• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Bob's indulging in an adult beverage or two (or three, or four) while he's supposed to be on duty. The consequences for Bob and others depend on whether this Trope is played for laughs or for anvils, but it usually results in Bob getting chewed out, fired, court martialed, or dope slapped. Unless it overlaps with The Guards Must Be Crazy, in which case you are likely to be killed by the escaping prisoner.

If Bob's duties involve being at the wheel of a vehicle, see also Drunk Driver.

Examples of Drinking on Duty include:


  • In the first Wishmaster movie, the Djinn's crystal is freed when the crane operator, drunk on the job, causes the statue to slip and fall. The heroine's third wish, which ordinarily would have unleashed Hell on Earth, was for the crane operator to not have been drinking that day.
  • In the opening sequence of Final Destination 2, one of the irresponsible drivers seen just before everything goes to hell is a trucker taking a pull from a beer bottle.
  • It is heavily implied that Commissioner Loeb in The Dark Knight often drinks on the job when dealing with death threats. This is ultimately how he dies, in fact, because The Joker had one of his goons lace his bottle with poison.
  • Red Tails: Many of Easy's decisions are called into question by Lightning and himself once this is revealed.


  • In Michael Crichton's Sphere, Petty Officer Fletcher is discribed as having a noticable odor of alcohol on her breath during the first squid attack.
  • Protagonists in the Redwall series often ply vermin sentries with alcohol to make them fall asleep.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel "The Hour of the Dragon", how Zenobia gets the keys from the guards.
  • In the Tom Clancy novel The Hunt for Red October, the incident which provokes Ramius to defect was the death of his wife at the hands of a surgeon who had been drinking while on call - who went unpunished because of his political connections. Similar incidents occur in other novels, most often by Russian guards and/or soldiers who are classically known for such behavior.
  • Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Shut-Eye Sentry" is about an officer on night duty (in garrison) who had a few too many this particular night. He's sober enough to remember he should make the rounds checking sentry posts, but not sober enough to realize he shouldn't let people see him like this. Since the consensus of the enlisted and noncoms is that he's usually a good officer, they cover for him—by a corporal passing the word to the sentries to close their eyes, so they'll be able to truthfully swear they didn't see any sign the officer was drunk.

Live Action TV

  • Babylon 5: In season 5, Garibaldi started drinking again, cumulating in him drinking on duty. Zack Allen quickly discovers the warning signs, but President Sheridan didn't believe it at first. After the Centauri war, Sheridan calls Garibaldi out on it, and suspends him until it is resolved.
  • Mason from Dead Like Me, all the time, with various substances, alcohol included. And he's a Reaper.
  • One of the deaths on 1000 Ways to Die was a steamroller driver who drank on the job. He makes the mistake of forgetting to properly set the roller's brake when he climbs down to go use a nearby port-a-potty. Considering what show this was featured on, you can guess what happens shortly thereafter.
  • In Scrubs Turk and JD get ripped a new one and suspended for the evening for turning up drunk by Dr Cox. Later in the run Cox himself turns up drunk although in his case it is evidence of a nervous breakdown after several patients die due to his treatment. The Janitor and Kelso have also been shown as been drunk at work, but for them it is played for laughs as part of their Comedic Sociopathy
  • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined's executive officer, Colonel Saul Tigh, is well-known for his alcoholism. While he was capable of command decisions, he tended to let his wife Ellen and the booze take over, and kind of went off the rails a few times. Most notably, he turned up drunk on the stand at Baltar's trial and revealed he'd killed Ellen on New Caprica for collaborating with the Cylons, a thousand times Harsher in Hindsight when we find out that Saul and Ellen are BOTH Cylons.
  • Gene Hunt from Life On Mars is hardly ever sober on duty.
  • This is part of the backstory for at least two Law and Order characters: Lennie Briscoe and Cyrus Lupo.
    • And of Law and Order Special Victims Unit's Don Cragen.
    • One of the early Law and Order episodes ended up focusing on a prominent doctor who was revealed to have been drunk while performing an operation and caused the patient to die. The investigation revealed that he had been doing this for years but everyone was too intimidated to report him.
  • Everyone, constantly (except perhaps Bert Cooper), on Mad Men. Along with Everybody Smokes, it's part of the series' Signature Style. Freddy Rumsen, however, had such a bad case that he got fired for it...passing out and peeing your pants during a sales pitch to a major potential client will do that to you.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Damar is drowning his sorrows so much that he can't keep away from the kanar while plotting the demise of the Federation, something that disturbs his handler Weyoun a bit. Weyoun is genetically engineered for diplomacy; you have to be doing something insanely scary to bother someone like that....
  • Randy Disher once drank on duty in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets Married". However, when Sharona and Monk, not to mention the audience, learns that certain circumstances involving his mother getting married and spending her honeymoon at a marriage counseling center with a guy significantly younger than her and she isn't even rich were the reason why he is doing so, it's kind of hard to blame Disher for drinking on duty.
  • On ER Carter just passed his medical boards exams and went to celebrate the fact with some of his friends. However, he was still on-call for the ER and was paged to come in during an emergency. He showed up late and it was clear that he had been drinking. He faced serious disciplinary action because of this and almost derailed his medical career. He was denied residency positions in all the major hospitals and the only reason Chicago General hired him was because he agreed to essentially work for free (he was independently wealthy).
  • On The West Wing Leo was embroiled in a scandal when it came to light that he was chronically drinking while serving as Secretary Of Labor.


  • In Stan Rogers' folk tune about the titular fictional transport, the captain of the Mary Ellen Carter had been... Y'know what? Here are Stan's own words:

The skipper, he'd been drinking, and the matey felt no pain.
Too close to three-mile rock and she was dealt her mortal blow,
And the Mary Ellen Carter settled low.


Myth and Legend

  • In Celtic Mythology, Prince Seithenyn was put in charge of the sluice gates that protected the Welsh kingdom Cantre'r Gwaelod from flooding. Unfortunately, Seithenyn liked to knock back a few and it was during one such bender that he neglected his duty to keep the sluice gates closed during a storm surge leading to the entire kingdom sinking underneath the waves of Cardigan Bay.


  • The Navy Lark: Vice-Admiral Prout has never knowingly been sober in his entire career.

Video Games

  • Invoked in Okamiden when Chibiterasu has to bring one of the imps in Orochi's lair some sake in order to get him drunk enough to allow him to pass.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Demoman, master of Stuff Blowing Up, is always drunk. His default melee weapon is a large bottle of alcohol from which he drinks as a taunt.
  • World of Warcraft has a hilarious aversion—there are ogres in Blade's Edge Mountains who love getting drunk. However, important Ogres tend to be guarded by "Sober" guards who have sworn off booze. These guards are Elites, and are very difficult (if not impossible for some) to kill solo, at the intended level for the quest. The important ogres, are the ones you are sent to kill. You kill them by dropping a mug of booze on the ground so the important ogre walks away from his bodyguards to drink it. A True Crowning Moment of Funny, doubly so, as many players just can't seem to figure it out.
  • The fact that one guard regularly drinks on duty is an important clue in an early investigation in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  • Time Splitters: "I am.....BEST guard. Numbar one!"
  • Encounters with drunken, singing-off-key guards are not uncommon in the Thief games. Though they're easier to sneak past, if they spot you, they're no less formidable than other guards.

Western Animation

  • One of Kevin's teacher's (Mr. Czelanski) on Mission Hill has an endemic case of this. Perhaps the most notable instance is when he has to do a parent teacher interview:

Mr. Czelanski: Kevin is a wonderful student, good grades..." blah, blah, blah. Do you really want to hear this?
Andy: No, not really.
Mr. Czelanski: Well, we still have 14 minutes left. (He promptly pulls out a bottle of scotch and two glasses form his desk) If only more parents were like you.

  • On the finale for Daria, Lindy, a friend Quinn had made while working as a hostess at a restaurant, get's fired when their boss finds Lindy's screwdriver at their post. This later causes Quinn to develop the courage to confront Lindy about her drinking problem.
  • In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns ends up drinking himself to a drunken stupor after Mr. Burns was given a $15,000,000 fine in regards to the hundreds of violations at his power plant.

Real Life

  • To get the obvious out of the way, this, for a host of reasons, is not a smart thing to do.
    • Unless of course, your profession involves drinking. Also, kinda subverted as many people whose jobs involves drinking tend not to drink when not on duty.
  • Winston Churchill was well sloshed more than a few times when he took decisions in World War II.
    • As was Franklin D. Roosevelt, mostly under Churchill's influence when the latter spent much of the winter of 1941-42 as a guest in The White House. These decisions were also typically taken very early in the morning.
  • Any UK politician or public figure described in the press as "Tired and Emotional" due to an infamous incident in the 1960s. This is parodied in the Yes Minister episode The Economy Drive with this exchange:

Bernard: "William Hickey[1] says you were overwrought."
Jim Hacker: "Just overwrought? Nothing about being drunk?"
Bernard: "Just overwrought."
Sir Humphrey: "Overwrought as a newt, actually."

  • In UK Politics, former leader of the Liberal Democrat party Charles Kennedy. It was his chronic alcoholism that led to the "former" part.
  • British politics provides another example, this time a responsible one: The sole exception to Parliament's ban on food and drink in the debating chamber is during the Chancellor of the Exchequer's annual Budget Speech, where tradition allows him (or her, but that hasn't happened yet) to drink anything he likes. With a few exceptions (most recently Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling), the Chancellor has opted for something alcoholic and sometimes rather stiff, since the Speech is such that he really does need a freaking drink.
  • Legend, rumour and hearsay tell that the Skipper of the Exxon Valdez was drunk on duty when the ship crashed. In 2008 it was revealed that he was below deck sleeping off a bender.
  • First Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald, was notorious for drinking in Parliament. Popular legend holds that the Conferences that led to Canadian Confederation basically consisted of Sir John getting everyone else drunk until they agreed to it. This is not far from the truth.
  • Canadian Forces regulations allows for a maximum of two standard drinks while on duty. This is subject to further regulation by the local commanders though, so it's rare to see this fully permitted, unless you're in the Navy.
  • Speaking of Her Majesty's Navies, there's the old quote about the Royal Navy (often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill):

Don't talk to me about Navy tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.

  • In the lead-up to the 1984 general elections in New Zealand, then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon drunkenly called a snap election after one of his MPs threatened to dissent over key legislation. This became known as the 'schnapps election'.
    • Speaking of New Zealand, former MP Nandor Tanczos made the accusation in 2000 that he had seen politicians "drunk in charge of a country".
  1. a Daily Express columnist