Paul Feig is dancing around his living room to the 1960s French pop song “Les Cactus,” by Jacques Dutronc. Writer, filmmaker and creator of Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, Spy and A Simple Favor, Feig is wearing thick-rimmed spectacles, a black velvet smoking jacket and a conspicuously false mustache. With a slightly manic enthusiasm befitting an improvised live broadcast, Feig explains he wanted to pair his Vieux Carré—a cocktail with a French name—with a French song. He says he donned the mustache because he thought it evoked French-ness.
Every day at 5 p.m. for the past three weeks, Feig has been dressing up, dancing around his Burbank home and mixing drinks as “Drunk Funcle,” a persona he’s developed over the course of quarantine. The happy hours’ themes are loose: One evening, he wore a bespoke jacket modeled after a Ghostbuster uniform, a nod to his 2016 cinematic revival of the Ghostbusters franchise; to sip, he devised a cocktail inspired by the movies’ characteristic green slime. Another evening, to celebrate the tax deadline’s postponement, he wore a double-breasted pinstriped suit and fedora, danced to “She Works Hard for the Money” and fixed himself an Income Tax cocktail.
For 15 minutes each day I and, more importantly, my wife Sara, a nurse battling a mild COVID-19 infection isolated in the next room, log on to Instagram and watch Feig in his best evening wear energetically cracking jokes and goofing around with a cocktail shaker while his wife, Laurie, does her “indulgent straight-woman” schtick. The Drunk Funcle is a bit like Hugh Hefner—debonair with a louche cosmopolitan air—minus the oleaginous sleaze, and for that quarter of an hour there’s no place Sara and I would rather be.
Last Friday, while watching Feig’s French-themed show, I rearrange books, furniture and tchotchkes in my study to appear as appealing as Feig’s typical backdrop: a corner of his kitchen overrun with liquor bottles. When the episode ends, I sit down and stare at my likeness projected by my computer’s camera, straighten and re-straighten my tie, and wait for Feig to join a Zoom call. When he materializes, he’s wearing the same glasses and a perfectly knotted bow tie; up close, I can see his jacket has a satin shawl lapel and frogged closure. The mustache, though, is gone.
“Cheers, sir!” he says, holding his Vieux Carré, a Cognac and rye drink named, coincidentally, after New Orleans’ French Quarter, where I live. He lifts his glass and I do the same with my brimming Boodles Martini, trying not to spill over the keyboard. “Virtual clink,” he says.
Feig and I have been planning to meet for a drink for years, ever since I discovered he, famous for his Savile Row taste, is a fan of my books about men’s fashion. But we’ve never been in the same city at the same time. Now, thanks to the pandemic, with nothing but time on our hands, everyone seems desperate to create the illusion that we’re all in the same room.
Every day at 5 p.m. for the past three weeks, Feig has been dressing up, dancing around his Burbank home and mixing drinks as “Drunk Funcle,” a persona he’s developed over the course of quarantine.
Before the country shut down and everyday operations came to a grinding halt, Feig was shooting a pilot in North Carolina for an American adaptation of the BBC sitcom This Country. When news of coronavirus’s spread grew, he shut down the production before many shelter-in-place orders and travel restrictions went into place. Now he spends his days making sure employees at his company have work and a check to deposit, and his evenings blowing off steam with the cocktail routine, which he thought might help keep his audience’s spirits up. “I get to play the idiot for 15 minutes,” he says.
The Drunk Funcle has been marinating on Feig’s social media feeds for some time. He cracks corny jokes, employs running double-entendres, and leans on the “Tipsy Faunt” (his wife, Laurie) who is game-but-performatively-skeptical. Often, at the end of an episode, she’ll taste his drink, sometimes to comically deadpan disappointment. The “Where’s Laurie?” comments begin as soon as he goes live. Feig confesses that his persona isn’t all that different from his cocktail party behavior, perhaps just a bit exaggerated.
“If this,” he says, referring to the internet and social media, “was around when I was a kid, my mind would have been blown. I dreamed of this. I’m 57 and now I get to do what I always wanted to do when I was a kid, which was just to have a show from my room.”
Feig grew up dreaming of an idealized version of old Hollywood, and says he wishes the world looked the way movies did back in the 1930s. “You know, one of those supper clubs and they’re in tuxedos and they’re drinking Champagne on the dance floor,” he says. His deepest interests—films, elegant clothing and drinks—are contained in that sentiment. Feig recently collaborated on a London dry gin called Artingstall’s with Canadian distillery Minhas; the resulting bottle’s design mimics a cut-crystal decanter. His favorite bars are paragons of classicism: the Polo Bar in New York, Duke’s in London, The Hemingway Bar in Paris and Teddy’s Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt.
Over the duration of our conversation, we talk about French pop music and the calling cards of specific Savile Row tailors. When I tell him my mother saw Jacques Dutronc live in Paris in the 1960s when my grandfather was a diplomat there, he says he and Laurie have become friends with Dutronc’s son, also a musician. I ask him what his favorite New Orleans haunts are and he laments the fact that he’s never spent much time here. I insist that he and Laurie visit when this is all over.
Outside my window, the French Quarter is bereft of humanity. Frogs and a squawking cockatoo are audible for the first time in god knows how long. On a typical Friday night, Sara and I would be on stools at bartender Chris Hannah’s Jewel of the South around the corner instead of lying awake in separate rooms, worrying if her cough is going to get worse. Right now, every bar feels impossibly distant, but I feel grateful for all of the virtual hangouts and happy hours I’ve been part of these last few weeks.
“I’ve spent so much time, especially in the last four years, going ‘Is the internet a terrible thing? Is it ruining our lives?’” says Feig. “And in a lot of ways it was. But then this happened. Can you imagine going through this without the internet? We would all be going out of our minds. And this keeps us all sane—having a drinks party almost every night with somebody.”
Like so many of us raiding our liquor cabinets, Feig’s cocktail hour is haphazard— substitute ingredients are often required—but they’re a gleeful and self-deprecating love letter to professional bartenders around the world. “I’ve called up my favorite places and said, ‘Let me know when you’re gonna have to take people off of payroll,’” he says. “‘Let me please donate something because I want to keep this gang together.’” (Last Saturday evening, while slurring “shlingapore shling,” Feig pledged $10,000 to the United States Bartenders Guild and urged his viewers to contribute what they could.)
Before we hang up, he asks me to pass on his thanks to Sara for her work as a nurse and we say our goodbyes. I put on my mask and peek into Sara’s bedroom to see if she needs anything. Then I straighten my tie, and go to the cupboard to see what I can cobble together to approximate a Vieux Carré.