If you can’t recall the internet video series entitled Drunk History by Derek Waters, then you must have been black-out schwasty on unfortunate ignorance. Go remedy this right now and watch all of them. *Waits patiently* Okay, good. Let’s continue.
This is not to say that it was a cultural phenomenon, but it was pretty popular and for good reason. The basic concept is funny, which is key to success: Derek Waters interviews comedians and actors who know a thing or two about history, and their stories are re-enacted and lip-synched by other comedians and actors. Here’s the chaser: the storytellers are very seriously drunk.
The original internet series was successful for a few reasons: 1. It’s funny to watch drunk people try to tell and subsequently embellish upon really sad or complicated stories. 2. It’s funny to watch actors try to lip-synch exactly the ramblings of said drunkards. 3. The production value was pretty low, and the wigs alone were worthy punchlines. The idea has since been picked up by Comedy Central, and at first I was a bit hesitant. How was this going to translate to a 20-minute format, and how is the original low-budge charm going to stick with a Comedy Central budget?
Well, Drunk History exceeded my expectations, and I take a shot for having doubted it. The higher production value is not only used creatively, but the wigs still aren’t that great! They’re relatively better, but still really obviously wigs. My biggest fear was pacified. Instead, the budget is going to stellar art direction, and the show is clearly produced by history nerds. The props, costumes, and sets all look great, and the scale is just the right size to bring the sloppy stories to life. The set is even used for visual jokes for people who really know their history, and don’t even get me started on the guest stars!
Okay, I will.
Drunk History does not announce the line-up before the stories are told, so you get to be pleasantly surprised with who they pick to play famous historical figures. Some great recurring actors are Jack MacBrayer of 30 Rock fame, Tymberlee Hill (she played Oney Judge in the original series), Jason Ritter, and Chris Parnell. I’ll leave the amazing guest stars for you to discover. Some of my favorite actors (as relatively random as Alfred Molina–okay I’ll spoil one) make appearances.
My other appreciative nod goes to the show’s overall format. Each episode is focused around a famous city in these very historical United States, and the stories that are told take place in the city of choice. Interviewer and creator Derek Waters tours local bars asking people about their hometown, and he explores the everyman intricacies of each city’s mystique. It’s an inspired choice that not only plays on people’s patriotism, but it means the stories bounce back and forth around the city’s historical periods creating a patchwork effect.
The internet series will most likely remain a little more consistent in laughs, but I found myself laughing pretty hard and quite often with the new episodes. This first season is unfortunately over, but hopefully this re-cap has inspired you to pour a whiskey and get yourself educated.