days he's regarded as the best in the business, the guy who rolls around a few times a year for WrestleMania or to take part in a hot angle.

    Video Games 
  • One of the items you can get in Luck be a Landlord is this, which prevents Spirits from self-destructing.
  • Weird West has Undertakers as a kind of generic quest giver in towns. They will ask you to rob a specific grave in an abandoned town for a valuable heirloom.

    Web Animation 
  • The Backwater Gospel focuses on a mysterious, silent undertaker who travels from town to town, and is said to never leave until he claims a body. Despite how ominous he is, the undertaker never actually does anything — every death that happens in story occurs either because of accidents, or from the townsfolks' own paranoia.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy where the discovery of a crate of "squirt guns" (turkey basters) inspires the cul-de-sac to get swept up in Old West flavor. On their way to a gunfight with the Kankers, Sheriff Eddy and his deputies spot three plots in the ground big enough to hold them. After getting spooked and running, we find out Farm Boy Rolf made them to give his pigs a mud bath.
  • On a The Flintstones episode where Fred is made sheriff of a western town, he initially mistakes the undertaker as a tailor measuring him for a suit.
  • In the Goofy cartoon "Two-Gun Goofy", as outlaw Pete is shooting up the town, the undertaker is clapping for the carnage and making tally marks of the deceased. When Goofy is made sheriff, the undertaker is seen measuring him.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Drip-Along Daffy", the undertakers have the tallest building in town.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons:
    • In "Dumb-Hounded", the Wolf jumps off a building in an attempt to escape Droopy. An undertaker jumps after the Wolf, measures him, and then goes back up to his office.
    • in "Little 'Tinker", an undertaker comes on stage to measure B.O. during his serenade as Frank Sinatra (one of the many jabs at his apparently unhealthy thinness in real life).

    Real Life