Meet the Todds
A Brief History of the Worst Name in the English Language
by Todd Smith
The other day, my twin sister Becky and I were watching reruns of The Office. In one scene, a bald, repugnant man named Todd Packer barrels into the Dunder Mifflin office and greets Jim by asking, “What’s up Halpert? Still queer?” He was a boorish lout who was completely unlikable and believe me it is no coincidence that his name was Todd. For the last 40 years, my name has been the go-to moniker for white guys on TV or on film who engage in this kind of behavior: your standard-issue perverts, nerds and douche bags. A recent search on IMDb.com showed that there are over 150 fictional characters named Todd out there and not one of them is cool. Seriously. Not a one. In a different episode of The Office, Todd Packer takes a dump on the office floor as a practical joke. When my sister saw that she had an epiphany. She turned to me and cackled, “That is such a ‘Todd’ move!”
Wow. When my own twin sister, my womb partner if you will, sees a man defecate behind his coworker’s desk, she instantly thinks of me. But, hey, welcome to my life as a Todd –a place where my first name is synonymous with “creep.” It’s. Awe. Some. I might be a overly sensitive on the whole “Todd” issue, but we Todds have been bludgeoned for decades by a not so subtle Hollywood smear campaign against our name. The characters don’t lie. Here are just a few of the lowlights:
The unhealthiest character ever seen on film was a young John Travolta as Tod Lubitch, a.k.a. “The Bubble Boy,” who was allergic to air. Bill Murray’s Todd DiLamuca on Saturday Night Live was a spastic flailing of snorts and goofy goobers (who can forget Gilda Ratner’s bombastic mocking:“Toddddd!”). Dr. Todd “The Todd” Quinlan on Scrubs is a doctor who routinely greets patients by asking, “How’s your dong?” Todd Gak on Seinfeld is the guy who managed to weasel dates with Elaine using what Jerry termed the “dating loop hole.” The a-hole preppy neighbor in Christmas Vacation is named Todd Chester. The gimpy art freak in Wedding Crashers who ties up Vince Vaughn and sticks a dirty sock in his mouth? Todd Cleary. That Saturday Night Live sketch about “Da Bears” super fans? Chris Farley’s character—the one who routinely got Polish sausages lodged in his throat—was named Todd O’Connell. Another skit on SNL titled “The 2007 Douche Bag of the Year Award” featured a collegiate sleaze ball named Todd whose dream was to someday compete in “Olympic Muff Diving.” The music-comedy duo Flight of the Concords once had an insufferable nerd named Todd join their band, to hilarious effect. Todd Nixon in The Men Who Stare at Goats was a blowhard Haliburton-ish handler who commandeers a gas station to fuel up his SUV in the middle of Iraq war zone. In the romantic comedy Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, everybody’s favorite awkward nerd, Michael Cera, plays a love struck indie kid who has to fend off seven of his girlfriend’s evil ex-boyfriends. Chief among them is Todd Ingram, a pretentious wanker who gets his powers from the lamest source ever: veganism. Even though, Todd Palin is not a fictional character, he probably belongs on this list, too.
Commercials aren’t even any better. Have you seen the new Subway spot with the dweeb eating a sub in his cubicle that is approached by the office hottie who asks him if he wants to be her boyfriend and then takes his lunch? Yep, Todd. My seven year old son Murphy (now that’s a cool first name!) recently pointed out a commercial featuring a boy name Todd who has a candy gusher for an eyeball. He uses his freaky eyeball to squirt a blue sugary syrup into the gaping mouths of cute teenage girls, baby birds, an entire tour bus, and even his own dad as they use a see-saw.
As a runty little kid named Todd growing up in South Minneapolis, I was taunted with nicknames such as “Tater-Todder” and “Toddles” and “Todpole.” One neighborhood brat constantly told me that I was “Re-Todd-Did.” To compound matters, I unfortunately look like “a Todd.” I’m squatty, barrel-chested with a chronic irritable bowel and wigged-out Garfunkel hair. You’d think that all the Todd hate would have subsided over the years, but Todd-bashing has continued unabated. Everyone in my life gets in on the action, too: When my brother Tony and his wife Lesley were pregnant with their son, I suggested that they name him Todd, to which Tony replied, “Why would I do that? Do you think I hate my son?” When George Carlin performed a comedy bit titled “Guys Named Todd” on his 2002 HBO special it seemed every person on the globe e-mailed me the link just to remind me of all of my Todd brethren. When I plowed snow in St. Paul for a guy with the impossibly cool nickname of “The Colonel,” my coworkers gave me the CB handle “Rod and Todd,” a nod to the Flanders brothers, two of the lamest Simpsons characters ever. Even my own mother, the very person who gave me this name, has joined in the fun. When I first started getting my stories published, she told me to get a new pen name—one that wasn’t so… Todd-ish.
“Your name’s kind of boring,” she said sweetly. “You should change it to, you know, something fun. Like Olly McConkle.”
So, Hollywood screenwriters, the next script you write that features a freaky kid who befriends a Nazi and sticks a cat in an oven (Todd in Apt Pupil), do me a favor. Name the guy Mike.