“Drunk History,” the popular television show based on a Funny or Die web series from 2007, still has several episodes to go before season 5 concludes. Yet this didn’t stop Comedy Central from renewing it for a 16-episode sixth round. This excites co-creator Derek Waters, of course, but he’s also itching to share what remains of season 5 with the fans.
“Jack Black is in the new season,” he says. “He has been in all of them except for one, and in my opinion, Jack is the reason this show exists. It was just a one-time thing for a UCB show I did with Michael Cera. That’s all it was ever going to be. It wasn’t going to be on the internet. But Jack saw it and said, ‘I want to play Benjamin Franklin.’”
Longtime fans should know that Black got his wish to play Franklin (as well as Elvis Presley, Orson Welles and William Mulholland). Audiences who tuned in from the beginning may also notice what Waters and co-creator Jeremy Konner have tinkered with since the Funny or Die days.
For instance, whenever the celebrity storyteller narrates their chosen sketch, the camera will occasionally cut to Waters drunkenly respond to, or laughing at, their story. Season one only ever included audio of Waters’ responses, but the format has essentially stayed the same.
Derek Waters talks ‘Drunk History’
“I never the audience to feel that the narrator is in harm’s way. That they’re just drunk and alone, talking to a camera crew,” he explains. “My goal is to let the audience know the narrator is okay, and to serve as their representative in those moments. It’s easier to watch two people enjoying each other’s company than one person getting drunk and telling a story. That feels like you’re at a party you weren’t invited to. I want to include the audience.”
Like when Kyle Mooney (“Arrested Development,” “Saturday Night Live”) drunkenly fails to mention his entire name before narrating the D.B. Cooper segment in season 5’s “Drunk Mystery” episode. Waters, who also isn’t entirely sober, begins laughing uncontrollably.
“I get a better performance out of someone if they’re drinking with someone, insteading being by themselves and feeling possibly exploited,” Waters adds. “I never want anyone to feel like that, nor the audience to be worried about them.”
The “Drunk History” team has plenty of ideas for what to do with season 6, including answering the question, “What would Ken Burns’ baseball documentary look like if inebriated?” Until then, they’re still focused on this season’s remaining episodes, and the entries they’ve already aired. Like “Underdogs,” in which Colin Hanks played Fred Rogers, and its connection to the show’s opening title.
“Every year we change about four or five of those images in the opening,” Waters explains, confirming that the “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” host’s image was added this year. When asked if he’s seen the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” documentary out in theaters, however, says he hasn’t.
“I was talking to Colin about it. I wanted to see it and I asked him if he wanted to see it. He said, ‘I have to prepare myself for it,’” he laughs. “I was like, ‘Me too.’ I’m not sure if I’m ready to cry in a theater yet. I’m always down for a cry, this? I don’t know.”
“Drunk History” season 5 returns Tuesday, June 19 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.