Playing Drunk

Bodie: How are you going to play it?
Doyle: Urrrh...drunk!

Simply put, a character fakes being drunk. This is often a way of achieving Obfuscating Stupidity.

Variants: The person's pretending to be high. They may even be a tad buzzed/high to complete the effect.

Compare Fake High, where the character thinks they're drunk or high when they're not. Mistaken for Junkie is a related trope where someone is incorrectly thought to be on drugs.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Death Note, Matsuda, after being caught by Yotsuba, pretends to be drunk so he can fake his death via falling.
  • In Soul Eater, Stein pretends to be drunk to trap Medusa. Unfortunately, even though he gets her to admit she's a witch, he's too late to stop her putting her plan into action.
  • Zoro and Nami do this in One Piece during Whisky Peak. Nami also used it frequently as a tactic for her pirate robbing prior to becoming a Straw Hat.
  • Trigun. It's hard to determine at any time just how much of Vash the Stampede's apparent drunkenness is honest and how much is the trope. While at times he shown to be so plastered as to be unable to maintain his Obfuscating Stupidity, at other times he's been able to snap sober in a blink.


    Fan Works 
  • Done by George to good advantage in With Strings Attached; he's pretending to be drunk and defeated so Brox and Co. don't take him seriously, but he's actually gathering information on the house where John is imprisoned so he can figure out how to rescue him. Later, when he does come up with a plan, he keeps up the drunk act so he can have an excuse to talk his way past the guards (who are admittedly sympathetic to him and John) and climb onto the roof.

  • Beverly Hills Cop. While in the bar, Axel Foley pretends to be drunk to make an armed robber think he's harmless and get close enough to take him out.
  • The Fugitive (1993). While Gerard and Newman are approaching the house with one of the escapees inside, they pretend to be drunks. Gerard even says "Be drunk, Newman."
  • The Sting. Henry Gondorff pretends to be drunk to justify acting offensively toward Doyle Lonnegan. To enhance his act he gargles with gin to get alcohol-laden breath and brings along a gin bottle full of water to drink from.
  • In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne fakes being drunk as an excuse to insult all of his party guests and shoo them out of his house (thus preventing them getting killed). When Wayne Manor is torched in the ensuing battle, the next day the papers read "Drunken Billionaire Burns Down Home".
  • Beerfest: "We're not that drunk."
  • In Grownups 2, Lenny, Eric, Kurt and Marcus pretend to get drunk to hang out with a frat gang.
  • In Down Periscope, the entire crew of a submarine (minus the sole woman) pretends to be a boatload of drunk fishermen to fool the other side during a war game, singing "Louie Louie" at the top of their lungs and as far from the proper key as they can manage.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark - Marion, who can drink a huge Himalayan under the table, plays drunk with Belloq long enough to (try to) make a break for it.
  • In Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Brad Pitt's character pretends to be drunk and wanders into a room full of targets, asking for a round of poker. He sits down and plays cards with them, tricking them into letting their guards down and eventually shooting them all to death. He then checks the other players' cards and collects his "winnings".
  • Pitt also plays drunk in Spy Game (complete with Vomit Indiscretion Shot) to throw suspicion off him and the asset he's trying to get across the border (or so he thinks).
  • Lucy of The Awful Truth uses this as part of a plot to embarrass her husband in front of his prospective in-laws.
  • Colombiana. The Dynamic Entry of the protagonist as an adult Professional Killer involves her ramming into a police car, stumbling out along with a couple of bottles, then getting cuffed and thrown into a holding cell to sleep it off when she threatens to throw up. Turns out this is a Get into Jail Free ploy to gain access to her target.
  • The Fourth Protocol. Michael Caine's character pretends to turn up at a New Year's Eve party drunk to gain access to the building, so he can do a black bag job on one of the flats.
  • The 47 Ronin: Kuranosuke does this when some visitors arrive, the first trying to convince him to work for the shogun and the next two demanding he immediately go to war against Kira. He immediately drops the pretense when his son is about to leave to go make war on Kira as well, explaining to his son that everything he's doing is part of his plan for revenge against Kira.

  • Dolphus Raymond from To Kill a Mockingbird. He pretends to be a drunk so he doesn't suffer backlash from the fact he's in love with a black girl (and fathered a mulatto).
  • The title character of the Agent Pendergast books often mimics being high or drunk to blend in with criminals, or repel ordinary people from suspecting him.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet, the murderer returns to the scene of the crime to retrieve an item he left behind, and finds that the police are on the scene, so he pretends to be merely a drunk passerby. (Holmes, hearing about it later, immediately realises the deception from the policeman's description of the "drunk" man's mannerisms.)
  • In Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes, and Dr. Meade fake being drunk in order to disguise the fact that Ashley has been shot while engaged in an act of vigilantism against the men who attacked Scarlett O'Hara Kennedy.
  • In the Discworld novels:
    • In Feet of Clay, the murderer leaves a bottle of whisky in reformed alcoholic Sam Vimes's desk, then contacts various "respected citizens" with the news he's drunk. When they arrive, it initially appears that it's worked; the place stinks of alcohol and Vimes is slumped over his desk. Actually, Vimes just wants to see who turns up and how they react.
      Vimes: When we find the man responsible, somewhere at the top of the charge sheet is going to be Forcing Commander Vimes To Tip a Whole Bottle of Single Malt On The Carpet. That's a hanging offence.
    • Inverted in Unseen Academicals. After drinking enough beer to incapacitate some of the toughest foot-the-ball captains in Ankh-Morpork, Vetinari is drunk. He's just very good at acting like he isn't.
  • In one of the Bloody Jack books, Jacky Faber and one of her female friends fake being drunk in order to fool some guards into drinking some opium-laced liquor. Once the guards are out, they sabotage the cannons that the guards are supposed to be guarding, which ensures their safe escape.
  • In Honor Harrington, Kevin Usher did this regularly in the days of the Committee of Public Safety. He held that a reputation for being a drunk could get you out of as much trouble as genuinely being a drunk can get you into.
  • In the Michael Crichton book The Great Train Robbery (loosely based on an true story), Edward Pierce wanders by acting like a drunken lout to distract a guard outside a railway office, allowing his accomplice to get in long enough to duplicate a key.
  • In An Oblique Approach, part of the plan of Belisarius involves playing at being a drunken sot to fool Lord Venandakatra into thinking he was going to corrupt the general into the Malwa Empire's plans to conquer the world. To himself, Belisarius scornfully thinks that because of his country boy youth, he could have drunken Venandakatra under the table at the age of ten.
  • Will Herondale in The Infernal Devices, Jem says it's to make himself look bad. It is revealed in The Clockwork Prince why.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Americans, Philip and Elizabeth attack an Israeli operative and are dragging him away when they're stopped by a cop. They claim they're just escorting their too-drunk friend home. The Israeli, not wanting to make a bad situation even worse, plays along by slurring through a few bars of Kenny Rogers's "The Gambler" along with a nearby jukebox.
  • The first episode of Angel opens with the title character apparently drunk at a bar, pouring his broken heart out at the bartender. Moments later it turns out he's just faking it and keeping an eye on a group of vampires; as they leave the bar with a couple of unassuming victims, he immediately turns from a blabbering drunk into a smooth dark hero and proceeds to kick ass.
  • Alistair feigns drunkenness in As Time Goes By in the episode where everyone tries to surprise Jean with a trip to Barbados. It's all a bit involved.
  • Better Call Saul: In a flashback, Mike pretends to be drunk as part of a complex Batman Gambit to kill the two Dirty Cops who killed his son. Mike drunkenly accuses them of the murder of his son while they were in the bar, then continues to act drunk so that they will "helpfully" offer to drive him home as part of their plan to drive to a secluded area to execute him. Unbeknownst to them, the episode had earlier shown Mike breaking into their patrol car and stashing a gun in the seats, allowing him to kill them both after they had already taken care of getting away from bystanders and witnesses.
    • Jimmy and Marco's favourite scam to pull together involves Jimmy and the mark encountering Marco pretending to be passing out drunk in an alley. Jimmy convinces the mark to rob him, telling the mark to take his wallet (containing a couple hundred bucks) while Jimmy helps himself to the nice Rolex watch Marco is wearing. The mark then offers to give Jimmy the wallet plus some of their own money in exchange for the supposedly much more valuable watch, which is really just a worthless fake.
  • In an episode of Blake's 7 , Vila pretends to be drunk so he can make a suggestion on how to fix the current problem (the ship's atmosphere leaking out of a hole in the hull) in the form of a rambling reminiscence, but avoid being called on to undertake the repair himself (because you couldn't give such a dangerous task to someone who was obviously drunk).
  • In Burn Notice, Michael points out that appearing to be drunk is a very effective tool for numerous different types of operations. Once, when he needs to be seen getting drunk instead of just showing up already-drunk, he explains the three simple steps he uses to make it seem like he is drinking more than he is: 1) Order drinks with lots of ice, lowering the total amount of alcohol present. 2) Order refills before you have finished your drink. 3) Spill.
  • Chicago P.D. often employs this, using one of their cops to pretend to be high in order to get into a drug dealer's place.
  • Chuck: In the episode "Chuck vs the Balcony", Sarah plays drunk to knock out a couple of mooks in a wine cellar.
  • Community subverts this trope in an episode where Jeff Winger's lame attempts to play drunk quickly give way to his being genuinely very drunk thanks to Abed's Enforced Method Acting.
  • Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor in "The Girl In The Fireplace", complete with Necktie Headband.
    "Have you met the French? My GOD they know how to party!"
  • Game of Thrones. Possibly Tyrion Lannister during his wedding; it's difficult to tell as he's quite drunk already but after Tyrion threatens to cut King Joffrey's balls off, his father Lord Tywin calls attention to his drunkenness as a "Just Joking" Justification. Tyrion agrees, then grabs his newly-wed and staggers off, crashing into various bits of furniture and talking loudly of how he once threw up on a girl during sex.
  • In an episode of Get Smart, Max has to pretend to be an alcoholic. He is issued a pill to keep under his tongue that absorbs all the alcohol he drinks. As he puts it, "I'll look drunk, act drunk, even smell drunk, but I'll be stone sober!" Then he accidentally swallows the pill, causing all the alcohol it absorbed to be introduced into his system at once.
  • In Graceland, the federal agents often have to pretend to use drugs in order to convince criminals that they are not cops. The episode "O-Mouth" is named after Johnny's criticism of Charlie's technique at playing high.
  • Claire Bennet from Heroes has Nigh-Invulnerability, which extends to her liver. In one scene she is in a Drinking Contest, and wins because she was only pretending that the drink was affecting her. Although she did wait until her father Nathan had gotten completely blitzed on tequila in the first drinking contest of the episode before stepping up.
  • In one episode of House, the title character does this to try and break up the relationship between Cuddy and her boyfriend.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Barney's father Jerome pretends to be drunk to get back at Barney for trying to get him to be his crazy old self again.
  • Hunter: When DeeDee McCall investigates the trailer of a suspected cop killer parked next to a bar, he comes back earlier than expected so she acts like a drunken patron who just stumbled into the wrong place.
  • In an episode of The Man From UNCLE, Ilya harasses a girl while pretending to be drunk so that Napoleon Solo can step in and rescue her.
  • One episode of M*A*S*H has Hawkeye and BJ pretend to be drunk while talking loudly about a valuable tape recorder to bait the thief in camp into making a move on it.
    Hawkeye: I think we've made an important medical discovery. If you fake being drunk long enough, you get a real hangover.
  • The killer in one episode of Monk picked a fight while pretending to be drunk so as to attract paparazzi attention, which would then give him an alibi for the murder he was going to commit.
  • Jessica Fletcher did this once on Murder, She Wrote.
  • In Peep Show, Mark tries to fake an ecstasy high after being given a pill that he doesn't want to take. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Professionals. In "The Female Factor", Doyle pretends to be drunk when visiting a high class call girl in order to draw out her pimp, whom CI5 wishes to interrogate.
  • Sherlock Holmes pretends to be completely drunk in the unaired pilot "A Study in Pink" of the BBC series Sherlock in order to approach the murderer.
  • Sam Winchester of Supernatural does this in "I Know What You Did Last Summer" to hustle pool.
  • In Veronica Mars, Veronica walks into a poker game, picks up a half-empty bottle that the clearly inebriated Duncan has been drinking from all night, and drains it in a single gulp. It was iced tea, and he was faking drunkenness as part of his poker strategy.

  • Contrary to popular opinion, the lyric "What's in this drink?" in "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is an invocation of this trope. At the time of the song's publication, that line was a stock joke in sitcoms- the punchline being that nothing, not even much alcohol, was in the drink. It aligns with other excuses the singers suggest using (that the weather is dangerous, that there are no cabs running, etc) so that the female singer can...stay the a man's house. Contemporary listeners often interpret this lyric as a mention of date rape.
    "I ought to say no, no, no... (...) At least I'm gonna say that I tried..."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The trope came into play during the Jake Roberts vs. Jerry Lawler feud of 1996. Background: Roberts returned to the World Wrestling Federation in 1996, using a reformed Christian persona who has quit the bottle, playing off his real-life experiences. Lawler then a shameless heel played on Roberts' past, claiming that he was a "drunk" and was appearing at wrestling events under the influence. On an episode of WWF Monday Night RAW, Lawler cut a mean-spirited promo in the ring mocking Roberts and alcoholics in general, when an "intoxicated" Roberts staggered to the ring with a whiskey bottle; however, the crowd and Lawler, immediately after getting sucker-kicked and DDT'ed quickly realized it was a ruse to catch Lawler off guard and give him his comeuppance. (Roberts then poured whiskey in Lawler's face to further embarrass him.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons module T1 The Village of Hommlet, Elmo the ranger acts inebriated, but is only pretending in order to get other people to underestimate him.

  • In The Desperate Hours the protagonist pretends to be drunk and abusive to make his son's schoolteacher leave, to hide the fact that three wanted fugitives are keeping them hostage (and had left liquor bottles lying around).
  • The Count in The Barber of Seville pretends to be a drunken soldier as part of his Zany Scheme to marry Rosina.

    Video Games 


    Web Original 
  • I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC. At first the Green Goblin really is on a drug trip, but when it wears off he has to fake it.
    Jeez, you'd have to be on drugs to be this high!

    Western Animation 
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Empire Day" Kanan plays drunk in order to distract a stormtrooper during a parade that the gang is about to crash. Ezra gets the assist by claiming that Kanan is his dad and is just overexcited.
  • Alfred J. Kwak: When Henk and Igor are trying to help Alfred, Ollie, Colonel Rangpang and Sir Poen escape from the National Crows Party headquarters, a pair of Crows party soldiers approach them. Henk quickly pretends to be drunk in order to avoid suspicion and to distract the two from noticing Igor. It works, and earns him a loud applause from the others once the coast is clear.

    Real Life 
  • This was one of the tactics used by the MIT Blackjack Club to avoid attracting attention. Sure the drunken wash-out is winning tonight, but there's no way he could be counting cards, right? Of course, eventually the casinos caught onto the scam.

  • That famous joke (or urban legend, or story, or whatever) about the cop watching a bar who spots an obviously-drunk guy getting into a car, pulls him over, and finds out he's totally sober — it turns out it was his turn to be the decoy.
    • A variant exists where the guy shows every sign of being drunk as a skunk, but every breathalyzer they pull on him turns up completely clean. Eventually they figure out he's not drunk, he's on drugs.