Are You Drunk on History?

Historians/History
tags: Drunk History



Erik Moshe, an Air Force veteran, is a student at Broward College and an HNN intern.

Do you spend your mornings reading news articles about Colonial America and fall asleep with a Clausewitz hardcover on your chest? Are you intoxicated by the past and all of its intricacies?

Approaching its third season on Comedy Central, the television series "Drunk History" is a show that offers laughter with an educational message. A narrator recounts a story from American history that they think people ought to know about, and they tell it when they are completely drunk. Celebrities act out their story by lip-synching whatever the narrator says, turning a truly drunken tale into a thoroughly professional set decked out with a star-studded cast, creating a spectacle that has featured John Lithgow as George Washington and Jack Black as Elvis Presley, just to name a few. (Understatement; the cast is as stacked as a wine cellar.) 

Who came up with the idea?

Although human beings have been getting drunk and talking about memorable historic events for thousands of years, the concept of this show was first formed when comedian and actor Jake Johnson explained the death of Otis Redding to his friend (the show's creator, Derek Waters) while intoxicated. 

Who watches it?

Through the first four episodes of Season 2, the series' viewership was up 26 percent among adults 18-49 as well as up 17 percent among all viewers. In its timeslot, it is the highest-rated original series in TV with men 18-34 years of age. It has averaged one million viewers a week. 

Is it accurate?

When Derek Waters, the founder of the show, was interviewed by NPR, he said that about 92 percent of the historical renditions were accurate. However, the project does take its history seriously, Waters said. "Though the narrators are generally comedians or writers, they're chosen not for their comedic skills but for their passion and storytelling prowess," he said. In an additional interview with The Daily Beast, Waters insisted that all of the stories on the show were true. "The dialogue isn't accurate, but the dates and stories are 100 percent true." 

While speaking with Complex magazine, Waters said that "the on-the-road stuff was more about interacting with people about their towns and getting their reactions about the subject. The stages of filming were we had researchers and we would all dig through books and everything we could find and figure out which towns we would go through." Before filming begins, the Drunk History production team picks cities to visit and two Ph.D. candidates from the University of California Los Angeles compile a list of historical events that have taken place in the chosen location.

"Nothing is scripted," Waters says. "We have them research a little. Sometimes they already know the story and there is some rehearsal so it’s is a coherent story, but the narrators don’t have a script." Waters said that the most impressed he was by a historical tale was Johnny Knoxville playing Johnny Cash. When Waters emailed him about it, Johnny said, "Be sure to tell the costume people that I don't need shoes. I have his boots." He came in with Johnny Cash's real boots; he bought them at an auction. He said, "Too bad there isn't a knife in this scene because I have one of those, too."

Where can it be watched? 

Full episodes can be watched on ComedyCentral.com, or individual clips can be found on Youtube. A new season is scheduled to be released in 2015. Get your bottles of whiskey and your barrels of apple cider ready.

 

References

Aquino, T. (2013, July 8). Interview: "Drunk History" Creators Derek Waters & Jeremy Konner Talk the Influence of "New Girl" star Jake Johnson & Drunken Shenanigans. Retrieved November 20, 2014, from http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/07/interview-drunk-history-creator-derek-waters-director-jeremy-konner

'Drunk History' Serves An Educational Cocktail, With Comedic Twist. (2014, July 2). Retrieved November 20, 2014, fromhttp://www.npr.org/2014/07/02/327079981/drunk-history-serves-an-educational-cocktail-with-comedic-twist

Goldstein, R. (2014, July 8). ‘Drunk History’: A Booze Cruise of Red, White, and Blood. Retrieved November 20, 2014, from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/08/drunk-history-a-booze-cruise-of-red-white-and-blood.html

Leopold, T., & Carey, M. (2010, April 21). Retrieved November 20, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/04/21/drunk.history/

Trivia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2014, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2712612/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv

'Weird Al Is Hitler': Derek Waters on 'Drunk History's New Season. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2014, fromhttp://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/weird-al-is-hitler-derek-waters-on-drunk-historys-new-season-20140701

Zurawik, D. (n.d.). Comedy Central renews 'Drunk History' for third season. Retrieved November 20, 2014, fromhttp://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/tv/z-on-tv-blog/bal-comedy-central-renews-drunk-history-for-third-season-20140725-story.html




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