'Drunk History' Recap: Comedy Central Is Saving Reality Television, One Drink at a Time


On Tuesday at 10:00 p.m., Comedy Central will air its second episode of Drunk History. Although the first episode may have slipped under the radar, this series is not to be missed.

If you haven't seen the original six-volume web series from Funny or Die, it's about time you brushed up on your Drunk History. The premise of both the web series and the new TV program is this: creator, Derek Waters, gets drunk with history buffs and films them discussing historical events. Then, a word-for-word "reenactment" is produced featuring the inebriated narrators with the most talented comedic actors of our time — Michael Cera, Don Cheadle, Will Ferrell, and Jack Black to name a few.  

The first volume of the web series has 5 million views on Youtube. If you aren't one of these viewers, you must have spent 2007, like me, buried in textbooks. Drunk History is a grown-up model of the modern alternative to history books: chatting it up with tipsy history majors.

The original series is now over half a decade old, but when you watch them, you can get this sense that this project isn't quite finished. There is so much history to be told and now even more millennial history majors who want to get drunk and rant about it.

Comedy Central has stepped in to produce Drunk History in the glory it was always intended to have. This time, it's bigger and better than ever. The weekly episodes feature not one, not two, but three short segments, tied together by the theme of location. The short interviews in the bars are really nice additions as well, serving as a reminder that everyone is a great historian after a few beers.

Even the opening credits feature the full-bodied irony of something normally dry  with just a hint of drunken exaggeration. In the first episode, Washington D.C. is introduced (by a drunk guy) as, "a transient city, like a stepping stone. So, that brings a lot of new people in but, it also brings people in who don't know what the f*ck is going on." This is the most genuine reality TV we have today.

Of course, critics are sometimes offended by the glorification of being so dangerously intoxicated. At times, it makes me a little uncomfortable, too. For those with sensitive stomachs, be forewarned. There will be vomiting. However, all of this is also proving my point. These are real, drunk folks. They are extremely relatable characters: educated, indulging for one night, and letting us laugh at something they normally take very seriously. Sure, the drunkenness is offensive, but it can be appreciated as an equalizer, taking people who are normally considered to be buttoned up and making them more vulnerable.

Aside from being deeply funny, the new TV series offers some fascinating insight on real historical events. Read the disclaimer in the opening, "All of the stories depicted in the following program are based on real events. It should be noted, however, that every storyteller you are about to see is completely drunk." After reading that, think about how history has always been passed down at parties over wine, especially what predates our records.

But honestly, I can't think of a place I'd rather learn about John Wilkes Booth's relationship with his brother, Edwin, or the time Elvis met Nixon. I encourage you to do your research after watching. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

If you don't feel Comedy Central's production is better than the original, it's definitely an upgrade from engaging in historical debates at your local hipster pub, with actors like Connie Britton, Bill Hader, Rob Riggle, Winona Ryder, Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson.

Future episodes will be based in Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago and other cities. Drunk History will be available on iTunes, Xbox Video, Amazon Instant Video, Sony Entertainment Network, Vudu and Samsung the day after they air. The premiere episode is currently available for free on all these platforms.