Once again stumbling through the forgotten moments of history in a blackout drunk is Drunk History, the Comedy Central series created by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner. Returning for its fourth season on Comedy Central, Drunk History features actors and comedians getting thoroughly ripped at attempting, often in vain, to recall moments throughout history as other famous faces recreate the blotto scene lip synching the dialogue to match the inebriated rantings. The results are often hilarious, though I doubt they’ll do much to help you on that upcoming history exam.
For the Season Four premiere, Drunk History focuses on “Great Escapes,” chronicling three daring escapes over the centuries. First up, Waters talks with Duncan Trussell, a stand-up comedian, who recounts the story of Timothy Leary’s prison escape in 1970. The State and Reno 911 star Thomas Lennon takes on the role of the acid guru Leary, who sentenced to ten years in prison for being in possession of two joints. A seasoned comedy professional, Lennon plays the absurd story straight as perfectly lips the dubious lesson from Trussell, who often gets lost midway through his story and loudly cackles. Amazingly, Leary was able to conduct a daring escape from the prison in San Luis Obispo after the radical group The Brotherhood of Eternal Love paid in excess of $20,000 to the Weather Underground, a prominent counterculture group, to help Leary upon his escape. For good measure, the tale ends with Trussell’s small dogs having escaped from their enclosure to keep them at bay while filming.
In the second segment, actor Steve Berg regales us with the story of William Willis (played by Thomas Middleditch of Joshy and Silicon Valley), a sailor who traveled to Devil’s Island to free a man wrongfully imprisoned for murder. It all starts in 1908 when Willis was a young sailor. Years later in 1938, Willis rented a room as he nursed a broken leg from Madame Carnot whose brother Bernard (Waters) is incarcerated for a murder he didn’t commit. Desperate for more adventure, Willis agrees to take on the daunting task of freeing Bernard from his captors. En route, Willis befriends Jules (Ron Funches), who becomes his loyal companion in the journey. When Willis is stricken with malaria, it’s Jules who takes on the task of tracking down Bernard and helping to secure his freedom. Of all the segments in this episode of Drunk History, this is probably the weakest – not because of the story or a lack of commitment from Berg or the cast, but because the story doesn’t fit into a larger historical perspective that often amplifies the absurdity of the show’s premise.
Finally, Waters imbibes a number of alcoholic beverages with comedian Doug Jones, as Jones tells a little known tale concerning the sinking of the Titanic. Charles Joughin (Chris Parnell) was the baker on the Titanic. For all of Joughin’s pride in his work, he loved the bottle even more, constantly taking nips from the bottle as he prepared his delicacies. When the fateful iceberg collided with the massive ship, Joughin answered the call of duty and did his best to guide people to the lifeboats. Upon helping clear people from the ship, Joughin went to his quarters where he indulged in a few more libations before clinging to the ship as it sunk into the icy waters. For three hours, Joughin floated in the frigid waters as those around him succumbed to hypothermia. Eventually, a rescue ship arrived and pulled Joughin from the water, only to discover that the copious amounts of alcohol in his system saved him from the harsh elements. True to Drunk History form, Jones and Waters decide to test out Joughin’s story by jumping into a bathtub and pouring a bag of ice over their drunken heads. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)
Drunk History is just as it sounds, hilariously staggers through the backpages of the history books. It’s the nature of the show that doesn’t simply limit to a bit of comical gimmickry. This show embraces the low budget aspects of its recreations with aplomb. The fact that there’s a constant rotation of unreliable narrators prevent the show from becoming redundant. The stories in “Great Escapes” aren’t readily familiar for most people, which only makes the fact that the show can impart these tales with questionable accuracy in any regards a testament to steadfast (albeit inebriated) braintrust behind Drunk History.
Drunk History airs Tuesday nights at 10:30pm only on Comedy Central
- Great Escapes
Another episode of inebriated hilarity from Drunk History, “Great Escapes” features three seldom told stories of historical importance through the fuzzy lens of beer goggles.