We’ve all been at a party or a bar where someone who’s had a bit too much to drink tells an endless story. It can get pretty tedious. But what if you saved the audio and had celebrities act out what they were saying? Oh, and the stories are about famous figures in history, so you get Abraham Lincoln rambling along in the voice of a drunk person. The result is pretty darn funny, which is why “Drunk History” graduated from being a very popular YouTube series to a Comedy Central show. The fourth season premieres Tuesday, so we got creator Derek Waters to tell us what it’s like to work on the show.
Which celebrities do you have guest starring this season?
it’s the best cast. The ones that come out easily to say are Octavia Spencer, Will Ferrell, Sam Rockwell, Dennis Quaid, Parker Posey, one of my all time favorites. Jason Alexander. Lots of new faces, acting and new narrators.
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And what events will they be portraying?
We got 39 brand new stories. With Octavia Spencer, she is playing Harriet Tubman. We’ve all learned about her as someone freeing the slaves, but she was also a spy, which very few people know. That is in our themed episode all about spies, which is also where Will Ferrell plays Roald Dahl, the children’s book author who was also a British spy.
The drunk narrators are all from the comedy scene. Is it hard to get them to stick to their stories?
I wouldn’t compare to a lion tamer, but there are certain things I’ve learned that you have to expect to happen. The first hour and a half is usually like any human being would do, trying to be funny. I always say the only thing worse than trying to be funny is watching someone try to be funny. But that’s just the nature of the beast. You combine alcohol and a camera with someone who does comedy, that’s just going to happen.
How do you know when they’re at the right level of drunk to tell the story?
As soon as someone tells you a story, or even says one thing, like, "Did I tell you he had a mustache?", and they’ve told you that about 8 times, you know, OK, this is a certain level of drunk where they don’t need to drink anymore, let’s start talking. As soon as the repeating starts, that’s usually a good place.
The idea started with the a friend, the actor Jake Johnson telling me a story about Otis Redding, that I wanted to reenact but I still don’t think the story he told me was true. I think everyone gets drunk and talks about music, so I wanted to find something that people don’t get drunk and talk about, and something that, when someone messes up, you could kind of know where the mistakes were. And I thought history was the only thing we have “proof” for because of history books.
Do people puke often?
Thank god, not as much. Because I’m not a fan of puking. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a fan of vomiting. But I am fan of the comedy of someone puking while they’re telling the story and then after they vomit, they still want to tell you the story. That I’ll always find funny.
What's the best storytelling drink?
In my opinion it’s whiskey, because it’s smooth and it also makes you feel smart.
It's good to feel smart while you're talking about history.
It gives you a sense of confidence and strength. That would be my guess. Wine makes you fall asleep and talk forever —you fall asleep talking. And tequila makes you crazy. No question about that.