Written by Kevin Heffernan
From the concept, to casting, costumes, format, and the content – Drunk History should win every award we have
If you’re not already familiar with some of Comedy Central’s best work, Drunk History is a project of Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner that first went viral with Funny Or Die in 2007.
Waters will arrive at the home of comedians you may not recognize at first. Men and women making a name for themselves on stand-up tours, writers on shows, and a few personalities you may have seen cameo or hold small roles here and there.
(Comedian Mark Gagliardi)
The show leaves no doubt that the narrator’s inebriation by including footage of shenanigans, sometimes falls, and vomit, following the heavy drinking before narration begins. Waters joins in on the consumption to make it feel less exploitative of the narrator and to let the narrator know they’re “doing it together.”
Different characters throughout history have their story told through the drunken ramblings of the narrator, and then actors (some lesser-known regulars, and a rotating ensemble of A-list celebrities) are cast to act it all out, word for word, according to the narration.
Every episode features three short stories, about 7-8 minutes in length, toggling from the living room narration to the recreated historical scenes. From reenactments of Harriet Tubman kicking ass throughout the Civil War, to Vlad the Impaler becoming Dracula through, yes, impaling everyone in site, to triumphs of civil rights movements, the show teaches the audience something new each week.
If these were just sober stories told with actors accompanying the tale, yes the show might have some limited success on the History Channel, but it’s 2018 and we all want to be entertained. Seeing Will Farrell (also an executive producer on the show) sync up perfectly with all the slurred speech, burps and more that come from the narrator’s audio is what keeps our ADD generation of article skimmers (thanks for reading this far down) locked in, yearning for more.
(Yes, beloved author of James and the Giant Peach used to hook up around the world just to get everyone’s secrets)
Before we get to the full episode about Section 504, some points:
History has been white male washed. It’s true. Look at the paintings of a bunch of little white men filling a frame where there were most certainly women, and men and women of color present IRL. Drunk History casts women and people of color to put them back into the scenes where they often actually were, and also where they weren’t like when George Washington is played by a black actor, and Alexander Hamilton played by a woman. Get over it racists and sexists, the story is what matters here, not your outrage.
In addition, the stories that often get 1-3 sentences in high school text books, get put center stage here. I never knew about the sit-in that pushed the Americans with Disabilities Act into fruition. I just knew it happened one day. I never knew that suffragettes in the UK learned martial arts to kick the shit out of the police that were harassing them whenever they assembled, seeking the right to vote. Drunk History taught me and I found myself on my phone shortly after, trying to learn more.
In 2018 America, we share shit on social media as if our elected representatives are going to be looking at our feed and change their policies. No one protests or takes stands like so many characters throughout history, and in this show did/do. Aside from a massive rally now and again that goes widely ignored by the very politicians it seeks to affect, we’re nation of apathetic couch surfers who are waiting to see who liked our latest selfie.
The show, and history, inspire us to do something greater. Stand for something not just in the articles you share, but in where you actually choose to stand, shout, disrupt, and fight! Because Americans have done it, just a generation ago, and per the show, so have the weakest among us all over the globe for all of history. What will our defining moment be?
On with the show – In this episode, though her ongoing buzz, Suzi Barrett gives an impassioned summation of the struggle of Americans with various disabilities to get Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act enforced.
First, you find out that Richard F*** Nixon, now second place in a list of worst presidents ever, actually signed a bill working to grant more protections to people with disabilities into law. WOW!
Second, you learn that ramps and brail didn’t just appear, and discrimination in hiring and service didn’t just cease. The law needed to be enforced, and no one was stepping up to help those with disabilities see it through.
So who did? The people with the disabilities themselves! They don’t need your god damn help. They stormed federal office buildings and set up shop, and various groups helped after that. The rest of the episode does a better job of telling the story, but what’s important to note is the casting. They actually cast people with disabilities, who all did an incredible job syncing up with a drunken story teller. So not only was there representation on screen, which is crucial for those with disabilities and those without to see, but they also proved the point of the episode, which is that those with disabilities are not limited in their capabilities, they just do things differently. Duh!
I’ve been a fan of this show for a couple years, but I first saw this episode last week and it’s been burning at me for days to shout from the rooftop that everyone should watch it. Enjoy: