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Drunk History is a YouTube series in which a person gets drunk and retells a significant event in American history. Their retelling is then acted out, often by a cast of well-known Hollywood actors.
Filmmaker Derek Waters created Drunk History in August 2007 after recording actor Mark Gagliardi explaining the life and death of United States Founding Father Alexander Hamilton after drinking an entire bottle of Scotch whisky. His storytelling is interspersed with a dramatic reenactment of the story in which Alexander Hamilton is played by actor Michael Cera. Waters premiered the video during his one-man comedy show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles before uploading it to YouTube on December 23rd, 2007. As of June 2013, this episode has been viewed more than 4.9 million times on YouTube and it has received an additional 1.9 million views on Funny or Die, where it was posted on January 22nd, 2008.
In December 2007, the first Drunk History episode was featured on CollegeHumor, UCB Comedy and personal blog Sliced Bread. In early January 2008, the video was shared on MetaFilter, where it accrued 55 comments and 20 favorites. On February 3rd, 2008, the second episode (shown below, left) was uploaded via YouTube, which depicts writer and producer Eric Falconer explaining how Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity after 8 mixed drinks. In the dramatic interpretation, actor Jack Black played Franklin.
That July, the third episode (shown above, right) was uploaded, featuring stand-up comedian Jen Kirkman discussing the escape of George Washington’s (played by Danny McBride) slave Oney Judge after a bottle and a half of wine. This episode drew the attention of a number of blogs and news sites throughout 2008 including the New York Times’ The Medium, PoeTV, Oh No They Didn’t!, the Democratic Underground forums, women’s history blog HIstoriann and Geek Fury. The next year, Waters was interviewed about the series on Maximum Fun, where he noted every participant at that point had gotten so drunk they threw up. Also that year, Drunk History episodes were featured on Paste Magazine, the Grass City forums and eBaum’s World. On April 5th, 2010 a Facebook fan page for the series was created, accruing more than 4,800 likes as of June 2013.
Funny or Die Partnership
The fifth episode of Drunk History (shown below, left) about Abraham Lincoln (played by Will Ferrell) and Fredrick Douglass (played by Don Cheadle) premiered on HBO in February 2010 as part of the half-hour sketch comedy series Funny or Die Presents. The video was posted online on May 5th and as of June 2013, it has been viewed more than 3.13 million times. The next two episodes of the series were also exclusive to Funny or Die. The sixth episode, also released in May 2010, featured Crispin Glover as Nikolas Tesla. In December 2011, Drunk History recruited Ryan Gosling, Jim Carrey and Eva Mendes for a retelling of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (shown below, right).
Comedy Central Show
In October 2012, The Baltimore Sun reported that Derek Waters had submitted a pilot to Comedy Central for Drunk HIstory, turning it into a 30-minute long show, each focusing on historical events from a specific city. On June 3rd, 2012, Comedy Central announced that the Drunk History series would premiere on July 9th at 10pm, with an eight-episode season featuring a number of high profile actors who had previously appeared in the web series, including Will Ferrell, Michael Cera, Ryan Gosling and John C. Reilly.
The Baltimore Sun – With ‘Drunk History,’ Lutherville’s Derek Waters has a tipsy hit
Fn18. Maximum Fun – Interview: Derek Waters, creator of Drunk History
Paste Magazine – Michael Cera, Jack Black and Danny McBride Walk Into a Bar