Joe Bagel is an up-and-coming Montreal writer. Years after CULT Montreal called him the “best twitter account in the city” for his various social media stunts, Mr. Bagel has set his sights on a new literary pursuit: theatre. But not your typical theatre — Mr. Bagel is digging up the old bones of Shakespeare, and embarking on a world tour of his new “Shakespearean cybercomedy”, a play in verse, called Trapped in Elon’s Mansion. His tour kicks off at Cinéma L’Amour on September 28th, at 10pm.
We sat down with the gangly twitter-turned-thespian at his writing studio, above Champs Sports Bar, across from Cinema L’Amour, to talk about his play.
POP MONTREAL: Is your real name Joe Bagel?
JOE BAGEL: I started going by “Joe Bagel” right after someone threatened to sue me for something I wrote. At the time I was working for Uniburger, writing tweets for $14 an hour, and figured, hey maybe I cannot afford a lawyer on this salary. Many years later, many lawsuits later, the pseudonym has come in handy. So I think I’m gonna keep it.
POP MONTREAL: Does your writing often get you into legal trouble?
JOE BAGEL: I have been threatened with lawsuits a few times. Lawyers and police officers are not big fans of Joe Bagel, it seems. One time a pair of police officers climbed through my backyard, up to my roof in Saint-Henri, and told me to get down because I was reading a David Foster Wallace novel.
POP MONTREAL: Were the police officers mad that you were on your roof, or were they mad because you were reading a David Foster Wallace novel?
JOE BAGEL: I’m not sure. But it’s pretty embarrassing to be caught reading Infinite Jest in public, so in a sense, they did me a favour.
POP MONTREAL: Tell us about your new play, Trapped in Elon’s Mansion.
JOE BAGEL: Well, it all started when I got into a Twitter fight with Elon Musk. A while back Elon, presumably high, got on Twitter and started insulting a man called Jarrett Walker, who is a personal hero of mine. Elon called this Walker guy an “idiot”. But Walker is an actual genius — he’s this celebrated Shakespeare scholar who decided that he needed to save the planet, and get people out of their cars, and changed careers and became this hyper famous advocate for public transportation. Anyways, so Walker wrote this article, critiquing a project of Elon’s called “The Boring Company” — which wants to replace subway tunnels with tunnels for personal cars. Which is just, like, a totally batshit insane idea.
POP MONTREAL: What happened next?
JOE BAGEL: I always back up my homies. So I started smack-talking Elon, on Twitter. Elon responded to me, to take another crack at Walker. Elon started to make fun of Walker for having a Ph.D. in Shakespeare.
POP MONTREAL: How did you respond?
JOE BAGEL: Nothing, at first. I waited. I kind of forgot about it, honestly. But then a few months later, there was this giant incident. Elon’s girlfriend, this McGill dropout called Grimes, is a musician. She asked another ex-Montrealer, rapper Azealia Banks, to record a song together, in Elon’s mansion. But then Grimes (presumably high) forgot that she had invited Azealia Banks to Elon’s mansion, and well, that’s when all hell broke loose…
There was a giant fight on Instagram. Azealia was live-streaming to thousands of people, screaming that she was “trapped in Elon’s mansion”, and posting texts from Grimes, and saying how Elon Musk was going crazy — running around his house naked as a jaybird. Which I’m not sure is 100% true, but what I do know is that Elon Musk was tweeting some VERY strange things that weekend. While Azealia was with Elon, Elon tweeted something about Tesla’s stock price, and got sued by the SEC for it, for fraud.
POP MONTREAL: Then you decided to write a 17,000-word Elon Musk revenge play in Shakespearean verse?
JOE BAGEL: Yes, in full iambic pentameter.
POP MONTREAL: Does it rhyme?
JOE BAGEL: A lot of it rhymes. Before becoming a playwright, I was an aspiring rapper. For like ten years, that’s all I did. I would drink PBR all night and rap until the neighbours would bang on the door and tell me to stop, or call the cops, which happened a lot too. But eventually I realized, Joe Bagel, come on. You’re not fooling anybody. Who do you think you are. The bilingual Eminem? So I gave up on my rap career, but rhymes and metre are still baked into my brain.
POP MONTREAL: Do you have a SoundCloud?
JOE BAGEL: No.
POP MONTREAL: Have you had any other shows?
JOE BAGEL: A theatre company from Chicago asked to stage the Elon play, and that sold out, and now I’m working on booking more dates, across Canada, in London, and the States. I don’t know why, but everybody seems to love the play! Apparently there is an appetite for wacky Shakespearean dramas. Lucky me — I am the only not-dead person writing them!
POP MONTREAL: Has Elon heard about the play yet?
JOE BAGEL: I have it on good authority that Elon has heard about the play, and he does not like it one bit. I opened an online store to sell copies of the play, and within hours, someone had launched a cyberattack — and the store got shut down. I’m not saying it was Elon, but you can draw your own conclusions. But I want to get back at him. I think I’m going to give every Tesla employee a free ticket to my Los Angeles premiere.
POP MONTREAL: When does the world tour start?
JOE BAGEL: September 28th at Cinéma L’Amour. Bring a date!