TV Article

Twelve Shows You Can't Miss: No. 6 Drunk History

Famous faces and tipsy narrators make learning fun

Based on the highly amusing Funny or Die shorts, Drunk History features a sloshed individual recounting a historical event. Or as creator Derek Waters sums it up: ''passionate people having complications explaining what they're passionate about.'' Each three-segment episode will journey to a different city, where inebriated narrators will unspool offbeat tales (the Boston installment highlights 17th-century Quaker martyr Mary Dyer and a 1990 art heist), which are reenacted by such celebrities as Michael Cera, Winona Ryder, Kristen Wiig, and Nick Offerman. ''I went to public school and didn't go to college. This is my college,'' admits Waters. ''I'm learning all this history from intoxicated people.'' So how exactly does Drunk History get made? Read on.

How are narrators and stories chosen?
Most are comedian friends of Waters (like Jenny Slate, Kyle Kinane, and Jen Kirkman), though they aren't just picked for the sake of funny. They are ''people who understand how to tell a beginning, middle, and end of a story,'' he explains. Stories are dug up by Waters & Co. or a narrator who might know the history of a particular city.

What is the ideal intoxication level for storytellers?
''Not too little because you're going to try to be funny,'' says Waters. ''Not too much because you're going to go to sleep. Just in the middle. Six beers or four mixed drinks.''

Which types of alcohol work best?
''If there's anyone who feels like they know what they're talking about, it's someone who's been drinking whiskey,'' he notes. ''Wine makes you tired. Beer makes you loud. Tequila — you just go nuts. I always ask, 'What's the drink that you have the most fun when you drink it?' ''

Are people ever too drunk to film?
Oh, yes. In fact, it happened twice this season, requiring reshoots. To ensure that things don't get out of hand, an on-set medic is armed with an oxygen mask and a Breathalyzer. Vomiting isn't encouraged, but it will be shown. ''I'm sorry for people who hate throw-up — I'm one of them — but you will see it,'' says Waters. ''It's impossible to ignore reality.''

How educational is this show, really?
''One of my dear friends shows it to his kids and says, 'See? This is why you don't want to drink.' ''

Originally posted Jun 11, 2013 Published in issue #1263 Jun 14, 2013 Order article reprints
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