Sneak Peek – Drunk History

I went to college. I was in a sorority and hung out with fraternity brothers and athletes. I’ve been to over 35 weddings. I’ve tailgated before professional sporting events. I spend 6 hours some Sundays at a bar watching football. I’ve helped many people celebrate their 21st birthday. I’ve gone out on New Year’s Eve. I’ve gone wine tasting in Napa Valley.

In other words, I have spent some time around intoxicated folks.

Now hanging out with people that are drunk when you are also drinking and/or intoxicated is usually pretty fun; sure there might be some misunderstandings and drama, hijinks may ensue and none of you may have a clear understanding of what actually happened the night before, but at least you are all on the same page. Hanging out with sloshed people when you are stone cold sober is a horse of a different color. News flash – drunk people can be really, really annoying, especially when you can’t participate in the festivities for pesky reasons like you’re pregnant, on antibiotics or have other grown up responsibilities. They talk too much and don’t make a ton of sense, get overly emotional (that would be me), act inappropriately and just generally can be difficult and irrational.

But if you know how to handle it right and channel their tendencies, drunk people can be endlessly entertaining. The comedy for the most part is unintentional on their part, but with the right attitude and seizing the right opportunities being the sober person in a sea of booze hounds can be awesome.

The people behind the new Comedy Central show Drunk History obviously know this. Based on a web series that appeared on the site Funny or Die, the program has a simple yet brilliant premise – ask drunk people to tell you about an important historical figures or events and then do recreations based on their versions of history with famous comedians. For example, one narrator may slam six vodka cranberries and then explain Ben Franklin’s kite experiment while Jack Black (in the role of Franklin) reenacts the rambling and usually inaccurate explanation of what occurs. The results are absolutely hilarious; while watching the web episodes and the episode of the new series, I was laughing a lot. It was all so ridiculous and yet so familiar; if you have ever listened to a friend who has one too many try and tell you a story, you know how amusing an unreliable narrator can be. This is that times a thousand.

The web series episodes are approximately five minutes long and they wisely decided to keep the short length for the new Comedy Central series. The short length helps keep the viewers’ attention – a rambling storyteller is only funny for so long before it becomes more annoying than amusing – and is probably a necessity given the premise of the show, as people who are trashed are not necessarily known for their attention span. The clock is also ticking on how long a person under the influence can semi-coherently ramble before they pass out or just people too much of a mess. You don’t want to cross over from funny to pitiful. The new episodes of Drunk History therefore “explain” three historical moments per episode; in the episode that I previewed, they covered the Lincoln assassination (John Wilkes Booth was played by Adam Scott), Watergate (Nixon was portrayed by Bob Odenkirk) and Elvis meeting Nixon (Jack Black as Elvis, with my dear pal Dave Grohl in a bit part). Every bit was tremendously comical and I found myself second guessing myself as to the historical accuracy of some of the tales. Some parts of their recounting are obviously wrong, but other parts made me think “wait, what DID happen?” When watching the web series, I was embarrassed that the always funny (and highly intoxicated) Jen Kirkman knew more about Oney Judge than I did; I actually didn’t know anything about Judge, which is a condemnation of my history teachers (or I just wasn’t paying attention – that is known to happen).

The historically questionable narrators are great, but the way that the actors reenact the drunk versions of history are what really make the show. The actors all mouth the dialogue that the tanked narrator provides, no matter how ridiculous and the actors’ commitment to playing it straight adds an additional layer of lunacy to the proceedings. They got some really outstanding people for the web series – John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Ryan Gosling (!) – and I look forward to see who they line up for the Comedy Central show. Kristin Wiig is to appear as Patty Hearst in an upcoming episode, which I am looking forward to.

I’m not actually 100% sure that these people are necessarily drunk; if you told me that this was all an elaborate ruse, I wouldn’t be surprised. But it wouldn’t really matter – they all play a drunk very convincingly and the result is so funny that it doesn’t matter to me if these tales are in fact the organic ramblings of a drunken mind or a performance piece that was prewritten. If it is all fake, I give credit for their commitment – in the web series, one narrator gets spectacularly sick. If he’s faking or just made himself do that without being intoxicated, that’s impressive.

I highly recommend checking out Drunk History – the web series episodes are all available on YouTube and Funny or Die and Comedy Central has made an episode of their new series available on-line. I don’t know if I will eventually get tired of the premise – probably unlikely as I am a fan of history and alcohol – but last night was the hardest that I have laughed at a new series in a long time. It’s suck a clever idea that I am really bummed out that I didn’t think of it.

Cheers to the people behind Drunk History – learning about the past has never been quite so enjoyable!

Drunk History debuts on Comedy Central on Tuesday July 9th at 10 pm (ET). Set your DVRs!

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Almost Vacation Edition

Just when I thought that winter might finally be behind us, Mother Nature decided that we needed one last storm (I hope!) to make things all snowy and white. I am not a fan. The only thing making this bearable is the knowledge that in less than a week I will be in Florida with some of my favorite people and watching baseball. The idea of sitting in the sunshine and not having to wear a winter coat make me positively giddy. Plus it has been five dark and lonely months since I last saw my beloved Yankees, which feels like a lifetime. I’m ready for our reunion. But never fear, dear readers – you won’t be without the blog while I’m away. I’ve got some posts ready to go up in my absence. I’m just that dedicated.

So while I dream of warm weather while I scrape ice and snow off my car, here’s your biweekly round up of some of the pop culture stories that you might have missed.

  • Today would have been Mister Rogers’ 85th birthday

img.php

  • Christopher Meloni has been cast in a new pilot from Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) based on the book I Suck at Girls.
  • Jimmy Fallon and Selena Gomez performed “Mario Kart Love Song” last night on Late Night:

 

  • I’m not sure that anyone was asking for it, but Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is getting a sequel (my guess is without Jeremy Renner).
  • If you’ve got nothing to do this weekend, MTV will be marathoning old seasons of The Real World. The Real World: Portland will debut on March 27th.
  • Safety Not Guaranteed director has been tapped for Jurassic Park 4. I really enjoyed Safety Not Guaranteed – worth checking out on DVD. A sweet and quirky indie.
  • A Walking Dead/Homeland mash-up:

 

  • This dog does indeed resemble Samuel L. Jackson:

s00OXuc

  • The actor who played Captain Peacock on the British comedy Are You Being Served? has passed away.

 

  • The Funny or Die website is venturing into the world of feature films. Their first product is iSteve, a comedic biopic of Steve Jobs and starring Justin Long (which has got to be better than the not intentionally funny Ashton Kutcher version).
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s production company released a cool short film:

 

  • The blog Thumbs and Ammo has replaced all the guns from TV shows and movies with actors giving a thumbs up. The result is surprisingly positive.

627

  • Check out this LEGO paper plane folding machine (it took 600 hours to build):

 

  • I didn’t understand a word of this “March Madness explained with Star Wars” video

 

  • You can watch the first three minutes of the new BBC America show Orphan Black online. The show debuts March 30th.
  • Sigh. I really didn’t need to stumble upon this website of pop culture tribute prints.
  • A Good Times movie is being developed. Not so Dyn-o-mite, though I bet J.J. Walker is available.
  • HBO has released a trailer for the second season of Veep:
  • Vampire Weekend has released two new songs: “Step” and “Diane Young.” Their new album Modern Vampires of the City is out May 7th.
  • Listen to a mix of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” and Daft Punk:

 

  • What every home needs – A Breaking Bad terrarium. I’m not kidding – I would put this in my living room.
  • Filming for the third season of the BBC’s Sherlock has begun.  A fourth season is happening as well. More Cumberbatch for everyone!
  • A Shining/Dumb and Dumber mashup:

 

  • Beyoncé has posted a new song on her Tumblr:

 

  • A new red-band trailer for Kick-Ass 2 has been released:

 

  • This is a good dad – a game developer hacked Donkey Kong so his daughter could play the game as a female character that rescues Mario
  • Whoa – Pete Campbell from Mad Men and Rory Gilmore are getting married (well – the actors that play them are, anyway)
  • Watch Usher and the Afghan Whigs perform together at SXSW:

 

  • I can sympathize with Hitler’s reaction in the video I linked to above – I love Google Reader and am very bummed that it will be retired soon. It’s what I use to keep track of all the links that I share with you in these roundups.
  • A new trailer for Despicable Me 2 has been released:

 

  • Cedric the Entertainer is the new host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
  • And finally – The Princess Bride meets Game of Thrones: