Where is the new Foster Brooks?

I was watching an old TV show that featured Foster Brooks and realized how brilliant a comedian he was. Not just his dead perfect ‘drunk’ impersonations, but also his witty jokes and biting sense of humor.

Which got me to thinking that I can’t remember anyone else, other than WC Fields perhaps, who built a career around around always being intoxicated.

So am I forgetting someone? Have there been other successful comics who have had a similar shtick to his? Is it unthinkable that someone could do the same thing he did now, or would it be considered gauche or unseemly today?

For those unfamiliar with Foster here is a youtube of some of his better roasts.

I would have almost said Mitch Hedberg was doing this, but he was really more a super nervous guy than a drunk. And he actually did have a drug problem, which contributed to his death.

I loved Foster Brooks. I thought he was hilarious. I’ve been watching Mork & Mindy, where he played Mindy’s often-pickled boss, Mr. Sternhagen. But public sensibilities change. Such an act would be unseemly and gauche today. People are less tolerant of drunkenness and drunk drivers today. Brooks himself moved away from his lush persona in the 80s.

Cheech and Chong made a career around being stoned, but that’s not the same thing.

It was Dean Martin’s schtick, wasn’t it? His whole lounge persona was built around having a highball glass in hand while wobbling a bit and almost-but-not-quite slurring his speech as he approaches a punchline or jovially gets ready to break into song.

Some of his funniest moments were at the roasts. Like this one. Never fails to make me howl.


Drunkenness just isn’t seen as charming all that much anymore. A comic working that angle would have to play it as pathetic and self-loathing instead. That said, Chelsea Handler uses it.

Frank Fontaine played the drunk “Crazy Gugenhiem” in a series of skits on The Jackie Gleason Show. (They usually ended with him singing a straight ballad.)

But drinking is not considered a proper subject for humor these days. Drunk humor is not anything to base an entire act upon, though it can be used in small doses.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is playing a charming drunk/addled guy.

Ron White performs with a Scotch and cigar but doesn’t make drunkenness a part of his act.

When I saw Foster Brooks , it was mainly on the Dean Martin roasts (in the era of three channels and snowstorms in winter, you had to watch something). His comedy always struck me as a bit strange. He would meander and stutter for several minutes and I would squirm and say ‘get this unfunny lush off now’. Then Brooks would come up with a line or observation that I would howl with laughter.
Some movie actors made drunkenness a part of their character. There is one John Barrymore film “The Great Man Votes” whete he told time by looking at amount of whiskey in his bottle.

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Some of his funniest moments were at the roasts. Like this one. Never fails to make me howl.


Thanks for this. Wonderful. (I couldn’t help wondering why Lorne Green was at that roast. He didn’t really seem to fit in with Don Rickles, Rowen and Martin, Rich Little, etc.) Just seeing Rickles break up was worth the price of admission.

Funny… I heard it wasn’t an act. I thought he was usually intoxicated on stage. If he was acting then he should be included in the shortlist.

Brooks was unique in that he played a drunk but for all rights and purposes always sober; WC (if you believe the reports) sometimes was fairly drunk during filming. The closest I can come to is maybe some of the more drunken characters/characterizations played by Red Skelton. Modern equals? Can’t really think of one.

Who knows for sure but Lorne Greene/Bonanza was on NBC as were the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. There may have been some contractual arrangements that Greene would get work on the network even after the show was cancelled.

I think of Steven Wright’s onstage persona as being sort of like a stoner, although it’s not as obviousness as Foster Brooks’ drunk.