The 13 Best Burns on Mad Men
The show may be over, but the insults will last forever.
Mad Men taught us a lot. It taught us happiness is a moment before you want more happiness, and that despair is the yawning chasm of an open elevator shaft. But perhaps what it did best, above all, is show us how to throw verbal darts with wince-inducing accuracy. No one laid out diss tracks like the men and women of SC&P.
If Pete Campbell was Tupac, hitting ‘em up with no frills punches, then Sterling was Biggie—couching his darts with smirking wit. Without a doubt, the king of them all was Don “Weezy” Draper, who could dress down an underling with the sort of verbal mindfuck that melts steel. The man was the Genius Of Spoken Beef. Here are the top disses in Mad Men history:
13. “That’s what the money’s for!”
Early on Don dresses down Peggy in what will be a looooong tennis match of Peggy’s neediness versus Don’s bad cop/bad cop. In this early fight, one leans towards Don’s critical perspective of his protege’s self-aggrandizement.
Draper: It’s your job! I give you money, you give me ideas.
Peggy: But you never say thank you!
Draper: That’s what the money is for!
12. Peggy and Stan, sitting in a tree…
Peggy Olson is the master at lobbing off-target, self-wounding grenades at the ones she loves. In the final episode, her final insult went to good old Stan Rizzo, and set in motion his admission that he loved her, and her counter-admission that she loved him back. It was the series finale’s most touching resolution: the consummation of the Rizzo/Olson (Rolzzon? Pegzo?) union. In an endless parade of hopelessly fucked up, narcissistic, self-destructive Mad Men relationships, Rolzzon could be the one pure light the series offers.
Stan: You’re such a rare talent. Stop looking over your shoulder at what other people have.
Peggy: You don’t think I can do it.
Stan: I said the opposite! You’re just excited about being in charge.
Peggy: You have no ambition!
Stan: I’m just very happy being good at my job. I have nothing else to prove.
Peggy: Spoken like a failure.
Stan: I hope you’re really drunk, because you’re going to need an excuse.
11. Roger’s Mother’s funeral
Roger is a notorious mama’s boy. When his mother dies, he has to hold it together in a somewhat sober state. That doesn’t prevent him from delivering a zinger to a dowager in a wheelchair.
10. Zou Bisou Bisou
Who can ever forget Megan’s jaw-dropping rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou” at Don’s surprise birthday party? When she finished, Sterling’s normally silver tongue is dipped in poison by his suddenly toxic new bride, Jane.
Sterling: “Why don’t you sing like that?”
Jane: “Why don’t you look like him?”
9. The Firing of Burt Peterson
“You’re a real prick, you know that?”—Burt Peterson
“Dammit, Burt, you stole my goodbye!”—Roger
8. Empty Thoughts
All of Don’s simmering jealousy of Michael Ginsberg’s creativity collides like a train against Ginsberg’s bottomless Draper envy. After Don decides not to show the Sno Ball client Ginsberg’s superior Devil pitch, he deconstructs a steaming Ginsberg with a nuclear level riposte.
Ginsberg: What do I care? I got a million of them. A million.
Draper: Good, I guess I’m lucky you work for me.
Ginsberg: I feel bad for you.
Draper: I don’t think about you at all.
7. Accommodating Whores
Is there anyone in the world who likes Harry Crane? Nope. Especially Don, early one weekend morning when Harry calls him at home.
Crane: Listen, I wouldn’t bother you at home, obviously I’m on the coast, but I’ve got good news.
Draper: You finally found a hooker who’ll take travelers checks?
6. The Howdy Doody Circus Army
The finale of season five rises to a fast boil. Riding the train home, Pete crosses Howard, the husband of his electroshock therapy love affair, Beth, and Howard punches Pete in the face. When an MTA conductor breaks up the fight, Campbell turns on him and gets punched again. This is the exchange:
Conductor: I’m about to throw you off.
Pete: Go ahead, you fat piece of crap.
Conductor: I am an officer of the New Haven line!
Pete: Well, I’m president of the Howdy Doody circus army!
5. “You’re a grimy little pimp.”
One of the great moments in Mad Men, the sometimes lovable, oftentimes loathsome Pete Campbell gets beaten up by a nebbish British accountant, who punches like a Leprechaun. There’s too many perfectly aimed darts in this heated exchange to highlight just one, but Lane Pryce’s reduction of Pete as a “grimy little pimp” certainly ranks high.
4. Going To Paris
Sometimes the worst insults are actions, such as when Peggy expects her work on Chevalier Blanc to warrant her going to France to oversee the filming of a commercial. Don clearly has other thoughts, as he pulls a wad of money from his pocket and throws it in Peggy’s face like an Atlantic City pimp.
Draper: “Jesus Peggy, you know what? You wanna go to Paris? Here, go to Paris.”
3. “Masturbate Gloomily”
In Season 7’s “A Day’s Work”, Peggy jumps in the elevator with Stan and Ginsberg, who is characteristically pissed. When she tries to convince the guys to invite her to whatever they’re doing for the weekend, it becomes clear Peggy doesn’t have much of a life outside SC&P.
Stan: We now all know you don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day.
Ginsberg: She has plans. Look at her calendar: February 14: Masturbate Gloomily.
2. “A football player in a suit”
In the aptly named “Waterloo”—the half-season finale of season 7—Don is sued for breach of contract, and Jim Cutler finally airs his grievances.
Cutler: You know, Ted and I, whenever we would hear that your agency was involved, we’d always be so intimidated. “What was that man up to?” Such a cloud of mystery. Now that I’ve been backstage, I am deeply unimpressed Don. You’re just a bully and a drunk. A football player in a suit. The most eloquent I’ve ever heard you was when you were blubbering like a little girl about your impoverished childhood.
1. “You just ooze everywhere”
During a lunch with Sally and her friends, Sally watched Don appear to flirt with with one of the girls. In the car afterwards, Sally unloads seven seasons of hell in a touchstone moment that sends Don on his final soul-searching trip to California, jettisoning possessions like clothes as he walks into the vast ocean of his new self.
Sally: You can’t control yourself, can you?
Don: What are you talking about?
Sally: Sarah’s 17 you know.
Don: I’m well aware of that, Sally.
Sally: But it doesn’t stop you. And it doesn’t stop Mom. Anyone pays attention to either of you, and they always do, and you just ooze everywhere.
Don: You’re friend’s a fast girl, Sally. I didn’t want to embarrass her.
Sally: You know what I’m going to write down for my dream? I want to get on a bus and get away from you and Mom, and hopefully be a different person than you two.