Have you ever wondered how they make Drunk History? With Season 1 and Season 2 now available on DVD just in time for holiday gift giving, we decided to find out. We caught up with creator Derek Waters for a behind-the-scenes chat about this fan-favorite hit from Comedy Central, learning a lot about the history of the show in the process.
If you are one of the few who haven't seen the show, Drunk History presents historical moments recounted by inebriated storytellers and faithfully reenacted by A-list guest stars. Throughout two critically acclaimed seasons, Drunk History's narrators have covered everything from Claudette Colvin, the little-known teenager who inspired Rosa Parks' historic stance, to the breakfast creation that led to the Kellogg Brothers' falling out, and shed light on figures from investigative journalist Nellie Bly to the actor John Wilkes Booth.
Along with limited edition packaging, this new DVD set comes with over two hours of exclusive bonus content, including drunk outtakes, extended scenes, an extended version of the "First Ladies" episode from season two, and "Sober Reveals," in which narrators watch their episode for the first time. Along with learning more about the show, we also chat about this exciting release, and why it makes the above average stocking stuffer to pair with a bottle of white wine, whiskey, or any beer of your choice. Here is our conversation with host Derek Waters:
When I watch the show, I'm always wondering, 'Is this Derek's close group of friends who know an obscene amount about history? Or do the narrator's get to prep before hand?'
Derek Waters: What do you think?
When I first started watching, I thought you just knew a lot of history buffs. But then there are some segments were I'm like, 'How does this person, who obviously likes to get tore up, know this weird aspect of American life?' It seems sometimes, maybe, like an even balance...
Derek Waters: Originally, it was all that stuff. My question to them was always, 'What's a moment in history that you're very passionate about, that you think more people need to know about?' That was the general question for the Internet. Since it has gone to TV, and you are wasting money if it doesn't go well, it basically...I know all the people that tell the stories. If I don't know them that well, I'll have a meeting with them, and we'll find out what type of stories they like, in general. Then we have a team of researchers that will find a whole bunch of rare stories. Then I picked which ones would work the best. Like, 'Oh, that would work for that city. That would work for a themed episode.' Some of them know a little bit about their subjects, but then they are sent a whole research packet that will teach them all the stuff. They do learn it before. It would be hell if they didn't know it, because they are going to forget it when they get drunk.
Are there any circumstances where you show up to someone's house, and they haven't done the research?
Derek Waters: No! I don't allow that to happen. I make sure they go over the information with the researchers the day before. Like, they do a sober version. So, I make sure someone talks to them before we go over and start our time. So, no, luckily that has never happen.
Now, sometimes you'll show someone tipping over, or spilling their drink, or throwing up a little bit. I don't know how much crew equipment you bring into these tight spots, but is there ever an incident where property is damaged? Are there any accidents we don't get to see on camera?
Derek Waters: Well, we're at their place, so if they break something its their fault. (Laughs) Its their stuff. But no, you basically see everything that happens. Unless its something I don't feel comfortable with. I don't want to exploit anyone. If someone makes a funny mistake of dropping something, that's good. But throwing up or falling down, and you feel bad for them, I never want to show that. If that makes sense?
I was wondering about that. Cause sometimes, you might see a cut here or there and think, 'What happened?'
Derek Waters: I don't want to exploit anyone. I want to be laughing with someone, never at them. I don't want to feel bad for someone. Everyone can relate to being drunk. No one likes to see someone getting sick, or anything like that.
The show is so well done, and it's always entreating. But you must feel, and maybe I'm wrong about this, that you're the perfect person to be handling the material. Because some of these 'reality show' producers might take it and turn it the other way, and they would exploit these people. It could turn ugly very easily in someone else's hands...
Derek Waters: Yeah, that is my complete opposite goal, because that is so easy. I'm not saying I'm changing the world. That stuff is just overdone, and I don't like seeing people made fun of. If anything, I like the audience being made fun of, a little bit. You are watching this drunk person who is slurring words, and by the end, you're like, 'Holy shit, they just taught me something I didn't know.'
My cousin is a teacher. She thought it might be fun to show some of these in her class. But that didn't go over well with the school board.
Derek Waters: What grade does she teach?
11th and 12th grade...
Derek Waters: Oh, yeah, you have to wait until after high school or you'll get in trouble.
Have you heard about anyone setting this up as part of their curriculum, or have you been invited into any schools?
Derek Waters: People have told me that their professors show a clip. The thing that gets me is some people say, 'I had a test, and I didn't know this until I saw Drunk History. I passed. I knew this question that was on my test because of Drunk History.' That's a crazy thing, though. (Laughs) That was never intended for the show. But I love the idea of making something funny that makes people learn something, including myself. I've learned a lot.
As an older individual in life, I'm amazed by how much new stuff I learn in every episode.
Derek Waters: (Laughs) That's awesome.
You don't hear the term appointment viewing too much any more. But when its on, that's when we watch it. Maybe we wait a half hour so we can fast forward through the commercials, but there's never any catching up with it days or weeks later. This is must see now TV viewing in our household.
Derek Waters: That says a lot.
This is coming out right now, it sure makes a great, easy Christmas gift.
Derek Waters: Oh, yeah. I'm hoping. I'm giving it to everyone in my family, hoping that someday they will watch it. I'm just kidding. I have a great family. They've seen it. Its a good present. I'd watch it on Christmas, or on any holiday for that matter.
Did you guys have a specific holiday themed episode in this run? I don't remember...
Derek Waters: There was one for the Internet with Ryan Gosling and Jim Carrey. It was the Night Before Christmas.
You know what, I won't lie to you, I haven't seen any of the ones that were on Funny or Die. I have never caught up with those, I've only seen the ones on TV.
Derek Waters: Wow! Comedy Central stuff is better, but you should probably go back and watch those.
I'll tell you what. I'm a little bit older. I'm in my forties, and I have a real problem watching stuff on the internet sometimes.
Derek Waters: I'm thirty-five, I know what you're saying. Maybe Drunk History on Funny or Die will change that.
One of the things I find fascinating about watching the show is the lip-synching. I would never be able to do that. I talked to Clark Duke, and he said it was incredibly easy. Do most of the actors you bring in have an okay time learning how to do this? Cause everyone makes it look so effortless.
Derek Waters: No, I don't think it's easy. Some people are way better at it than others. Its basically a music video, where people memorize their words as if they are lyrics. They have to memorize the rhythm of how someone talks. We have it looped, so the actors are hearing it over and over again. That doesn't make it easy, but it makes it easier.
Every episode, I'm blown away by who you've gotten to come on the show. Are more people wanting to do an episode now that the show has grown in popularity? Do you have people coming to you saying, 'Put me in there?' Or do you seek out certain people just because you want to work with them?
Derek Waters: I've been out here in Los Angeles for fifteen years from Baltimore, and I get tired of seeing the same people over and over again on TV. So I love casting people who are friends, or people who should be seen more. But then, you also get people like Winona Ryder. She can play any part in the world. I don't think it will ever be easy to get movie stars to be in your little TV show. But we somehow make it work. Somehow a lot of people love doing it. I think they know its only one day of work. It looks like fun. They see who else has done it. I think that encourages other people to want to do it.
You guys are going to do Season 3, I'm guessing?
Derek Waters: Yes. We're doing it right now. As we speak. I can't talk too much about it. We're filming the narrators right now, so we are doing the first portion of it. I can tell you that we're doing 13 episodes. Last year it was 10. The year before that was 8. So that is exciting.
Now, with this going out to some homes as a gift, tell me what your favorite part of the special features is. Why does this make an above average stocking stuffer? It says there are over 2 hours of bonus features...
Derek Waters: Yeah, its just me talking about life. It's life. I have a lot to say...No...For one, the DVD is uncensored, you get to hear what the beeps were. Two, there are a lot of deleted scenes. We shoot for a whole day, so there are so many scenes that we have to cut out of each story to fit our timeline of how long we're given to be on TV. There is a lot of that. One thing I'm really excited about is sober reveals. Where people ask, 'What was the narrator's reaction when they say this?' So, I did this thing called sober reveals, where I watch their episode with them for the first time, and we see their reaction. We interact and we talk about it. That is really fun. There is a lot of Season 2 stuff, and some great Season 1 stuff.