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Would the Bee Trick From ‘Tommy Boy’ Work in Real Life?

According to a real cop, a fake cop and a guy who knows a lot about bees

The 1995 comedy Tommy Boy, starring Chris Farley and David Spade, completely rules. It’s a classic of the “the wacky misadventures of a fat guy and a thin guy” genre, as well as the best film to ever feature Rob Lowe getting an electric shock to the dickhole. Roger Ebert hated it.

There are stone-cold classic moments throughout its runtime — endless blunt-force trauma to Chris Farley’s head; the “here comes the meat wagon / OH MY GOD / new guy in the corner pukin’ his guts out” monologue; “fat guy in a little coat”; a fun running gag about a butcher’s ass; as well as some, uh, less-good bits. For instance, the climax features Tommy (Farley) doing a fake suicide-bomber thing that, well, hasn’t stood the test of time. Rather than leading to a victory for the small-town American working man, as it does in the film, deploying a plan like it in real life would probably lead to Tommy being shot a great deal of times through his head. 

However, there’s something about an earlier scam that seems like it could just work. Tommy and Richard (David Spade) are driving along in a half-destroyed car. Richard is drunk, still drinking and throwing up, Tommy is swerving all over the place. When some cops try to pull them over, Tommy hatches an idea, and swerves even more erratically. The pair of them jump from the car screaming “BEES!” adding such details as, “Your firearms are useless against them,” and “They’re huge and they’re sting-crazy.” The cops, not wanting to be stung, leave them to it, and Tommy is free to save the day.

How likely would it really be to work, though? 

According to one traffic cop on the r/ProtectandServe subreddit, not at all. “It absolutely would not work,” says u/Sizzalness. “Those moving violations, not immediately stopping and jumping out of the car would make me investigate further. If there were actual bees, then I’d call medical to make sure they didn’t need emergency attention. Leaving someone possibly needing medical attention from bee stings or letting a possible impaired driver keep driving would get me in trouble. Chris Farley’s character wasn’t actually drunk, so it would have been a short DUI investigation.”

So it’s a bad trick relying on some pretty shoddy policing. Of course, nobody knows more about why a particular decision was made than the people who made it. “I think the addition of the line about being allergic to bees probably helps with the logic,” says Adrian Truss, the actor who plays the cop on the right. “Mind you, in a Chris Farley movie, logic isn’t the gatekeeper.”

Either way, Truss is unconvinced leaping out of a car and screaming about bees would be a good idea. “I can’t imagine the trick would actually work,” he says. “But of course, I’m not a cop, although I play one on TV. I had fun on that set and I don’t know if you can tell from the clip, but my partner cop was a dead ringer for Dan Aykroyd, which was a constant distraction for me. Fun scene, and I got to drive a police car with lights and sirens, so that was a bonus.”

What if it actually happens to you, though, and you find yourself driving a car full of bees? 

According to Professor Justin Schmidt, author of The Sting of the Wild and a man who has been stung by more insects than anyone else in the world, don’t follow Tommy’s example. “In real life what one should do in such a situation is pull over off the road, roll up the windows and squash all the bees inside the car with a newspaper, rag or whatever is handy to do the job,” he says. “Deal with any stings, if there are any, by removing the stinger and make sure you’re mentally and physically okay to proceed. If you’re not allergic to bee stings, you should be unharmed other than the inconvenience, pain and swelling of the stings — assuming you manage not to crash the car from swatting and flailing while pulling over.”

The kind of bees you really want to watch out for, Africanized or “killer bees,” haven’t made it as far north as Tommy Boy’s filming locations in Ohio and Ontario, so even if Tommy and Richard were telling the truth about the bees, if they weren’t allergic they’d probably have been okay.

Schmidt points out that one percent of the population are allergic to bee stings, and that if you have any history of anaphylaxis, you should call 911. Pulling stings out is a good idea if a swarm situation is possible, as an embedded sting releases pheromones that draw in more bees. And, if not in a car, avoid swatting anything and just try to get the hell out of there.

So the bee trick probably won’t work. But then, should it? People get pulled over for all kinds of shitty reasons, but the reason the cops want to pull Tommy and Richard over is that their car is completely fucked — it’s missing a door, has been torn apart by a deer and is barely hanging together. The lack of a proper windscreen counts as an equipment violation. Richard is also breaking Ohio’s open container law

There are enormous issues with the police, massive systemic problems that will take a lot of time and work to fix, but insisting on roadworthy vehicles in which nobody’s drinking a beer is, surely, fairly hard to find too much fault with. Tommy and Richard are trying to save the Callahan brake pad factory, sure, but everyone’s trying to do something — it doesn’t mean throwing basic road safety to the wind. A big chunk of the movie is about growing up and taking responsibility, and faking an automotive insect swarm to avoid getting a ticket is anything but taking responsibility. Pay the fine, fix the car and then save your family’s brake pads empire, you know? Running around yelling about insects to get away with dangerous driving is no way to beehive.

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