With the small screen dry spell of August upon us, we are back to quench your thirst for quality television with suggestions of more offbeat shows that you might not have thought to check out. First we sang the praises of Hannibal, and last week endorsed binge-watching Orange is the New Black. But this week’s Best Show You’re Not Watching cocktail is of a decidedly stronger proof.
Drunk History takes a brilliantly bizarre premise and milks it for all it’s worth: for each segment, a comic or writer gets intoxicated and recounts a major event in American history. Then famous actors re-enact that event, as per the drunk storyteller’s account – and usually lip-syncing their lines to the comic’s drunken, slurred speech.
This should, by all rights, be extremely stupid. But for various reasons, it is not. Here’s why you really need to check it out:
1. It’s F*cking Hilarious
I happen to find drunk people rather funny at times. And drunk people trying to keep their shit together while they talk about major events in American history are even funnier. I laugh out loud at this show more often than any other show I watch, occasionally while completely sober.
2. It’s Edumacational
Believe it or not, you will learn something watching this show. I, for one, had no idea that the KKK was exposed and taken down with the help of the Superman radio serial – the fact that Jason Ritter and that ginger dude from Veep helped to educate me on that fact just means I’ll retain that information even longer. And a recent interview over on Mother Jones of co-creators Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner reveals that there is also a progressive agenda behind the show: they aim to tell “the people’s history,” showcasing stories and historical figures that have not gotten a lot of mainstream coverage. So it’s basically a crash-course on the American civil rights movement with whiskey breath.
3. Jen Kirkman, Harder and More Often
Seriously – just give this woman her own show, already. The regular Chelsea Lately panelist has been with Drunk History since it was just a Funny or Die webseries, and her episodes are far and away the best. Many of the comics get rip-roaring drunk, but few get so damned passionate about their subject – Kirkman’s boozy enthusiasm is hilarious, especially when her loopy slur is coming out of the mouths of Don Cheadle, Will Ferrell, Zoe Deschanel, and more. Plus, her confusing Richard Dreyfuss for Frederick Douglass is one of the funniest things ever.
4. It Answers the Question We’ve All Been Asking: Whatever Happened to Lisa Bonet?
In this week’s episode they tell the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, a women of mixed race who became “the Mother of Civil Rights in California” after amassing considerable wealth while “passing” as a white woman and funneling it toward abolitionist causes. (WERRRK.) I watched the whole segment wondering, “Who is this beautiful actress with the perfect comic timing and why have I never seen her before?!” Turns out I have. Welcome back, Denise! It’s a different world, indeed. Other notable guest stars have included Winona Ryder, Jack Black, Kristin Wiig, Adam Scott, Bill Hader, and Michael Cera, but Bonet takes the cake.
5. Creator Derek Waters is the Creepy Gay Photomat Dude from Suburgatory
Derek Waters – who has been involved behind-the-scenes in comedy projects like Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job for years – is probably most recognizable as the guy who plays Jarrison, the batshit gay dude who works at the photomat on ABC’s wonderfully warped – and super gay – Suburgatory. His character is like a deranged young Leslie Jordan, and he’s FABULOUS. Anyway, on History we see Waters interviewing locals at bars, acting in the sketches in supporting roles, and assisting the drunken narrators by trying to feed them cantaloupe while they are face-down on the carpet. He’s a true triple-threat.
6. Sometimes People Throw Up
This point may push things into Jackass: Civil War Edition for some, but it’s kind of awesome – especially when the actors in period costume work the sick into their scene. As one post-puke narrator says, “Barfing on Drunk History is crying on Barbara Walters.”
7. There’s Lots to Catch Up On
So far there have been five episodes of the television show, each of which focuses on a specific city and the history therein (D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco). But Funny or Die has lots of older standalone segments available for you to watch and scream at once you plow through the series. I’d recommend the insanely funny Frederick Douglass episode (above), the Danny McBride as George Washington episode, and the William Henry Harrison episode.
So that’s my pitch for Drunk History. Anyone thirsty?
Drunk History airs Tuesdays at 10 on Comedy Central. They are technically our corporate sibling, but that’s beside the point.