Death isn’t funny, but Twitter and Kim Jong Il changed that

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s death wasn’t violent like the ones experienced earlier this year by fellow world-famous bad guys Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi.

The 69-year-old communist wasn’t overthrown by the people he oppressed and hurt. And he didn’t get gunned down by U.S. military forces. He reportedly died of heart failure while riding on a train.

Kim Jong Il in puppet form was the main villain in the 2004 film “Team America: World Police.” (Photo from

No mass celebrations.

No cell phone-camera footage on YouTube.

No faux death photos.

One common thread they did share? Plenty of one-liners and jokes on Twitter.
“Kim Jong Il’s son has some tiny shoes to fill,” actor Jeff B. Davis said, referring to the diminutive stature of Kim, whose son, Kim Jong Un, was named his successor.

“Kim Jong Il? More like Kim Jong Dead,” tweeted a flurry of people, each of whom I like to imagine thought they were the only person in the world funny enough to come up with the line.

My Twitter timeline blew up shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday with everything from that last piece of comedy gold to news reports with as much detail as one could get from a less-than-cooperative North Korean government.

One of my favorite tweets came from comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

“Rest in peace Kim Jong Il. You were a very sweet lady,” Kimmel said of Kim, who I’m almost certain looks like somebody’s grandma somewhere.

But nothing appeared as often as references to “Team America: World Police,” the 2004 movie made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone — the creators of “South Park” — that used marionette puppets for characters. The terms “Team America” and “World Police” quickly entered the website’s list of trending topics in the U.S. The main villain in the film was Kim Jong Il in puppet form, complete with oversized glasses, bulldog jowls and tan jumpsuit.

“We did it Twitter. We made every Kim Jong-Il joke there was to make,” musician Brendan Maclean tweeted. “I’m sure North Korea will appreciate it once they get the Internet.”

Like it or not, to my generation, that’s how Kim Jong Il is best known. One of world’s most hated men is seen by millions of people as a puppet with a voice that sounds like South Park character Eric Cartman’s.

Jimmy Bellamy is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and multimedia editor in Duluth, Minn. Contact him at (218) 723-5390 or This column originally appeared here.

One thought on “Death isn’t funny, but Twitter and Kim Jong Il changed that

  1. Well, written, tasteful commentary on a man no one but comedians will miss. Not an easy piece to write without getting maudlin or flip, but you did it well.

Comments are closed.