Local Meteorologist Punks the Internet

Barry Burbank's upside down coffee cup seemed like an amusing blunder. But it is so much more.


Like so many local news personalities before him, WBZ Meteorologist Barry Burbank became an internet star this week for a simple but amusing blunder: holding his empty coffee cup upside down.

During the newscast, Burbank’s colleague quickly pointed this out to him, and the two joked that he doesn’t drink coffee. But a context-free screenshot of Burbank gripping his coffee cup, seemingly unaware of its orientation, quickly gained traction on social media. Before long, Instagrammer The Fat Jewish was posting the image to his 1.3 million followers with the caption, “GO HOME BARRY, YOU’RE DRUNK.” Eventually, the thing—no joke—made international news. “TV weatherman holds coffee cup UPSIDE DOWN during live broadcast,” is an actual headline in an actual British newspaper.

This seems like overkill, but maybe it caught on because the photo provides the perfect parody of the forced chipperness of morning newscasts. “Hey, we’re just here this morning, drinkin’ our coffee, bein’ Americans, just like you. And hey, while we’re here being perky, why don’t we talk about the warm front moving through the Midwest this week that could destroy your holiday weekend.”

And finally, the truth: The coffee is just a prop! By holding the cup upside-down, Burbank unwittingly exposed the artifice of lies. Or was it unwitting? Burbank eventually provided an explanation for Mug-gate on a follow-up broadcast. A broad smile on his face, Burbank explained:

“In the past, on some mornings I say, ‘you know, my cup is always empty, nobody ever puts anything my cup … So I said let’s go on the air, and I’ll have my cup turned upside down, and maybe see if people notice that the cup is upside down. They always say that my cup is always empty, not just half full or half empty, it’s always empty. So there you go, cheers.”

Is that last part literally the darkest sentence ever spoken aloud? The joke’s on you, internet! Burbank’s coffee cup is just a metaphor for nihilism. We’d almost doubt Burbank’s “Yeah, I meant to do that,” excuse except that it’s so nakedly honest. Burbank’s just checking to see if any of this matters.

But in the end, what we’re left with is actually an uplifting story. Because it does matter. We are watching. We’re watching by the millions, in nations near and far. When Barry Burbank turns his mug upside-down, we notice. So return that mug to the upright position, and somebody get that man a Keurig. Because we are watching, Barry. Now and forever.