If you know me, then you know I LOVE history. There are so many useless historical facts in my head and I think nothing of spending an entire day watching The History Channel, or Smithsonian Channel, or H2…you get the idea. So when a friend first told me about this show I was automatically in. After watching it, I fell in love.
People getting drunk and talking about an historical event? Great actors portraying what the drunk person is saying? I mean this is just pure genius.
So when we got the opportunity to attend a Q&A with the creators and a couple of the talent at Comic Con, I mowed everyone else down and jumped on the chance! Metaphorically speaking about the mowing down. I did jump up and down in excitement.
So sitting with my fellow ‘journalists’ we speculated on whether or not Derek Waters (creator), Jeremy Konner (co-creator), Paget Brewster (storyteller/reenactor) and Taran Killam (reenactor) would come in drunk or not. Alas, no, although another table thought this a travesty and provided some little bottles of libations for the talent. Well played!
Our little group got to interview Taran Killam and Paget Brewster first. I admit, we dropped the ball a bit and in the few beats of silence while we waited for someone to throw out the first question Taran kind of got the ball rolling with a little impromptu nerdiness by discussing what a good deal on Spiderman issue #74 would be. Then he moved on to how brilliant Drunk History is and a history of his improv/acting career. Eventually we all woke up and things started to move along in the right direction.
First question thrown out there was how the storyteller influences the reenactments and I expounded on that by asking which is easier – storytelling or reenacting:
Paget Brewster: I do mostly drunk storytelling. Although, I played Grover Cleaveland’s mother-in-law in one episode…I got to wear a wig. It’s much easier to get drunk and talking rather than try to match up to a preexisting recording. You hear it a few times and you (she looked to Taran) are phenomenal at it. It’s a real gift, a peculiar gift, to hear someone slurring through [their speech] and to mouth it and get it properly. It’s very high pressure I felt nervous.(Again to Taran) Do you have tricks?
Taran Killam: Well…you go big. Seeing Jack do it first was great because he’s so animated and I have a tendency to go big, (to all of us at the table) you’ll learn that about me in our time together. It’s a thing where you can play the energy even if you don’t do it perfectly. It’s musical. I love the show because it’s a brilliant combo of comedy and human culture. Drinking and telling stories is what humans have done forever so to mash the two is so great. And it’s fun to perform it, and all pressure is off for making any [acting] choice because all the work has been done for you. You listen to it and hope for a stutter or word being said in the wrong way because you know you can play with that.
Next question was how long do they get to listen to the narration before they act out the scene:
Taran Killam: They’ll send you a longer video – so a 12 minute video that winds up being 7 or 8 maybe – and then the audio file. When you’re filming they have the audio over a speaker on loop and just keep playing it over and over.
Paget Brewster: And when they’re ready to roll they stop it and you get into place and they say start and everyone is just hoping to get it on time, because there may be more than one person talking and everyone is just hoping to hit it. And they can play with it a little bit. I think it’s called liquid tv where they can sneak out a couple frames in case you start a little bit late. So [when I did the reenactment] I told them I was so nervous and they said “oh we can sneak those out” and I was like “Oh, ok!”
Next question was if either of them were history buffs?
Paget Brewster: I’m more of a drinking buff and a fabulist and a bullsh*tter. I mean I love history and I asked Derek for 3 years if I could do one. When it got on Comedy Central Derek said, yeah let’s get you drunk!
I wondered how far ahead they start drinking (because if you watch the show they are drunk from the start):
Paget Brewster: My first year I did 2 stories in one day and they told me to start drinking at 3pm. The medic shows up at 4pm and you’re a little sizzled and they start setting up and you start telling the story. Now the second story I started telling at midnight. Nobody wants to be that drunk that long unless you’re a professional or careerist. So the second story I was so angry and just a mean drunk. So now they only do one story per person. The first year some people got so drunk they had to stop shooting because they couldn’t verbalize so they had to go back and reshoot.
Taran Killam: Since it’s become a corporate thing they have a medic and someone stays with them over night
Paget Brewster: I didn’t get that…
Taran Killam: There’s a lot of insurance [now]…
Paget Brewster: I was blowing a .13 and yet I was very articulate. I no longer drink red wine, though, because that first year I drank 3 bottles. So now I drink white wine. I was flirting with the idea of absinthe but thought that’s not gonna end well and you could die.
Taran Killam: [Yeah] in that quantity…
Paget Brewster: (to Taran) Do you wanna tell a story?
Taran Killam: I’ve never been blackout drunk and only started drinking in the past few years…
Ok, so he’s not drunk but I thought it a funny shot to go with the question 😉
Paget Brewster: To prepare?
Taran Killam: To deal with life….no…I have a crazy sweet tooth so didn’t really like the taste of alcohol. I got really sick on SNL and they said ‘have some bourbon’ and it was the best sleep I ever had and on my honeymoon my wife said “if you’re ever going to get really drunk now’s the time” so I tried some Jack and Coke because I like Coke and then they gave me a mudslide and that’s like a milkshake so…now I do it because I caved into peer pressure.
Then our time was up with that duo…booo. So we moved on to Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner, yay! We’d learned from our last experience so someone immediately jumped in with asking…
Do you prefer to theme the show around a city or topic? Would you ever revisit a city?
Derek Waters: Depends on the story. This season we’re doing 4 or 5 themes. Space, Games, Inventors, Spies, and Journalism – although coming up with a different name for the last one. I like “This Just In”… We just find the best stories and figure out if there better for a theme or a city. [Revisit]…yeah, our show doesn’t have rules. It wouldn’t be called “Boston” but it could take place there.
Jeremy Konner: We’d come up with a theme.
Next question was how they go about finding the stories:
Derek Waters: We have a team of researchers that work for about 2 months before we start working with the narrators and letting them know what we found.
Jeremy Konner: We’ve been collecting stories for a while now and people send us [more], so those 2 months are really when we start to narrow it down with the researchers. Sometimes we get this story that we love and then start researching and realize it’s not a true story.
Derek Waters: Which sucks and happens all the time.
Evidently they wanted to do one on Nancy Reagan and her obsession with Astrology and how it dictated choices Ronald Reagan made in the White House. The research discovered it was a friend of theirs who was into Astrology, not them. So, no story
Derek Waters: Sometimes there are people you really like and you try to get a good story and the more you learn, the more you realize they weren’t that great. It’s not that we want to avoid the bad stuff they did it’s just why rehash the bad stuff.
Leading off that someone wondered if they only wanted to show the positive vs. negative side of history:
Derek Waters: Yeeeeaaaahhhh…but still be honest. Bringing up a dark time and finding something good, that’s true and ok. I think it’s better. I don’t want to be depressed. History is already depressing…let’s make it fun and interesting. Be more like “oh hey I just learned something!”
Jeremy Konner: But we also like to make Washington the bad guy.
Derek Waters: That’s fun too. Someone who’s really good and show they’re bad side. Washington was a liar, Lincoln was a liar – we’re all liars so lets have some fun with that.
Someone wondered if any politicians were interested in telling a story or someone equally as interesting wanting to do one?
Jeremy Konner: I remember someone telling us Gore Vidal really loved the show and we were ‘let’s get him’ but we never did.
The next question was – Could the show have happened without the internet?
Derek Waters: No. Because pitching the show was the hardest thing without anything behind it. It’s a visual idea so to be able to shoot it was just a one-time thing. And internet comedy was being judged by the hits [on YouTube] not the content, so [at first] I didn’t want to do anything with the internet. So we passed it around and no one grabbed it and it wound up on the internet on the front page of YouTube…
Jeremy Konner: Remember when they had that? I feel if we put it up after that changed we never would’ve had success with it.
Derek Waters: …the reason we had a show is because we had a fan base so they invested.
Jeremy Konner: I still can’t pitch it. It’s still a big mess.
Leading off this, the question was asked about what advice they’d give to other media makers about appealing content for the masses?
Derek Waters: I feel if that’s your goal, you’re never going to make it. But if you make things that you’re interested in and funny and just do that, then it’s not going to be like anything else. We never planned it, it was a weird idea that would be fun. We originally called it the “Drunk History Channel” then Jeremy didn’t want it to sound like a parody on the History Channel…
Jeremy Konner: Like that scene from the Facebook movie – I was the Justin Timberlake character. No channel.
I asked if going into third season they felt more pressure on the show?
Derek Waters: Less.
Jeremy Konner: Yep.
Derek Waters: It’s nice and feels good. We still wanna do it again so we’re not going to slack off, because we have all these great stories. You wouldn’t believe how much history has happened. There’s all these books.
Then someone wanted to know the infamous question: What was their favorite story?
Derek Waters: I can’t really answer that.
Jeremy Konner: For selfish reasons – I got drunk this year so my story is the most fascinating. Mullholland stealing the water for LA. and Tenacious D was in it so, yeah.
Then, sadly our time was over with them as well. One of the interviewers at my table asked both groups if they had a dirty joke they were really fond of. Paget Brewster and Jeremy Konner didn’t but Derek Waters told us the exact same joke Taran Killam told us without knowing it. I don’t know if that’s a ‘great minds think alike’ moment or if they should worry that they both like the same joke 😉
Drunk History returns to Comedy Central on September 1st! In the meantime you have time to catch up with the first two seasons. You can find them on this magical thing called the internets. You can also go to their official page on Comedy Central to get some behind-the-scenes or other videos:
You can follow the creators, drunks storytellers, and reeactors on their socials:
Paget Brewster: @pagetpaget
Taran Killam: @TaranKillam
Derek Waters: @derekwaterss
Jeremy Konner: @Jeremykonner
You can find me on Twitter: @NovelStrumpet
And read more awesomesauce here at Mikethefanboy.com or on Twitter: @Mikethefanboy
Until next time ! 🙂
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