Judging by how many I know now, there actually were a lot of Devons in the world—and girl Devons, too, for that matter—while I was growing up. But when you live in a small town and it’s 1998, how are you supposed to know that?
The reasons my parents have given for naming me Devon are as follows:
They didn’t know my gender, so they decided to pick one that would work in all cases.
There was a character on General Hospital named Devon, allegedly, though I can find no evidence to this effect.
They just liked it! Even though my dad’s name is Kevin and my mom’s name is Beverly, making us Kev, Bev, and Dev!
Whatever the case, like so many names that are weird and cool, being a Devon—specifically, being a girl Devon—was a low-grade nightmare for a kid (especially one whose last name also rhymes with “bologna”). It is easy to mispronounce as DeVon, or misspell as Devin, and easier to continue doing so purposely when you show weakness and reveal that it bothers you. And if you do manage to hide the fact that the passive-aggressive “De-VAWN” bothers you, it’s easier still for people to come up with all sorts of nicknames to really drive it home. Do you know how many completely unrelated individual people in my life have had the brilliant idea to call me DevDawg? Even if we ignore the vaguely problematic air of bestowing this moniker upon a tragically pasty drama geek in a wealthy, white suburban enclave next door to Inglewood and Compton, it still kind of sounds like you’re calling me Updog!
If I could go back in time to reassure tween me, here is what I would say: “Hey, kid. So, good news, bad news. The good news is, one day, your name will make a cool-as-hell byline, and you’ll be glad you didn’t start going by your middle name, or worse, by ‘Delia Denwyer’ [ed. note: still zero idea where this pen name originated, but I was very enthusiastic about it]. The bad news: one day, your name will also end up being a weirdly specific, ongoing joke in Hollywood, and you’re eventually going to get pushed to the edge and, ultimately, blog about it.”
So here we are. Now, look, there are a lot of names out there that are funnier than “Devon.” All the country-club names, for one (Trent, Blaine, Brooke, et al), are tragic if you’re not actually rich enough for it to match. The “Dating Profile is Just a String of Emojis” names are a newer set (Jeff, Trevor, and their ilk), while the Aggressively White “Let Me Speak to Your Manager” Boomer names (Karen, Linda, Greg) are at the blazing hot center of the joke zeitgeist right now.
But—and obviously, I’m biased—Devon is kind of in a class of its own, don’t you think? It’s wobbly, kind of chaotic, could fit any of the above categories if you framed the joke right. And because I met so few other Devons growing up, it never ceases to thrill me when a character is named Devon, even if the joke’s on me 95% of the time.
Anyway, when you’ve spent most of your life steeling yourself against tired cracks about your name, you tend to develop an unusually refined palate for those cracks. So here I am, on the edge, finally rising to the task only I (and other Devons who have known this odd experience) can take on: ranking the biggest Devon jokes.
5. Devon Who Comes with the House, Wine Country
At the bottom of the list here, on account of I just hate the character so much. The movie—which is very cute!—is about a group of longtime girlfriends who go to Napa for Rachel Dratch’s 50th birthday and each spiral over their own midlife crises. They rent a house from Tina Fey, who forgets to tell them that this guy Devon (Jason Schwartzman) “comes with the house” as tour-bus driver / chef of dubious qualifications.
Like so many Devons of pop culture these days, his name is half the joke. The problem is, the joke isn’t really even a good one! I have never in my life met another Devon who was the kind of NorCal good-vibes-only ayahuasca-at-Burning Man enthusiast who’d spend three days straight making paella from the cuttlefish he caught himself. It’s on the list because Jason Schwartzman and Amy Poehler do as well as one can with what’s on the page, but—not to spoil this months-old movie—if the funniest lines you can muster around this name are “he’s Devon, he comes with the house,” and “Guys, I fucked Devon” … I don’t know, man. Can’t relate!
4. Devon, “The Californians,” Saturday Night Live
Rated slightly above Devon Who Comes with the House only because it involves Bill Hader just about giving himself a brain aneurysm trying (and failing) not to break, and that in itself is so beautiful I can’t help but give it points.
Otherwise: fuck this Devon. Fuck this Devon for the grief he and his pals have caused me, specifically by giving my parents the line from hell that has been weaponized into oblivion: “DEEEEVON? WHAT ARE YEWWWW DOING HEEERE?”
(It’s barely an accurate parody of people in L.A. anyway, but we’ll get back to that in a few paragraphs.)
In an informal poll of four (4) other prominent Dev(o)(i)(a)ns on Twitter recently, the only one to respond, EW’s Devan Coggan, also reported having been at the mercy of a few “get on the 405 and get outta here!”s. This sketch is a pox on my bloodline. I shall not rest easy until there’s a better Devon/Angeleno joke to be made that makes people forget all about this one.
3. Devon, Letterkenny
Okay, yes: this Devon is a meth head. Let’s get that out of the way up front. In the first two seasons of Letterkenny, he’s the second-in-command of the “skids,” one of the main cliques in the tiny town of Letterkenny, Ontario—the one that consists of underpass-cybergoth wannabe-kingpin gamers who cook drugs in their moms’ basements and tweak/breakdance outside the town’s 99-cent store.
[Aside: If you haven’t watched Letterkenny, I can’t stress this enough—do it now. It’s a deadpan It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with the humanity of a Mike Schur show. It almost fills the cavernous, provincial void left in my heart by American Vandal (RIP). It owns Angelenos so hard with this riff on L.A.transplants—which includes actually accurate versions of both the accent and the directions joke from “The Californians”—that I can’t even feel bad about having said half of these things. It’s a pitch-perfect roast. Roast me, Jared Keeso.]
Falling somewhere on the spectrum between a lesser Droog and a young Uncle Fester, this Devon (Alexander De Jordy) is a misanthrope and an ideological purist who comes to resent his captain, a Tom-Cruise-cosplaying-Severus-Snape-lookin’ dude named Stewart (Tyler Johnston), for straying from their skid ways—dressing like shirtless Gymboree toddlers, loitering in parking lots, and never showering—to impress his new girlfriend, Katy (Michelle Mylett). He’s an excellent representation of what the name Devon does to a kid: it makes you really weird and try-hard, if I’m being perfectly honest.
While his name is certainly part of the joke, so are the names of all his compatriots: Devon, Roald (yes, named for Dahl) and Stewart all scream each other’s names with such alarming regularity and energy that the name “Devon” rarely stands on its own. The skids are all miserable creatures unfit for civilized society, and Devon is no exception.
2-1. Devin and DeVon, Big Mouth
In third grade, there was another Devon in my class—a boy, who (mis)spelled it Devin. He was popular, probably on account of looking like a cross between River Phoenix and Jonathan Taylor Thomas and being kind of an asshole. Our teacher decided that, for clarity’s sake, she would call us…Sir Devin and Lady Devon. It was a distinction that never ceased to mortify me, and still kind of grinds my gears for some reason, now that I think about it? Why not just call us by our last names? Or, pull what you could now describe as a Big Mouth, and make Devin go by Dev? Why make a bunch of nine-year-olds feel like they’re on a non-consensual trip to a Medieval Times in Scottsdale?
Anyway that’s half of the reason why the Big Mouth Devons—Devin and DeVon, to be precise—are far and away the best Devon joke on TV. I almost never associated with the other Devin, if only because I was busy trying to get my actual crush Ryan (definitely an Emojis Dating Profile name, btw) to pay attention to me. But the perfect, ambient awkwardness of multiple Devons of multiple genders in a grade-school setting hit me so hard I went out of my way to GIF it for later.
The other half is the fact that the Big Mouth kids live in another dimension known as 2019, where this line is possible. It almost makes all those years of “DevDawg” worth it.
Okay, fine, one update: His Dark Materials premiered this week! As mentioned in my last MalonEmail, I’m recapping it for Vulture. Here’s the first installment.
Spoilers for people who haven’t read the books, but if you have, will you look at this fan breakdown of the title sequence? Tumblr deserves better than what it got.