We Wanted to Break the World Record for Most Pubs Visited in a Day, So We Went to Dublin

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We Wanted to Break the World Record for Most Pubs Visited in a Day, So We Went to Dublin

I had day-before-school jitters the night leading up to my unofficial attempt to break the world record for most pubs visited in 24 hours. My husband quickly dispelled them by turning to me with an incredulous laugh.

“A man broke the record again two days ago,” he told me. “He went to 78 pubs.”

I’d first decided I wanted to have a go at this record back in June of this year when Welshman Gareth Murphy visited and drank a beverage (not necessarily alcoholic) at 56 pubs in 24 hours, establishing a new world record.

“I could break that easily,” I said to anyone who would listen. Visiting pubs is one of my favorite pastimes; why not turn my years of pinting into a badge of honor?

Little did I know that the now-world record of 78 pubs had already been completed by Heinrich de Villiers back in February 2022, but it wasn’t verified until November. And actually back in September, Brighton native Nathan Crimp had set the record at 67.

I actually emailed de Villiers for his insight about his record, and he wrote back that he saw it “as a challenge, one that I thought we could break. We attempted the record because we thought it would be fun.”

“I don’t think I would’ve attempted the record if my brother (Ruald de Villiers) and mate (Wessel Burger) agreed to do the whole attempt with me. They really made it a memorable event and they are the reason why we managed to break the record and extend it as far as we did,” he added.

I knew I wasn’t going to beat his new record and, after all, this wasn’t even an official attempt. Guinness doesn’t allow you to write about world record attempts.

My editor and I both decided I should go ahead with the attempt despite de Villiers’ shakeup, and that 78 was an unrealistic goal. But sure, I may as well see if I could beat that Welshman I’d talked a big game about. I decided I would follow along with the general rules that de Villiers and others followed, including that I would order a non-tap water drink at each pub and drink at least 125 milliliters of each beverage.

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7:59 am After a quick breakfast of a banana and peanut butter, I leave my building a minute ahead of schedule—this is going to be easy! I have years of being chronically early or on time under my belt. I’ve got this.

Before I even turn the corner, though, a bird poops on my shoulder. I know people say that’s good luck, but personally I think that’s a consolation for whoever was just shit on. I fucking hate birds.

I go home, throw the coat in the laundry, and put on a new jacket. Leaving the apartment, take two.

1. Trinity Bar Venue

8:09 am The first pub is a place I’ve passed countless times, but never dared enter because it’s a tourist trap-cum-sports bar. Not my vibe. This is a cookie-cutter bar, with too many stairs and too much space for its own good. Poems by Irish literary legends are written out painstakingly in chalk-paint on columns and fairy lights try to distract from the glare of TVs.

Despite my disdain for the bar itself, the staff are lovely, joking around as people only can at eight-ish in the morning when good nature is needed to keep you going. Besides me, there are a few tourists having coffee. I indulge in some orange juice and tell the bartender about the challenge, which she deems doable. She takes my picture behind the bar, and I drink a little over half my orange juice before scooting out to get myself back on time.

8:15 am This is one of my longest walking stretches, from the west of Trinity College to past its east end, nearly 20 minutes in total. It’s gray, foggy, and romantic out—my favorite type of Dublin day.

2. Padraig Pearse

8:33 am It’s also my first time at the Padraig Pearse, but for a much different reason. This pub is really for the regulars, and the five patrons all eye me up when I first enter before swiftly going back to their pint glasses. “Somebody to Love” by Queen plays over the speakers.

Taking a look around, the pub has a clear republican streak to it—Irish republicanism, that is, which means you want the six counties in Northern Ireland to be returned to the Republic. There’s a portrait of Martin Doherty, a volunteer in the Provisional IRA who was shot and killed by the UVF (a loyalist paramilitary group) while working at a now-closed pub just across the road, Widow Scallans. He stopped the UVF from entering the establishment with a bomb (they were targeting a fundraiser for families of IRA prisoners), saving many people in the process. IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and other names are listed on a poster on the wall.

The bartender, who looks like an Irish Ray Liotta, has to get up from his seat and return to behind the bar to serve me a Diet Coke. I decide this is not a place to share my challenge, instead gulping down the soda and taking a selfie for posterity.

3. The Windjammer

8:45 The vibes are much better in the Windjammer, both thanks to the patrons and the surroundings. Chandeliers dangle from the ceiling and the wallpaper is decorated with autumnal leaves. A porthole window features stained glass of a boat—a windjammer, to be specific.

I order an orange juice and mostly keep to myself, enjoying the buzz of the dozen or so people, the majority of them male and over 50, chatting to each other. Everyone seems to know each other, or keen to get to know each other—an Irish Cheers. They greet each other with a simple “Alrigh?”

When I ask a postman to take my photo, he and the lad next to him immediately warm up to me.

“Anything for a lady,” the postman says. Some regulars at a table behind me photobomb, and my photographer jokes that there are some male models in the background.

“What’s a girl like you doing in a pub like this?” he asks as he hands my phone back to me.

It’s a fair question. One of my friends used to come to the Windjammer back when he worked the night shift, but I’ve never been in an early house (a pub specially licensed to serve alcohol early in the morning) before today. I explain the challenge, and pass my list of pubs over to the bartender, who peers at it through his reading glasses. He judges my choices and advises me that the next pub on my list isn’t open until 9:30 am. Google Maps says otherwise, but this man is probably more accurate.

I have my first bathroom break of the day (it’s very clean) and the lads wish me luck as I leave.

4. Molloy’s

The bartender was right—the Lombard, just around the corner, doesn’t open until 9:30. I head across the river to my next stop, Molloy’s, another first time for me. I take a photo of the Samuel Beckett Bridge as I cross the Liffey. It’s meant to look like a harp, the national symbol of Ireland, but I always think it looks like a massive whale rib. The sky hangs heavy over the city; it’s pretty in a stark, bleak sort of way.

9:20 am There’s no music playing in Molloy’s, but it’s filled with the hum of voices. It’s fairly full for the early hour, and the demographic makeup is about the same as the Windjammer. An older man who introduces himself as Bob invites me to sit next to him at the bar. We start chatting, and though sometimes he speaks a little fast even for me, someone who’s lived in Ireland the better part of a decade, he’s good craic.

The bartender, who’s probably the person closest to my age at Molloy’s, doesn’t charge me for my sparkling water. It’s water, like, he reminds me. This is easily the place I feel most welcomed so far, with the lads next to Bob joining in our conversation. I tell them about the challenge, and the bartender—whose name I learn is Anthony—informs me I’m missing out on the best Guinness in Dublin. I lose track of time a bit and wish I could stay here for longer. I’m reminded that this challenge really isn’t for people who enjoy pubs. My favorite thing about bars is sitting in them for hours on end, chatting shit, and reveling in others’ company. I’ve prudently allotted myself 10 minutes per pub in my schedule, which is not nearly enough time to fully enjoy an establishment like Molloy’s.

The aul fellas at the bar make fun of me when I tell them I’m heading to a Wetherspoons next, and rightfully so. I’m sad to leave, and Bob hugs me on the way out.

5. The Silver Penny (Wetherspoons)

9:37 am For the uninitiated, Wetherspoons is a UK pub chain with ridiculously low prices because only by being blackout drunk could you stand the lack of atmosphere. Drinks are cheap in part because they play no music and therefore pay no rights, but unlike Molloy’s, there is no comforting backing track of murmurs and clinking glasses here. People are making noise, sure, but the space is so large and soulless that any hint of humanity is sucked into a vacuum. It’s like an airport bar, but with none of the excitement of going anywhere.

This pub is capitalism incarnate, serving you drink at the lowest possible price while undercutting local traders and eliminating the heart that makes pub-going worth it. Wetherspoons has been slowly infiltrating the city over the years, and they now have six locations in County Dublin. Hopefully, though, Brexit makes it impossible for the chain to survive in Ireland.

The Silver Penny is woefully understaffed. One man is already waiting at the bar when I come in, and the bartender is clearly flustered as she takes my order (Diet Pepsi—presumably cheaper than working with Coke) and his. There’s a table of tourists near me, along with a handful of locals taking advantage of the inexpensive drinks. I see an old man, clearly very drunk, stumbling up some stairs and spilling his coffee in the process. The overworked bartender gently guides him back to his table.

I’m already feeling bloated.

9:48 am I leave The Silver Penny as soon as I possibly can and head up O’Connell Street, in some ways the main thoroughfare of Dublin. It’s where you’ll find The Spire (a big ol’ metal spike that lights up on top) and statues of famous Irishmen like the street’s namesake Daniel O’Connell and Jim Larkin.

There’s been a lot of coverage in Irish media lately about the street’s state of disrepair and the crime that occurs in the area. Some people are, of course, calling for more policing, but the problem also lies in that the area is too expensive for anyone but big chains to have storefront space on the street, and those massive companies have no incentive to invest in the welfare of the local community.

6. Murray’s Bar

9:56 am The music in Murray’s is some absolute paddywhackery, the sort of diddly-aye you’d hear in tourist shops like Carrolls. The men having their breakfast next to me are enjoying it though, singing along slightly.

The bar is covered in fairy lights, like I’ve been dropped into a constellation. I order a blackcurrant and have my second bathroom break of the day. On my way out, I’m not surprised to hear an English tourist ordering three Guinness.

7. O’Reilly’s Bar and Lounge

10:13 am When I showed my friends my list, one of them said that O’Reilly’s would be “rougher than a pig’s arse” at this time of day, and he’s not really wrong.

The place is quiet, though there are about 10 people spaced out at various tables. All regulars, I assume, since they address the bartender by name. I order a sparkling water and keep to myself, looking at the various TV screens, nearly all on static, which feels appropriate for this place. No music, just the low hum of some machine. Eventually they get the TVs working and put the horse racing on.

As soon as I can, I’m out of there. I eat a banana as I head down Parnell Street towards my next destination. It’s probably one of the more embarrassing foods to eat while walking, but today is not a day for shame.

8. Slattery’s

10:35 am Slattery’s is situated on Capel Street, which was recently dubbed one of the coolest streets in the world by Time Out. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s certainly one of my favorite streets in Dublin, crowded with sex shops, specialty grocery stores, pubs, eateries, and secondhand shops.

“American Girl” by Tom Petty starts playing when I arrive at Slattery’s, which I take to be a good sign. I drink a blackcurrant and observe the regulars, all of them men, silently drinking their pints around the bar.

Slattery’s made a name for itself when its full Irish breakfast was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover. I’ve had the full Irish here before, and it’s pretty tasty. I burp for the first time today—many more to come, I’m sure—and make my third bathroom stop. The toilet in Slattery’s is so massive. It’s covered in green tile and has its own couch and, honestly, could operate as its own bar.

9. McNeill’s Pub

10:46 am Things are quiet in McNeills. It’s just the bartender and three other lads.

“Are you open?” I ask.

“Barely.”

I order a Diet Coke and wait for my husband to arrive. He brings me a spare t-shirt and deodorant—I’m already sweating from my trek around town.

I fill the bartender in on my challenge, and he looks over my list. He likes the idea of spending a whole day just going to your favorite pubs in town, though he says there’s only four or five bars he really enjoys.

“Say ‘Howya Tin Tin’ to Eddy at Sweetman’s. He’ll know it’s from me,” the bartender adds, and wishes me luck before I go.

10. The Boar’s Head

10:55 am The Boar’s Head is quiet, save for three young German guys in the corner who look like they’re repairing a blazer, or maybe altering it for a bachelor party. Dublin is a big stag and hen do destination. I drink a blackcurrant and change my t-shirt in my fourth bathroom break of the day.

11. TP Smith’s

11:11 am It’s my first time in TP Smith’s, and I can see why. The place has high ceilings and a gaudy mosaic on the wall. Forgettable top 40s hits play in the background. It’s the type of place you’d be dragged to for work drinks you’d rather skip.

It’s just me and one other female patron. This place gives Wetherspoons a run for its money for the most depressing bar so far, which makes sense since it was recently bought by UK investment firm Attestor Capital. I order a blackcurrant and finish it quickly.

12. The Oval Bar

11:21 am I’m the only patron in The Oval Bar, which is a really gorgeous old pub. It’s all gold and dark wood and rich red paint. Sure, it’s a bit overpriced since it’s just off O’Connell Street, but I’m still into it.

Soft folk (of the bad variety) plays over the speakers. There are three staff members on the floor, and they’re all very encouraging as I order a sparkling water and explain my challenge.

Bathroom stop number five.

13. O’Connells

11:34 This is definitely a touristy pub. There’s one of those freaky little chef man statues outside the door beckoning me in, but he seems like a bad omen more than anything else. The bartender is chatting up some old Scottish and English tourists.

I order a Diet Coke and realize my knuckles are bleeding, thanks to the cold air and the number of times I’ve washed my hands already today.

14. River Bar

11:46 am River Bar definitely rivals The Silver Penny in lack of atmosphere, though it’s much busier. Everyone here seems to be a tourist. Nearly the entire place is decorated in different shades of beige, though the staff are trying to combat the dullness with Christmas decorations. The booths are lined with fabric emblazoned with words like “dolce vita,” “calore,” “decorativo,” and simply “interior.” Bland top 40s music plays and I count at least seven TVs on the walls. The place is charmless.

I order a black currant and munch on the bag of peanuts I brought with me. During my sixth bathroom stop of the day, I eavesdrop on some English girls chatting in the toilet about their body image issues.

15. J.W. Sweetman

12:02 pm I arrive just after Sweetman’s opens and realize I haven’t been here since college. Even then, Sweetman’s was never high up on my pub list. Another one that’s too big and touristy for its own good since it’s located very close to Trinity College and right on the river.

Since it’s after noon, I finally let myself indulge in some alcohol. Sauvignon blanc is my first port of call. Usually I’m more of a Guinness gal, but I want to keep the liquid/carbonation factor down after hours of sparkling water and diet soda.

Weirdly enough, a Dáil Éireann (the Irish equivalent of the House of Representatives) session is playing on the television. I almost leave my coat at Sweetman’s as I leave, which is how I know the alcohol’s hitting already. I also forget to tell Eddy that Tin Tin says “howya.”

16. Doyle’s

12:16 pm Doyle’s is another pub I associate with my college days. College societies usually held pub quizzes there or included it in any bar crawl since it’s just across the street from the university. It’s not a bad place, but I haven’t had much reason to go since graduating. It reminds me of being young and vulnerable.

I’m the only patron, and I think one of the bartenders looks like she might have just stopped crying when I come in.

“Are you open?” I ask yet again.

“Just about,” the non-crying bartender replies.

I drink a sparkling water and listen to James Taylor croon “Sweet Baby James.” Bathroom stop number seven brings me way back, reminding me of all the times my friends and I would rush off to the Doyle’s toilet together to gossip or reapply makeup. How many times have I passed another girl toilet paper in this place? I’m getting too sentimental in a bathroom painted baby poop orange.

17. The Palace Bar

12:31 pm The Palace Bar is truly a treat, and I’m glad to be here. The pub sits on the eastern edge of Temple Bar and is far nicer than any of the expensive, heartless tourist traps I’ll be passing through later. It boasts a rich literary history, sure, but it’s also just gorgeous as far as pubs go, with an interior of lacquered wood that just oozes coziness. The word sumptuous comes to mind.

I sit next to a Limerick man named James, who makes fun of me for not having an alcoholic drink, even when I explain the challenge. The bartender Willie serves me a blackcurrant, but James insists on buying me a half pint of Guinness.

James is great for a chat, and he regales me about his bar down in Limerick, Mother Mac’s. He runs the pub with his brother Mike, who soon joins us, along with his friend (wife? girlfriend?) Cora. They’re a lovely bunch, slagging me about my next few pubs being Temple Bar shitholes. I’m tempted to just give up the challenge and hang with these folks for longer. Again I’m reminded that the pub crawl goes against everything that makes pubs appealing in the first place—namely, the chats and meeting people I may not encounter otherwise.

Eventually, though, I peel myself off the bar stool and head deeper into the artificial, overpriced warren of pubs that is Temple Bar.

18. Gogarty’s Pub

12:50 pm This pub can be best summed up by an old man I see tapping his foot along to the live music: he’s wearing a green leather jacket and a tartan paddy cap, a caricature of Irishness (and an inaccurate one at that—tartan is Scottish). In fairness to him, though, he seems to be having the time of his life.

The place smells like soup. I drink a sparkling water and make my eighth bathroom stop.

19. The Auld Dubliner

1:00 pm This bar smells like vomit and I am almost certain I will never return here unless under duress—the staff are lovely, though. I down a blackcurrant and leave as quickly as possible.

20. Quays Bar

1:10 pm I came to this pub in September 2013 with my older sister when she was helping me move over for college and I didn’t know any better. It’s touristy and the prices are extortionate, the usual complaints, but the interior is genuinely charming: intricate tiled floor, dark wood, stained glass windows. Three patrons and I listen to the lone guitarist there sing The Dubliners tune “Dublin in the Rare Old Times,” a mournful ode to the changing city, which takes on an extra layer of irony considering most of the people he’s serenading are the very same ones inadvertently ruining the capital. The government doggedly sells the idea of Irishness to people abroad, hoping to make money off the tourists while legislating against the interests of those who actually live here. Like many other cities, AirBnb plays a major part in our housing problem.

“Fare thee well sweet Anna Liffey, I can no longer stay / and watch the new glass cages that spring up along the quay,” he sings, and I think about all my friends who’ve moved away due to the rising rents and lack of decent pay.. I drain my Diet Coke.

21. The Norseman

1:20 pm I’m so ready for my lunch break. The bartender doesn’t charge me for the blackcurrant, and I hurriedly finish my drink before heading home.

1:26 pm I’ve never been happier to see my husband. We watch Buffy and eat leftover spaghetti bolognese, which are probably two of my favorite things on the planet. He encourages me to nap on the couch, but I’m a bit too wired for that.

22. The Beer Temple

2:00 pm I join my friend Orlaith at the Beer Temple, which is a Galway Bay Brewery pub that’s probably trying to draw in Temple Bar tourists with their name association game. While part of a chain, at least this one is Irish and focuses on craft beer—though the fact that they don’t serve Guinness means I rarely go here.

I’m still coming out of my food coma as I drink a RedBull and chat shit with Orlaith.

23. Porterhouse

2:16 pm Drinking with a friend means I’m definitely moving a bit slower, but the company’s so good that I don’t mind.

Porterhouse is another Irish-based pub chain, but one I’m less fond of (not that I even like Galway Bay Brewery that much). I can’t quite put my finger on why, other than its cookie cutter-ness and the fact that it is, like Sweetman’s or Trinity Bar, just too big a space.

When I go to pay for my blackcurrant, my card stops working. It must be a fraud alert or something—I mean, I have made nearly two dozen small charges on my card today. I thank my lucky stars for Orlaith, who lends me a euro for the transaction.

24. The Lundy Foot’s

2:25 pm The Lundy Foot’s used to be a eurotrash club known as The Czech Inn, which my friends and I frequented in college because it was open late and they’d play a lot of floor fillers, along with our requests (usually for Carly Rae Jepsen).

Now, it caters to the Temple Bar tourist population, and drinks there have skyrocketed in price. They have live music—the usual Irish traditional stuff—and try to sell the idea that this is a good old fashioned Dublin pub. I know better. I remember the mirrored dance floor at the back where my friends and I would dance until they threw us out; it’s been replaced with shelves of whiskey bottles bathed in golden light.

I still love their terrible promo video from the mid-2010s:

I have a sparkling water, courtesy of Orlaith, and she leaves me as I head back to my apartment to grab a different method of payment.

25. The Wild Duck

2:40 pm I meet my friends Ken and Hayden at the Wild Duck, a first-time pub for me tucked down a Temple Bar alley. Loads of miniature ships hang from the ceiling. I have a Jameson, while the lads each have beers. While overpriced, the Wild Duck is nicer than I imagined.

26. Peadar Kearney’s

2:54 pm The last time I was in Peader Kearney’s was in college when I performed as my drag alter ego, the French Canadian woodsman Isaac Wood. And I won! So hopefully some of that magic’s still lingering in the air.

The aul fella at the bar doesn’t charge me for my blackcurrant, and I silently thank Isaac Wood.

27. The Dame Tavern

3:03 pm The lads watch me guzzle a sparkling water.

28. The Stag’s Head

3:13 pm Just across the lane is the Stag’s Head, which attracts a lot of tourists, but is a very cozy and charming establishment nonetheless. I drink a Coke Zero and make my ninth bathroom stop of the day.

29. Mulligan and Haines

3:26 pm Back in the day (by which I mean six or so years ago), this place was known as Sweeney’s and was a decent place for a pint and a gig. There was a mural upstairs of all these topless women—a little seedy, maybe, but the pub had character. Now it’s been done up and looks a lot sleeker, with a black-and-white tiled floor and red accents around the place.

At the very least, the playlist is good. ‘80s hits like Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” spill out of the speakers. My friend Louie joins us and I savor a Jameson.

30. The Banker’s Bar

3:48 pm I started coming to Banker’s mid-pandemic, when we could only drink outdoors. Not that many pubs did takeaway pints, and Banker’s made the list. During winter, we all shivered outside as we warmed ourselves with hot whiskeys or hot port.

Inside, I see a regular named Liam who we met during those outdoor drinks. I give him a quick hug and he tells me he thinks Argentina and Germany will do well in the World Cup.

31. The Foggy Dew

3:58 pm Lots of wood paneling in the Foggy Dew. Hayden leaves us once we finish up our drinks here.

32. O’Neill’s

4:20 pm I ate a smoked salmon omelet here on my first morning in Dublin in 2013, but haven’t been back since. Another pub that smells like soup, so we make this one a fast stop.

33. O’Donoghue’s Bar

4:30 pm Bedecked with World Cup flags, this place definitely feels aimed at sports fans from abroad. Maroon 5 plays in the background and Louie colorfully complains about the physical pain their music causes him. I sip a Jameson and Ken tells a joke about a nun:

A nun is taking a bath when she hears a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” she calls out.

“The blind man,” is the reply.

Well, he’s blind, no need to get dressed, she thinks, and answers the door in the nip.

“Nice tits,” he says. “I’m here to put up the blinds.”

Bathroom stop number 11.

34. Tapped

4:50 pm Tapped is an exceedingly ugly bar, with the strange color palette of candy apple red, teal, and gray. It’s quasi-futuristic, with painted metallic bar stools made out of old kegs and concrete blocks making up some of the tables. Louie says it looks like if Bladerunner wasn’t cool.

At least the Christmas lights on Grafton Street are dazzling as we head to the next stop, Mary’s.

35. Mary’s Bar and Hardware

5:03 pm Mary’s smells like delicious burgers, courtesy of the restaurant in its basement. The pub tries to dress itself up as some old-timey bar that sells tools from behind the counter (which they do, if you ask), but Mary’s is relatively new and actually a part of the Irish conglomerate trying to ruin Dublin one overpriced, flatpack location at a time: Press Up. I could honestly write a whole essay about how much I hate Press Up, but suffice it to say that they own loads of property and seem hell-bent on gentrifying and homogenizing this beautiful city.

The boys leave to go find dinner after I finish my sparkling water, and I head out on my own.

36. Bailey’s

5:15 pm My husband surprises me at Bailey’s, a swanky cocktail spot where I order a Diet Coke. He’s apparently been able to track me via my purchases, which would be creepy if I didn’t love him.

Bathroom stop number 12.

37. Duke’s

5:30 pm Reader, I am defeated. I make my 13th and final bathroom stop and drink sparkling water. I’ve started cramping up, and I promised both my husband and my editor (the two most important people in a woman’s life) that I would put my health first. I know I can’t beat the current world record of 78 pubs, and this isn’t even an official attempt. It’s not worth risking my health.

I get why people try to break world records; for me, it was about ego and seeing what I was capable of. The desire to see how far I could push myself and, in the process, do something I love. For others, they want to be remembered, however briefly, considering that this record seems to be popular for one-upmanship. It’s the “Ozymandias” of it all—that Percy Bysshe Shelley poem about a broken old statue alone in the desert bragging “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” It all fades in the end.

For most of us, we’re not going to make History with a capital H, but we will live on in the memories of the people we meet and befriend and love. And that’s what I enjoyed so much today, the people who I met and talked with, the friends who joined me along the way. I have a renewed love for a city that’s constantly under threat due to late capitalism, but that we’re keeping alive in spite of it all.

On our way home from Duke’s, my husband and I order burgers on his phone. Before he pays, he asks with a laugh, “Are you sure you don’t want a drink with that?”


Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.