Drunk History: Comedy Central’s Intoxicated Retelling of American History

Is there anything more American than getting drunk and retelling America’s history? Much like the Fourth of July, the premise of Drunk History is to get drunk and incohertently reminisce on our nation’s past. Drunk History is half-hour series which airs on Tuesdays on Comedy Central. Based on the popular YouTube series, the show features A-list actors such as Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle reenacting historical events. But these are not the textbook retellings from your thick-glassed elementary school teacher. The narrators of these “history lessons” happen to be extremely intoxicated. Host and creator Derek Waters, travels across America, employing a cast of comedians to act as the inebriated storyteller’s of American history.

The episode I watched retold the friendship between Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas during the Civil War. The show preludes by saying on March 22 comedian Jen Kirkman drank two bottles of wine and discussed a historical event. Crowned in a ridiculous top hat, Will Ferrell as Abraham Lincoln enters the scene. Kirkman, providing the voice of the actor’s, assumes the voice of Senator Palmer and says” Lincoln this guy [Fredrick Douglas] is talking a good game you should meet with him. “From there, abolitionist Fredrick Douglas, portrayed by an absurdly wigged Don Cheadle lays down his demands for equality. As Kirkman drunkenly puts it, Douglas longed for black soldiers to “1. Fight in the war and 2. Get equal pay and 3. If they become prisoners of war don’t effing kill them.”     

As the tale is being retold, there are brief comically intermissions in which the narrator stumbles to get more wine or simply asks “I didn’t take my pants off, did I?” Drunk history is a hilarious interpretation of the dusty stories of our past. The enthusiasm of the narrators, paired with their determination to get facts straight makes what should be a serious event into a comedic masterpiece.


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