Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Whatever happened to Joey Bag-o-donuts?

In a Mike Birbiglia 2008 stand-up special called "What I Should Have Said Was Nothing" he told a story about how as a teenager he worked as a busboy in a restaurant where his older brother had worked the previous year. The gruff cooks asked him how he got the job, and he noted his older brother, Joe, had worked there previously. The cooks then exclaimed, "You're the brother of Joey Bag-o-donuts? We love that guy!" (Click here to watch the part in question.)

Upon getting home, Mike asked his older brother if "Bag-o-donuts" was his nickname, and the brother admits that was actually a different Joe—and was a guy who was awesome. The joke concludes with Mike admitting that for the rest of the summer he had to pretend to be the brother of "Bag-o-donuts," living in constant fear the real guy would come back and his ruse would be revealed.

What came to mind for me was the thought: This awesome "Bag-o-donuts" probably was that charismatic BMOC who had all the girls fawning over him, being effortlessly popular, leading that life that in our youth we believe we're supposed to want. He almost certainly went on to success, and perhaps even became a leader in some field.

And while he may be charming and witty, the one thing that's certain is "Bag-o-donuts" is not funny. He could never be a comedian.

What draws people to someone like him at, say, a cocktail party would make him insufferable on stage. Not that everyone who was not popular in school goes on to become a comedian, but any good comedian was not popular on that level; he or she may have had garnered attention enough to not be considered unpopular, but being atop that pyramid excludes one from having the background to have stories that would be funny to a comedy audience.

And while "Bag-o-donuts" might sit in the audience at a Birbiglia show and laugh, he wouldn't really relate to the stories behind the humor like the rest of us who weren't in that stratosphere in school.

The reality is that although most of us felt like outsiders from that popular clique, as though we were missing out on something—not that we didn't have friends or weren't happy, but that there was something more to which we should aspire. But what being excluded from the exclusivity of the "Bag-o-donuts" types was include us in the much larger group of those who have in common the understanding of not being the ultra-popular, who have stories that many others can relate to (on stage or elsewhere), rather than experience that can only be relatable to a small set of society.

Or at least so we tell ourselves as we watch the ditz who married "Bag-o-donuts" on some reality show spotlighting her vapid life. But we're doing it ironically.

We get it.

Don't we?


  1. Well, Marvin, I suppose that means you're awesome.

  2. Marvin: I suspect Doug is using sarcasm in his reply to your post. I think he may even be insinuating that you're the opposite of awesome.

    Wanted to make sure that was clear to you since Doug's previous musings caused you trouble.

  3. Thanks for dropping by, Jakes. If I may clarify the rhetorical dichotomy in the post:

    get it = not awesome

    Therefore, when Marvin claimed (I interpreted in a joking around tone) he didn't get it, logically that would suggest what I noted (intended in that same kidding tone).

    But perhaps what I should have said was nothing.


So, what do you think?