Daniel Houbrick ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor
If you’ve been watching Comedy Central for the past two years, then you’ve undoubtedly seen one of the biggest new shows Drunk History, a show that features actors, improvisers and comedians getting extremely drunk and doing their best to tell a story, acted out via lip sync by other actors. Emertainment Monthly got the chance to speak with Drunk History creators Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner, as well as frequent stars Paget Brewster and Taran Killam.
Drunk History started as a one-off show at UCB in Los Angeles, but after Konner tried shopping the show concept around and none of the networks seemed interested, they uploaded the episode to Youtube where it quickly made the front page. From there, episodes were uploaded on Funny or Die and gained a huge fan base. Comedy Central eventually picked up Drunk History, where it has enjoyed a two-season run. The third season airs on September 1st, 2015.
Waters and Konner acknowledge that without the Internet, their show wouldn’t exist. “Pitching this show [before it was posted online]…was the hardest thing without anything behind it,” Konner told us. “It was very confusing for anyone to be like ‘“I don’t get it, you have to be drunk and tell a story?’” because it was a very visual thing.” As Waters put it, “It wouldn’t have existed [without the internet] because even though Comedy Central has been great, we never would have gotten it on TV without showing the concept and already having a massive fan base online.”
The creators revealed that the way Drunk History works is they have researchers work for two months to find the stories they want to tell before presenting it to their actors. Brewster, who has drunkenly narrated a story twice and acted once, told us that they start getting the narrators drunk at 3pm. “The medics show up at around 4, we’re constantly breathalyzed, and then eventually that evening we start shooting,” she told us. “I’m less of a history buff and more of a drinking buff,” she joked.
From there, the recording is sent to the actors and blasted over loud speakers during the filming so they can nail the lip-sync. Killam, who has now acted in all three seasons, refers to this show as “An amazing mix of comedy and human culture. Drinking and telling stories is what humans have done forever.” Killam says the reason he has never narrated is due to the fact that he’s only recently started drinking, and that prior to this year he had never been drunk. Still, the actor hopes to narrate a story by maybe the fourth season.
A big point of interest for the creators is finding out the truth of the characters they’re portraying, while also trying to not tear them down or paint them overwhelmingly negative. “People ask us during research ‘What do you want to avoid’, and I say that when you go down a road and you go ‘Oh, this guy was great’ and you find out maybe he wasn’t,” Waters replied. “We don’t rebuild the bad shit he did, we try and find the good shit in that situation and build that up…we focus on the positive, but still the honest.”
That’s not to say they never portray someone in a negative light. “Oh, one of our favorite things is to make someone like Washington the bad guy,” Konner told us. Waters quickly agreed. “Yeah, I mean, Washington was a liar, Lincoln was a liar, they all were liars. History is so depressing, we try and just make it fun.”
A few things the creators/actors revealed for the third seasons was that there will be five themed episodes this season; games, inventors, spies, space, and journalism. Also this season will have a Los Angeles episode, featuring the debut of Konner as a drunk narrator.
And sadly for anyone hoping that they will revisit cities (like Boston) in the future, the creators gave it a hard “no”. “We’d love to, it wouldn’t be called Boston,” Waters told me. “It would just take place there, it would be weird to do Boston part 2 since we haven’t set a precedent.”
Konner added, “We would do a theme like a ‘Founding Fathers’ episode that could be in Boston, but we would cater how a theme would work more than the city.” Sorry Boston, looks like we’ve already had our time in the sun.