One of the things that we rarely see portrayed on television anymore is the character of the lovable and affable drunk. Hal Smith famously played the hapless and chronically drunk Otis on The Andy Griffith Show, but another well known funny man “drunkard” was actor and comedian, Foster Brooks.
Brooks put people like Dean Martin in stitches as he expertly acted the drunk professional on his way to perform jobs that necessitate intense sobriety. Brooks’ over-the-top antics always drew laughter for the utter absurdity of it all.
Foster Brooks was the king of making it impossible not to laugh.
Brooks perfectly stumbles over the three sections of the brain during a skit where he plays a drunk brain surgeon at the bar trying to “settle his nerves” before heading to work. Brooks sends the audience into a fit of laughter as he declares “I’ll know it when I see it!” when he forgets the third major part of the brain.
Martin really cracks up when Brooks comes back as an impaired airline pilot — once again settling his nerves before work — and keeps asking Dean if he’s sure he’s not also an airline pilot as he comes up with words Brooks is drunkenly forgetting.
Martin asks incredulously, “How did you get to be an airline pilot?” to which Brooks stumblingly responds, “I used to be a bus…a bus driver. But I quit. Too many drunks on the road.”
And so on it went. Foster Brooks was able to keep in character as Dean Martin struggled to keep a straight face while telling Brooks he’d been on a flight where the plane lost an engine.
Brooks responds, “Don’t worry, it’ll turn up,” without a hitch in his act. That these skits were done in front of live audiences is proof of a skill for live performance we rarely see anymore in the age of Netflix and Amazon.
Today, alcoholism is rarely portrayed as a laughing matter.
Today, we rarely see the jovial drunk depicted on TV. The focus on mental health and the negative effects of substance abuse have been pushed to the forefront in recent decades. But at least we can look back and laugh with Dino at the antics of Foster Brooks or watch old episodes of Andy Griffith and a bygone era.