Mark Davis, Comedy Central"Drunk History" host Derek Waters plays C.S. Forester in an upcoming episode about spies.
Over the life of "Drunk History," its host, director, and executive producer Derek Waters has sat through nearly 100 boozy narrations. Each one looks hilarious and fun on television, but are naturally filled with challenges while taping.
"I’ve figured out certain techniques," Waters told Business Insider. "If you’ve ever hung out with someone that drinks, you know that emotions can happen, attitudes can happen."
Ron Batzdorff/Comedy CentralKristen Wiig as Patty Hearst on a "San Francisco-themed" episode of "Drunk History."
"Drunk History" returns on Tuesday for its third year on Comedy Central (five years overall if you count its Funny Or Die run). Each episode features three stories told by inebriated narrators and reenacted by performers. And, yes, the answer to the most-asked question about "Drunk History" is the narrators are really drunk.
The show is so fun to watch that a who's who of Hollywood's A-List have appeared on the series, including Jack Black, Connie Britton, Michael Cera, Courteney Cox, Laura Dern, John Lithgow, Jason Ritter, Winona Ryder, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, and Owen Wilson.
"We’re trying to make a history show, not a comedy show," Waters said. "And it just so happens that comedy comes out of the way we’re trying to tell the history."
But when BI points out the combination of the drunk narrators, the over-the-top costumes, and stylized reenactments, Waters admits, "OK, we're definitely going for comedy, too."
One narration session can take between four and six hours to shoot. And with the inherent hiccups that can occur, Waters has come up with some best practices when it comes to shooting the sessions.
Comedy CentralJake Johnson as William Travis and Chris Parnell as Jim Bowie on the "Wild West" episode of "Drunk History."
1. Bring on people Waters has already tossed a few back with, so he knows what to expect.
"I’m very cautious of that," he said. "Most of the people on the show I drink with, so I know how they’re going to be. If I know someone who is really funny but has a problem, I don’t approach them. I just don’t mess with that."
2. Narrators are asked not to drink before the crew arrives.
"So you don’t get too drunk," Waters said. "I’m not trying to be like, ‘Look how drunk they are!’ I’m trying to tell history in a new way and not just because they’re, say, upside down talking."
Comedy CentralJosh Hartnett as Clark Gable for the upcoming "Miami" episode of "Drunk History."
3. No one likes to drink alone."I share a drink with them to get them comfortable," the director said.
4. Everyone has their limit.
"There’s several stages of drunk," he explained. "and you have to make sure you’re not on the last one."
Comedy CentralMaya Rudolph as Griselda Blanco for an upcoming "Miami" episode of "Drunk History."
5. There's always another job for lightweights."I don’t want people to get sick," Waters said. "I don’t want people to fall. I also don’t want them to tell a regular story. They have to be a little slurred and a little messed up or we should just watch the history channel. So, no one is drinking for the first time. But if someone is like, ‘Yeah, I don’t drink that much, but I love the show.’ Then, ok, maybe they can be in the reenactment."
So, yes, the show can be more complicated than it looks on TV. And as it embarks on its third season, there's some proof that people are taking notice of the hard work. This year, it earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series.
"It feels like this little thing I did for fun, but the more I grew with it, the more I wanted to say I have a chance to say something right now," Waters said of the nom. "What do I want to say? Maybe, I can tell stories that teach people stuff. So, to have the Academy recognize that it's not just a comedy show, it's something new and different, I just take it as a really sweet compliment."
The third season of "Drunk History" debuts Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.
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