The Mad Men Book of Burns

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  • Mad Men
  • Pete Campbell

    Pete Campbell

    The Ranting Nebbish

    "Of course I love you. I'm giving up my life to be with you."
    — Season 1, Episode 1

    Pete, smarmy charmer that he is, doesn't deliver many good put-downs in any season. He can't. He's too busy being victimized. So it's appropriate that his best burn is delivered to his then-fiancée, Trudy. That Pete doesn't understand how hurtful his words are is, well, classic Pete.

    To see a more vitriolic version of salesman Campbell, check this supercut from Vulture.

  • Betty Draper

    Betty Francis

    The Feckless Princess

    "That poor girl. She doesn't know that loving you is the worst way to get to you."
    — Season 6, Episode 9

    When Betty's angry, she delivers her cut-downs as pouty, personal attacks. Her lines are rarely biting because, like Pete, everything she says is simply some version of "love me." But in episode 9 of season 6, Betty reveals in one line the tragic truth of Don Draper.

  • Lane Pryce

    Lane Pryce

    The Snooty Loser

    “Am I to entertain your ballad of dissatisfaction, or has something actually happened? Because I am at work, dear.”

    — Season 3, Episode 10

    Put upon. That's the personality of Lane Pryce, who, even in his more chipper tippling moments, carries about himself the hangdog manner of the British working class. 

  • Harry Crane

    Harry Crane

    The Unappreciated Wiz

    "I'm sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight and I can't be given the same rewards."

    — Season 6, Episode 4

    Burn! Harry delivers this bon mot to Joan, reminding her that she's a partner because she slept with a client. But like most rejoinders, this line reveals more about Harry than anyone else: he's always felt unappreciated and overlooked.

  • Joan Harris

    Joan Harris

    The Knowing Matron

    "You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl."

    — Season 2, Episode 6

    Oh, Joan. Her put-down of Peggy is definitely a burn, but in hindsight it looks more like foreshadowing. Peggy is eventually taken seriously for her good work. Joan was also taken seriously for her work. In bed.

  • Peggy Olson

    Peggy Olsen

    The Exasperated Brain

    "Eugene, I'm in the persuasion business, and frankly I'm disappointed by your presentation."

    — Season 2, Episode 2

    We love you, Peggy, and you will always be disappointed by men.

  • Megan Draper

    Megan Draper

    The Leggy Libertine

    "You want to be alone with your liquor and your ex-wife and your screwed-up kids."

    — Season 6, Episode 13

    Megan's not really a — how to say — mean person. Hell, right after she says this to Don she apologizes about the kids. But Megan is a little exasperated at how all these old people act. Seriously. Get your shit together, people.

  • Roger Sterling

    Roger Sterling

    The Sybaritic Sugardaddy

    Roger's Best Burn

    Burt: You're a real prick, you know that?
    Roger: Damn it Burt. You stole my goodbye.

    — Season 6, Episode 7

    Runner-Up

    “Jesus! I’ve been living the last twenty years like I’m on shore leave. What the hell is that about?”

    — Season 1, Episode 10

    Some readers will note that Roger's first season burn is directed at himself. That's because, sometimes, the best burns come from self-awareness of your interior personhood. And Roger, who some psychiatrists would call a "relentless hedonist," is incapable of any happiness that isn't of-the-moment.

  • Don Draper

    Don Draper

    The Witty Drapery

    Michael Ginsberg: I feel bad for you.
    Don: I don't think about you at all.

    — Season 5, Episode 9

    There's no shortage of analysis about Don Draper. He has antisocial personality disorder. He has an existential dilemna. He disappoints us, but that's maybe the point

    Whatever Don's issues, he's certainly spent a lot of time thinking about himself. Hence the line above, so biting because it's so true.

    Enjoy watching the Mad Men season premiere this Sunday, April 13th. We'll be watching, too.