Food & Drink

Toward a Taxonomy of Bad Drinking Buddies

It’s been a good 20 years or so since the last time someone popped me good and hard in the face. Naturally, I was in a bar when it happened.

If I were the embellishing type, I might tell you there was a moment just before knuckle met cheek when I had a profound realization about mankind’s primitive instincts. Or the delicate dance between harmony and chaos in the universe. But as a responsible journalist, I must cop to the fact that in the split second it takes for someone to deliver a knuckle sandwich, you don’t think much of anything, except maybe, “oh no” or “mommy.” The whole thing just happens too fast, like a Taylor Swift romance or the rise and fall of Ken Bone.

That said, I remember precisely what I was thinking in the instant before I got popped that last time. It was: “Again, Munchie?”

Though I knew him a long time, I never got Munchie’s real name. He never mentioned it, and I never thought to ask. Munchie was one of those guys from the old neighborhood you instinctively didn’t want to know too much about. What you couldn’t help but know about Munchie, though, was that he was a nasty drunk with a short fuse. A night with him usually played like an episode of The Walking Dead. It would start out pretty slow, midway through, everything would go totally bonkers, and at the end, there’s a good chance someone you care about could die. Eventually that someone turned out to be Munchie. Didn’t happen in a bar, though. The way I heard it, he got killed during a home invasion. Poor guy. Who’d have thought a 74-year-old woman living alone would keep a loaded shotgun under her bed? Not Munchie!

The last time he popped me, we’d traveled to Queens to see our beloved Phillies play the filthy, evil Mets. The Phils won. Afterwards, we stopped for a few at a bar near the stadium, where a few turned into a whole lot. Roundabout closing time, Munchie approached a large group of disagreeable-looking New York fans with whom he shared his nuanced feelings about Dwight Gooden and the ‘86 Mets, which is when relations became strained. So strained that in the ensuing brawl, Munchie mistook my face for a fist-rest.

Munchie was a bad drinking buddy. And I’ve had a few. Enough that I’ve developed a taxonomy. Munchie, for instance was an M-80. Once he got lit, a big explosion was inevitable.

There are 13 Bad Drinking Buddy Types. Would you like to hear about them? Too bad.

The M-80

We’ve already covered this (don’t make me go Munchie on you, people). But there is something I forgot to mention: Once an M-80 gets lit, the goal—the only goal—is to get as far away as possible before it detonates. Unfortunately, you can’t just manufacture a reason and flee. Most M-80s are also Stage 5 Clingers, see, and that means they’ll manufacture a reason to come with you. At this point you have two options. There’s the old Irish Goodbye, but that’s a tough move in groups of four or less. Unless you’re a Murph (see below), you want to use the “you fly, I buy” dodge, which should really be called, “I say ‘you fly, I buy’ then, while you’re dealing with the bill, I disappear.” Basically you hand the guy a $20, and while he’s still angrily waving it at the bartender, you’re in a cab. It seems abrupt, but have faith that the coming explosion will wipe your transgression from the M-80’s memory entirely. In fact, you’ll be the hero in the story he’ll be telling the next day. Bonus: You might even wake up with all your teeth.


So-called for his mastery of the Irish Goodbye. You’ve heard of the “thousand-yard stare” seen on battle-weary soldiers and child stars? You’ll see it steal across Murph’s mug right around the 90-minute mark of any outing. Ten minutes later, it’s “Did Murph…?” Yes. Yes Murph did.

The Influencer

Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr famously argued over whether the moon existed if nobody was looking at it. Here’s a thought experiment for the “social” era: If a night on the town occurs and no one shares every stupid minute of it with strangers on their Insta-snap-tweet-face, did it really happen? For the Influencer, the answer is a resounding “I’m live on Facebook right now. Say hi!” Social media already ruined democracy. Don’t let it ruin drinking too.

The Muskrat

Like most rodents, the Muskrat is a prolific breeder. And once they get drunk, good luck getting them to stop talking about their kids. There’s nothing like barely making it through yet another soul-annihilating week of office drudgery without slitting your wrists, only to spend Friday happy hour listening to some deranged carriage-pusher high on diaper fumes droning on about Caden’s Mandarin studies teacher and how it’s so crazy how the twins potty-trained themselves. Probably geniuses. Super cute! Bartender, you mind passing me that broken beer bottle?

The Mouse

The lovable lightweight who tries to keep up with the group, but ends up drinking too much and picking fights with scary looking dudes on the way home. Unlike his close relative the M-80, though, the Mouse lacks much throw weight, thus requiring his friends to bail him out (i.e., take it on the chin).

Mister Fantastic

Once this guy gets a couple pops in him, he’s suddenly obsessed with how rich, handsome and humble he is. Not unlike a certain Cheeto-colored public figure. Only that guy doesn’t even drink. Riddle me that!

Vince Neil

Balloon Man

The swell cat who magically inflates every bar tab by ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. Then, when the bill arrives, he magnanimously says, “Let’s just split it.” Woe betide those who befriend the Balloon Man who’s also a Murph.


Miles is, of course, Curtis Armstrong’s character from Risky Business, who persuades a young Tom Cruise to convert his parent’s home into a whorehouse with a simple adage about what you sometimes gotta say.

While this is in and of itself not terrible advice, Miles always pushes things too far. And he’s adept at camouflaging terrible ideas as simple hijinks. Hey let’s flirt with those ladies in the VIP section who are talking to the Oakland Raiders. Hey, let’s take a spin in that cop car idling outside the bar. Hey, I wonder what that bouncer would do if you gave him a wet willy. But the hands-down eeriest thing about Miles is how, when you wake up in that holding cell in Fresno, he’s nowhere to be found. Consequences simply don’t stick to him, somehow. Which is what sets him apart from...

“Hey, Watch This!” Guy

This human exercise in intrepid stupidity used to only appear in parts of the country where second cousins are acceptable members of the dating pool. Then YouTube showed up. Suddenly, emotionally needy dimwits with access to booze and cell phones started channeling their inner Johnny Knoxvilles and filling out emergency room quotas. “Hey, Watch This!” Guy craves attention the way a lush craves whiskey. Problem is, he’s also a lush who craves whiskey. Under no circumstances should an inebriated HWTG be allowed anywhere near fireworks, firearms, fire sales, firewood, campfires, fire extinguishers or your prized copy of Firefall’s Greatest Hits on vinyl. Better yet, keep it simple, and keep him away from everything related to either fire or ‘70s soft rock. Other no-nos include balconies overlooking swimming pools, wedding dance floors, trampolines, sporting events, boats, zoos, amusement parks and Justin Bieber.

The Dog

The final link (along with Miles and The Mouse) in the Get You Into a Fistfight Triumvirate. After a couple drinks, this guy can’t stop himself hitting on anything with a pulse, including the girlfriends of those biker dudes in the corner.

Samuel L. Jackson in a Really Loud Bar

Say “what” again, I dare you.

And finally...


They’re so cute and full of energy, you’d think they’d be the best drinking buddies ever. But the truth is, monkeys are ruthless thieves that simply can’t be trusted around alcohol.

Dan Dunn drinks alone. Yeah, with nobody else. When he drinks alone, he prefers to be by himself. Check out Dan’s latest book, American Wino: A Tale of Reds, Whites and One Man’s Blues. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.