It’s a vexing set of circumstances—at the time you have the most to say (wise and terribly important things too), you are least able to communicate effectively. Being very drunk is like having a case of anti-tank rockets in a target-rich environment and a crappy slingshot to launch them with.
Which means you’re going to have to improvise. By employing the Drunkard Communication Skills explained below, you’ll not only get those rockets downrange, you might just hit something other than your reputation.
The Adopted Accent
The main problem with speaking with your normal accent is it’s from places you’ve already been to, and those places are boring. Which is why, if you happen to find yourself in the company of foreigners, you should feel free to adopt their accent. If you’re drunk enough, it’ll probably happen without even trying. Much as mimes really dig it when you start mimicking them, your new mates will appreciate your ability to acclimate.
If there are no foreigners on hand, you need not restrain yourself. Getting loaded is akin to taking a vacation without leaving your bar stool, so it’s perfectly natural you’ll pick up a brogue along the way.
Irish, Scottish, English and Australian accents are the easiest; they essentially involve the same language and we’ve all watched enough Monty Python and Crocodile Dundee to get the gist of their execution.
Some accents are certainly better than others. A light London lilt, for example, can be quite charming, while an Iranian growl will cause your new friends to nervously eyeball your backpack/anthrax bomb. A Canadian accent doesn’t require much effort, but neither does it lend much mystery. A Cockney accent will give you a certain amount of Old World street cred, but might encourage strangers to reach down and make sure they’re still in possession of their wallet. A German accent is fine, but try to steer clear of political and historical discussions. A French accent will help you communicate with the ladies, but men will inquire about your reputed expertise in running backwards while waving a white flag and signing surrender documents.
Note: If you’re outed as just another boring Yank by a friend, just tell everyone you’re in character for a part in a movie that’s going to make you very rich and vengeful.
Everyone loves a good song, but there’s nothing like a badly mangled tune to get your audience to sit up and take notice. Singing a song in key merely denotes talent, while a proper caterwaul says, “My message is so powerful and true it does not matter in what key it is delivered. What’s more, The Wheel in the Sky? It just keeps on turning.”
Though normally employed in concert with a really rocking jukebox song, you can personalize the delivery by staring intently at the person you’re directing the message to. This way that cute girl in the corner knows it is her and her alone that you want to “Rock the Casbah” with. And the jerk who stole your bar stool? He is presently “Messin’ with a Sonuvabitch.”
The Violent Reenactment
If you’re telling a story about how you backed down a 300 lb. trucker who you caught eyeballing you, don’t just use tepid words to describe how you manhandled the situation. Deliver the listener to that action-packed moment by saying, “So I do this,” while seizing his lapels, pulling him close and screaming, “You eye-fucking me, trucker? Because if you are, you just bought yourself a shitload of hurt, motherfucker!” Your listener will appreciate your reenactment so much he’ll depart soon after, undoubtedly so he can spread the word to any other truckers who may be thinking about giving you the ol’ fisheye in the future.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Hemingway used repetition in his writing to great effect and so should you in your speaking. There is nothing better to hammer home an idea, whether it be a hilarious joke you heard on the radio, the fact that bourbon tastes good, or that you really, really hate your job, than repeating it several dozen times during the evening. No one wants to hear a great song just once, so put your best ideas on high rotation.
This way, when your friends’ wives ask them what they got up to last night, they’ll say, “I don’t know, but John sure as hell loves bourbon and needs to get a new job.”
The Impromptu Whoop
Sometimes mere words cannot convey your message, especially if your message is pure, unadulterated joy. This is when the Impromptu Whoop comes into play. Also called the holler, the hoozah or the woo-hoo, this sudden burst of glee informs those around you that you are quite happy to be there, and alerts the staff that you will require an assisted exit within the next half hour.
The Surly Slur
This powerful communication tool is very effective when you wish to vent animosity, but have no obvious direction in which to vent it. The secret is to adopt a delicate ego and selective sense of hearing. It goes like this:
You: “Have another drink.”
Acquaintance: “Thanks, but I can’t.”
You: “What? Did you just call me a cunt?”
Acquaintance: “No! Of course not.”
You: “Oh, you’re saying I’m a liar then.”
Acquaintance: “What? You got it all wrong. I said—”
You: “Oh, so I’m deaf and dumb then, eh?”
You gonna let him play you like that?
There are times when formulating actual words can be such a hassle. I mean, must we enunciate every damn syllable to get our point across? You’re doing all the work, let the listener pick up the slack for once. Relax your lips and tongue and let loose long musical streams of mangled vowels and consonants. After a while they’ll start getting it. You’ll know this because they’ll put on a strained half-smile and nod vaguely at everything you say, even if you tell them you’re thinking about throwing yourself off an overpass.
If a listener is really lazy and asks you to repeat yourself, you have three options. 1.) Tell him to pull the corncobs out of his goddamn ears. 2.) Mumble louder. 3.) Wave him off and act supremely insulted for the rest of the evening.
Unlike the mumbler, a master jibber-jabberer’s words will be more or less comprehensible—it’s what he’s getting at that’s the mystery. The secret is to disengage that silly mechanism that insists on judging and filtering what you think before it hits your tongue. Just open the floodgates and let your torrential stream of consciousness spill out on whoever is lucky enough to get to know the real you. They’ll never again have to wonder where you stand on Affirmative Action and just how and when your ex should be murdered.
As the night progresses the bar tends to get more crowded and noisy, so naturally you’re going to want to raise the volume of your voice. Furthermore, since your expertise in and passion for whatever subject you happen to be discussing will also tend to increase dramatically as the night careens along, why limit the reach of your wisdom to those in your immediate proximity? Let those lurking in the farthest reaches of the room hear your excellent proclamations, let those pathetically uninformed passersby on the sidewalk across the street revel in your truths.
Shots of hard liquor are especially effective if you need to crank up the volume. Each is worth about one decibel. If the bartender tells you to keep it down, be sure to inform him you’re practically speaking in a whisper, for crissakes, then lower your voice to a hoarse shout for two minutes. Then you can crank it back up to full volume, so you can hear yourself speak, for crissakes.
There is nothing better than solvent alcohol to neutralize that wussyish force field known as “personal space.” I mean, the bar is so loud, you have to get right up on your listener to get your point across. You might want to take firm hold of his arm or put your hand on his shoulder to make sure he stays in position. If he does try to break free, give him a big hug and shout directly in his ear that you’re so glad somebody in the bar actually “gets you.”
Unbridled Snideness and Sarcasm
Half the people in the world were dummies before you strolled in the bar and that percentage will climb in direct proportion to how many drinks you lay into. Of course, a gentleman such as yourself wouldn’t just come out and tell them they’re idiots, no, you will utilize the art of Unbridled Snideness and Sarcasm to express your disdain. No need to be clever or subtle about it, those dolts wouldn’t understand subtlety if you hit them over the head with it.
You don’t have to wait until they say something worthy of attack. You may be surprised to know that nearly everything uttered in a bar can be met with a snide rejoinder. And remember, tone is much more important than wit. For example:
Dummy: “Wow, it’s packed in here tonight.”
You: “Who are you, the goddamn fire marshal?”
Dummy: “Are you in line for a drink?”
You: “No, I’m just standing here because I get a thrill out of people asking me if I’m standing in line.”
Dummy: “What’s wrong with you?”
You: “What’s right with you?”
If a rejoinder doesn’t automatically spring to mind, don’t refrain from employing the Cruel Parrot Riposte, whereas you simply repeat whatever they said in a nasal, slightly retarded tone while rolling your eyes.
People are such braggarts. There you are, just minding your own business, and some blowhard starts boasting about how he “went skiing last weekend” or “ate at that new Thai joint.” Big deal!
The only way they’ll learn to quit tooting their own horn is to drown them out by playing yours all the louder. The key to this communication skill is to lie like crazy. If he vacationed in Mexico, mention you lived with the Yacumos of Brazil for three years and enjoy the status of “High Cannibal Priest.” If he brags about trying raw shark fin at a sushi restaurant, inform him that you’ve had a bit of raw shark too, if you replace “raw” with “thrashing around and trying to bite my goddamn leg off in the middle of a South Pacific squall.”
Aggressive Exaggeration and Flagrant Falsehoods
What is truth, anyway? Does anyone really know? If five people witness the same event, you’re likely to get five different versions of exactly what happened.
And if nobody else was on hand to witness the event that may or may not have happened, doesn’t the truth lie in your hands, even if you weren’t there?
With this in mind, feel free to unleash outrageous falsehoods any time you feel the conversation dragging a little. For example, if the highlight of your day was you got cut off in traffic while driving to the video store to return Backdraft and Colors, you can jazz it up with a little creative license and improvisation.
You: “So, I was on my way to the video store when this van full of gangbangers waving guns tried to run me off the road. They were wearing blue, so I think they were Crips.”
Listener: “Really? What’d you do?”
You: “I floored it and nearly ran into a goddamn fire truck. The guy driving it looked like Kurt Russell.”
Listener: “No shit?”
You: “Yeah. As a matter of fact, it was Kurt Russell. He must be researching some new fireman movie. Anyway, he told me to follow him and we drove to a bar to meet his wife Goldie Hawn and have a couple beers.”
Listener: “Wife? I thought they never got married.”
You: “Well, that makes sense, because she was really hitting on me.”
You really dig your friends. I mean, what a great bunch of guys. And while it’s considered “uncool,” “uncomfortable” and maybe even “creepy in a gay sort of way” to express your great affection for them in sober society, such constraints are easily washed away by a decent flood of alcohol. Did you say you dig your friends? Fuck no, you love those beautiful motherfuckers. I mean, they’d give you their right arm and both kidneys if you asked for them. Go on, give ‘em a hug! Put your arm around them and tell them, in perhaps a low breathy sotto voce, that they’re the best pals a guy could ever have and you know they’ll always be there for you, no matter what, and that’s fucking beautiful. Shit man, hug them again and really explain how—hey, where’d they all go?
There. You’re all set. You now have the requisite skills to communicate effectively while blasted. Sadly, none of these techniques will help you talk the bartender into giving you just one more drink.
—Frank Kelly Rich