Four years ago, King asked Lee point-blank if he was afraid of death.
“I don’t fear death. I’m curious. I can’t imagine what it could be like, because I personally feel when you die, that’s the end. It’s the machine that the engine is off,” Lee said on Hulu’s Larry King Now. “But how can there be nothing forever? You know what I mean? I can’t believe it.”
With a laugh, Lee added, “I almost can’t wait to find out—but I’m not in a big rush!”
Lee, who was raised Jewish in New York, revisited the topic a year later when he returned as a guest on King’s show. Answering a fan’s question at the end of the program, the acclaimed writer pondered, “If immortality existed, would I choose be immortal or would I rather be a superhero or a supervillain? Of course, I’d rather be a superhero than a supervillain. I don’t think I’d want to be immortal unless it went for everybody. I wouldn’t want to be alive while all my friends and relatives were dying…but if everybody could be immortal, I think that’d be fun!”
“No,” the pop culture icon replied, appearing unfazed. “Not at all.”
Regarding the afterlife, Lee reiterated, “The one thing I can’t understand, I can’t grasp my head around, is I feel when you die, there’s just nothing; it’s like when you’re asleep and you’re dreaming. But, I can’t imagine nothingness lasting forever. That is the thing that I cannot get.”
Lee didn’t view death as a grim topic—and he never did. “When I was a teenager, I needed work and I wrote obituaries of living people. Because, as you probably know, when a person is famous and that person dies, 10 minutes later the newspaper has a long obituary. Well, that was written in advance—and that’s how you know if you’re famous, if your obituary is already written. If mine isn’t already written, then I’m a failure,” Lee told King, joking, “Same with you!”