“I Guess I’m The Drinker”

The way Elliott Gould sizes up poker players in this scene makes me chuckle every time. The loose smoky vibe is what sells it. Gould mutters like a jazz musician on hemp, George Segal is nodding sagely and the pretty bartender is chuckling away. Neither she nor Segal are bothered, of course, that Gould is making simplistic assumptions based on cultural stereotypes. That’s actually what funny about it.

The Lyndon Johnson guy with the cowboy hat, the kid who’s seen The Cincinatti Kid too many times, the family doctor who doesn’t take chances, the red-coat guy who used to be a cha-cha dancer, the Ku Klux Klan guy, the Hispanic guy who talks louder than he needs to because he came from a large noisy family, the Oriental prince whose father made a fortune selling egg rolls, etc.

It’s amusing stuff in a shuffling Robert Altman context, or at least most people find it so, but if you were to write something a little bit similar to Gould’s patter in an online column, you’d soon be dealing with some very ornery talkbackers. That’s one difference between 1974 and 2010, it’s fair to say. Not that I would be so idiotic as to mention egg rolls in discussing an Asian-American.

38 thoughts on ““I Guess I’m The Drinker”

  1. MickTravisMcGee on said:

    I love this movie so much. “California Split” may not be Altman’s best, but it’s my favorite.

    That said, in this scene Segal — particularly when he has his finger to his mouth — looks so much like Stuart Smalley it’s hilarious.

  2. I love this movie so much. “California Split” may not be Altman’s best, but it’s my favorite.

    That said, in this scene Segal — particularly when he has his finger to his mouth — looks so much like Stuart Smalley it’s hilarious.

  3. Seriously though dude, you’re starting to sound like you should be writing for National Review Online or something, reminiscing about the days where white guys could be racist and not be all victimized for it.

  4. Seriously though dude, you’re starting to sound like you should be writing for National Review Online or something, reminiscing about the days where white guys could be racist and not be all victimized for it.

  5. Also, it should be noted that it’s a flawed, heavy-drinking, gambling addict fictional movie character who’s doing it, not a real-life journalist. All I’m saying.

  6. Also, it should be noted that it’s a flawed, heavy-drinking, gambling addict fictional movie character who’s doing it, not a real-life journalist. All I’m saying.

  7. To add to what mrksltsky said, Gould’s fictional character is making teasing trash talk between himself and one other person. He’s not sending an irritated, critical rant out to countless readers.

    Ignoring the imbalance of the analogy, Gould’s character also beats a man down in a public restroom and steals his money. Would that be considered acceptable in real life?

  8. To add to what mrksltsky said, Gould’s fictional character is making teasing trash talk between himself and one other person. He’s not sending an irritated, critical rant out to countless readers.

    Ignoring the imbalance of the analogy, Gould’s character also beats a man down in a public restroom and steals his money. Would that be considered acceptable in real life?

  9. No, of course not. How about just a plain beat-down without stealing anything? That could work. But of course, it wouldn’t work because (a) you’d be sued and (b) someone would capture it on video and put it on You Tube.

  10. No, of course not. How about just a plain beat-down without stealing anything? That could work. But of course, it wouldn’t work because (a) you’d be sued and (b) someone would capture it on video and put it on You Tube.

  11. Well, yeah, like I said… look who is singing here.

    But thanks for posting the clip… it’s a crime that this movie is out of print yet again…

  12. Well, yeah, like I said… look who is singing here.

    But thanks for posting the clip… it’s a crime that this movie is out of print yet again…

  13. If you made this movie today, Segal would have to be a disgraced Enron executive and Gould would have to be a super agent to the stars.

  14. If you made this movie today, Segal would have to be a disgraced Enron executive and Gould would have to be a super agent to the stars.

  15. Be sure to watch the streaming online version if you can, and only use the DVD for the commentary track. The DVD deletes several instances of Gould and Segal singing song lyrics, including “Happy Birthday,” because cheapskate Sony didn’t want to pay for the music rights. The streaming version retains all their singing because I suppose it’s cheaper to pay the publishers on a per-viewing basis.

  16. Be sure to watch the streaming online version if you can, and only use the DVD for the commentary track. The DVD deletes several instances of Gould and Segal singing song lyrics, including “Happy Birthday,” because cheapskate Sony didn’t want to pay for the music rights. The streaming version retains all their singing because I suppose it’s cheaper to pay the publishers on a per-viewing basis.

  17. Neither she nor Segal are bothered, of course, that Gould is making simplistic assumptions based on cultural stereotypes. That’s actually what funny about it.

    No one noticed what the bartender said? Those simplistic assumptions were apparently pretty close to the mark. In my many hours at casino and underground poker tables, I’ve seen more of peoples’ true nature than their own families have. I’m not saying I’m some poker genius, but I’ve found that gambling is one of the few activities where people show you their true nature.

    And Asians, by and large, are the loosest gamblers on the face of the planet. Stereotype or not.

  18. Neither she nor Segal are bothered, of course, that Gould is making simplistic assumptions based on cultural stereotypes. That’s actually what funny about it.

    No one noticed what the bartender said? Those simplistic assumptions were apparently pretty close to the mark. In my many hours at casino and underground poker tables, I’ve seen more of peoples’ true nature than their own families have. I’m not saying I’m some poker genius, but I’ve found that gambling is one of the few activities where people show you their true nature.

    And Asians, by and large, are the loosest gamblers on the face of the planet. Stereotype or not.

  19. Mexicans love The Cure. Worked in several record stores in my lifetime, and this was always the case.

    And black people love Micheal McDonald. Love him.

  20. Mexicans love The Cure. Worked in several record stores in my lifetime, and this was always the case.

    And black people love Micheal McDonald. Love him.

  21. ASTONISHING that in the course of five years, Altman whipped up MASH, That Cold Day in the Park (I honestly have to admit I don’t know what that one is), Brewster McCloud, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Images, Long Goodbye, Thieves Like Us, and California Split… culminating in Nashville in ’75 (only ONE MOVIE that year, Bob? Fuckin’ slacker!)

    Don’t get me wrong, some of these are absolute masterpieces, some are off-kilter experiments, and a couple are, to me, vaguely overrated… But that’s one hell of a stretch of major, worthy, deep movies that lend themselves to rewatch, reappraisal, debate and analysis.

    Some might say Soderbergh is that prolific today, and I like the guy a lot and I’m not putting one guy down to build up Altman, who surely doesn’t need one more film geek blowing smoke up his legacy, but even some of the SS “experiment” movies that I LIKE (Bubble, Girlfriend Experience) feel rushed and underdeveloped, kind of like a (very good) half-movie. Where Altman would whip out these epic casts and hazy big-screen cinematography and great senses of mood and locale, like each one was a fully developed work he’d spent years prepping.

    What the hell were they putting in the weed back then?

  22. ASTONISHING that in the course of five years, Altman whipped up MASH, That Cold Day in the Park (I honestly have to admit I don’t know what that one is), Brewster McCloud, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Images, Long Goodbye, Thieves Like Us, and California Split… culminating in Nashville in ’75 (only ONE MOVIE that year, Bob? Fuckin’ slacker!)

    Don’t get me wrong, some of these are absolute masterpieces, some are off-kilter experiments, and a couple are, to me, vaguely overrated… But that’s one hell of a stretch of major, worthy, deep movies that lend themselves to rewatch, reappraisal, debate and analysis.

    Some might say Soderbergh is that prolific today, and I like the guy a lot and I’m not putting one guy down to build up Altman, who surely doesn’t need one more film geek blowing smoke up his legacy, but even some of the SS “experiment” movies that I LIKE (Bubble, Girlfriend Experience) feel rushed and underdeveloped, kind of like a (very good) half-movie. Where Altman would whip out these epic casts and hazy big-screen cinematography and great senses of mood and locale, like each one was a fully developed work he’d spent years prepping.

    What the hell were they putting in the weed back then?

  23. Hoyk, the streaming version presents the film in the wrong aspect ratio. It’s 2.35 to 1, widescreen, but streaming it’s probably like 1.85 or 1.66.

  24. Hoyk, the streaming version presents the film in the wrong aspect ratio. It’s 2.35 to 1, widescreen, but streaming it’s probably like 1.85 or 1.66.

  25. Oh, nuts. Thank you for warning us about that, Mick. That is really discouraging! Does Sony just flat out hate us home viewers this much, that we have to choose between a comptete print improperly matted or a proper-ratio transfer with material missing?

    Guess we’ll all just have to pray for revival screenings.

  26. Oh, nuts. Thank you for warning us about that, Mick. That is really discouraging! Does Sony just flat out hate us home viewers this much, that we have to choose between a comptete print improperly matted or a proper-ratio transfer with material missing?

    Guess we’ll all just have to pray for revival screenings.

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