In a speech to Irish leaders on St. Patrick's Day, Barack Obama jokingly urged the audience to go easy on the spirits. "Stay as long as you want, try to avoid putting any lampshades on your head, because there are a lot of photographers here," he said. When did putting a lampshade on your head become a universal symbol of drunkenness?
Probably in the 1910s or 1920s. While it's impossible to pinpoint the first instance of a man donning a lampshade at a party, the image most likely came out of vaudeville and was popularized in early silent films. In The Adventurer (1917), Charlie Chaplin plays a rich yachtsman who, pursued by the police, puts a lampshade over his head and stands still as the cops pass by. While that example is more about disguise than inebriation, the lampshade on the head had become a drunk gag by 1928, when the Baltimore Evening Sun ran a satirical piece called "The Life of the Party": "It is usually customary for the life of the party about the middle of the evening to put a lampshade on his head and give an impersonation of [Scottish soprano] Mary Garden, after which he tells a joke that is not meant for mixed company."
Me again: I think I have put a lampshade on my head once after too much champagne. Sort of embarrassing to recall, but I think I am guilty of this one. Are you?