Drunk History Season 3: Greg Kinnear, Octavia Spencer and More Will Raise a Glass to Boozy Storytelling

Gregory E. Miller
drunk history
Comedy Central

Fresh off its first Emmy nomination in the newly-created variety sketch category, Drunk History slurs its way back onto television tonight. The likes of Octavia Spencer and Dennis Quaid will appear this season in the series that posits legit actors in reenactments of compelling historical lessons via the hazy memory of a wasted storyteller. The New Jersey-centric season premiere includes stories of the Bone Wars, the Big Bang and the Civil War’s Balloon Corps with Stephen Merchant and Greg Kinnear (above left) among the actors performing in lip-dub. Christopher Meloni and Tony Hale will also be playing dress-up.

We caught up with the show’s host and creator Derek Waters to talk about the new season.

What were you doing when you found out about the Emmy nomination?
I was sleeping, not to brag. I was like, “Oh, these are just agents and managers calling me up. I’ll talk to them later.” I knew we had submitted, but I didn’t go to bed thinking it was the night before Christmas. So it was a real big shock.

Has it reinvigorated you for the upcoming season?
I would say the same thing before the nomination: this season is insane. Like having Octavia Spencer—an actual Oscar winner play Harriet Tubman in a story, where she’s going to come to set for 12 hours and just move her lips? That she’s saying "yes" to this, you know? I was already on board saying that the third season has just gone above and beyond anything that I’ve ever done.

Are there any changes this season?
I would say the newest thing is, we’ve done a couple of themed episodes. We do mostly cities, [but] last season we had “First Ladies” and “Sports Heroes.” This year we have more themes. We have one on spies—a history of three spies—and one of ‘em is Roald Dahl, the children’s writer. He was actually a British spy. I love doing stories that you’ve never heard of.

Do you tell your narrators to try to be funny?
Never. Actually, it’s the opposite. Because any human being in front of a camera [who has] alcohol in front of them is gonna try to be funny. So I know the first hour-and-a-half to two hours is going to be just them getting comfortable. I don’t find anything more uncomfortable to watch than someone trying to be funny. Things that happen in the narration are most of the time fun accidents that happen where they just say something funny without trying to be.

Do you ever come up with the topics or ideas while drunk yourself?
No, [Laughs], but that would be a good DVD extra.

What do you personally get drunk off?
I tend to like the Bulleit bourbon.

Do your narrators tend to drink one specific thing?
It varies. I find that whiskey is a specific alcohol that makes you feel very smart. Beer takes too long. Wine, you fall asleep. I wish they still made Zima. I’d love if the show was sponsored by Zima.

You tell them not to get too drunk, right?
Yes. In the early YouTube days, that would happen a lot, and I slowly learned. We’ll do a sober version, then we’ll have a couple more drinks. It goes on for about four to six hours, which sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

It sounds like torture for you.
It’s worth it, though! And I don’t say that because I have to. I’m so grateful because, honestly, I don’t know if I would do it. You’re being put in one of the most vulnerable states, and you’re going to be on TV in that state. It’s a lot of trust that every narrator’s given me, and I never take that for granted.

You must get annoyed with them, though.
Oh, every night. There’s never been one narrator ever that hasn’t apologized the next day to me, and they didn’t do anything wrong. Some day I’ll put out a book that has all the apology emails.

For people at home, do you think the show is more enjoyable sober or while drinking?
Watch it sober, because then you’ll remember it!

Drunk History, Season premiere, Tuesday, September 1, 10:30/9:30c, Comedy Central