Accessories and affects: hat, cane, monotone, eye contact, soul patch
An amalgam of all of the above, Waits' best role has always been that of Tom Waits. Sift through his '70s chat-show appearances and watch the shtick take shape: He's an impish riddle eager both to confound and please. Far from a cynical put-on, Waits has proved an amenable, durable construct, never more amusing than when turned back on itself (as in Coffee and Cigarettes). It's doubtful that Waits will ever top his pseudo-candid performance in Fishing with John, the short-lived fishing-expedition show dreamed up by fellow Jarmusch alum John Lurie. Rather than pawning off his persona to Hollywood, here he's making his own mischief — shoving fish down his pants for easy laughs and improvising songs that are sorta brilliant, totally dumb, and unmistakably Waits.