“I’m always asking myself ‘How is this not getting old?’ I need to prove that this show is evolving and it’s not just a drunk celebrity telling a story while famous people move their lips”
The premise is simple, and can be explained in one sentence. Somebody gets drunk and tells a 7-minute historical story while various celebrities move their lips and reenact it. However, if you don’t think Drunk History is much more than what lingers solely on the surface, then you certainly have another thing coming.
Drunk History, which enters its 5th season on January 23rd, is a show that manages to find a way to blend together two single elements; comedy and history. Yes, the storyteller may be undeniably and visibly plastered while they’re telling the story, but as you sit there, you realize at least one of the three stories they tell on each episode is one you’ve never heard before or are not that familiar with. And if that’s the case, in addition to making you laugh, Drunk History has done what it has set out to do.
“It really is secretly a history show that just so happens to be on a comedy network,’ Derek Waters, the creator and host of the show, tells The Laugh Button over the phone. ‘The comedy, I think, keeps you watching, and the stories make you come back. That’s my goal.”
Since 2013 (and 2007 on the internet), Drunk History has been taking everything you think it’s going to be and flipping it on its ear. And as for this season, it is pulling out all of the stops in ways you have never seen before. The show is more ambitious and crazier than ever, while also maintaining everything it was that made the show a smash hit in the first place.
“One episode I’m very excited about is where I’m like ‘Okay, it’s time to break some rules,’” Waters tells us. “One of my favorite shows growing up was Unsolved Mysteries, and we did an episode called Drunk Mystery, where I lip-sync to a Robert Stack sound-alike and narrate throughout the show, telling drunk mystery stories. We did something we’ve never done there, being there’s an actual story that Unsolved Mysteries did an episode about, so during the reenactment, you actually hear Vanessa Bayer in the story and Craig Cackowski’s audio, which there’s never been audio on our show. I’m excited to hopefully do more of stuff like that.”
The premiere episode, labeled “Heroines,” follows three stories of positive and powerful female role-models in history, Deborah Sampson, Rose Valland, and Clara Burton. And obviously, the episode itself couldn’t come at a better time in our culture. “I predicted it. I started the #Metoo movement,” Waters jokes. “No, it worked out naturally. I wanted to do that episode for a long time. But it was never planned that way, obviously.”
With a show that tends to tell multiple 7 minute stories each week, with each one so epic on its own, it’s hard to imagine how it all comes together. “This whole season took 63 weeks to make,” Waters remembers. “The first part is shooting the narrators, and that usually takes 6-8 hours. We do all of those, we edit those so we have all of our stories finished. Which we had never done in prior seasons. Usually we were shooting the reenactments and then editing other episodes, which was hell. And so this season, I put more in a gap in our schedule, so we’d be able to finish all of our stories editing wise, and then all of the stories were ready to be shot.”
Part of what has people coming back week after week is that it’s just fun. Yes, there are a lot of working parts, but they never overshadow each other. As you watch Derek Waters and the narrator telling the story (that happens every where from a living room to a hot tub in this season), you have this sense of intimacy. You are not hearing someone lecture you as if you are back in school. You are a fly on the wall, hearing this grandiose story. And the alcohol itself isn’t what makes the show fun. It’s simply one part of it. The fun is everything as a whole.
“It’s a fun family,” Waters tells us. “I always say I only want to work with good people who just so happen to be extremely talented. No assholes allowed. That’s my favorite thing when people ask me ‘Was there anybody that was hard to work with?’ No. There’s no money and it’s an all day shoot. I don’t always want to work low budget, but the positives of it is that people are only there for the product, which makes me feel very good.”
There can never be too many stories that need to be told. There are more stories than 30 years of Drunk History would allow. But just because there’s infinite possibilities to tell these stories, Derek Waters is always very careful the show never overstays its welcome. “‘I’ll be the first one to say ‘This is done,’ he says. ‘And I always say ‘One more. One more.’ And somehow, these stories just make me go ‘Shit, let’s do one more.'”
For a show that predicates itself on telling stories, it would come as no surprise that it’s that same attitude that Derek Waters takes into his every day life. ‘I want people to have their stories told. My mom was a teacher, my grandma was a teacher. ‘Drunk History’ isn’t my last thing hopefully. I’ll be doing other stuff. I think we’re all teachers and I would like to help tell people’s stories. And make people laugh, because life is too fucking short not to laugh. Just laugh.”
Season 5 of Drunk History premieres on Comedy Central on Tuesday, January 23rd at 10pm. For more information on the show, visit www.cc.com.