At San Diego Comic Con, we sat down with the creator and showrunner of Drunk History, Derek Waters, who was drinking water. Go figure. He discussed the process of making the show, what awesome guests he hopes to have on in the future, and Natasha Leggero in a bathtub.
What are the requirements to be on Drunk History?
You have to be a good storyteller, you have to be comfortable on camera, and you have to get drunk.
The show is established, why are you here?
I don’t know if anyone likes it. It’s TV, I can’t hear anybody when I watch it. Just my parents, calling me, saying they like it. I wanted to come and show a preview to Season 4, and I like people learning about the show, and meeting people from the show, so, there’s some narrators and some guest stars.
It’s so different depending on who’s telling the story – you could go back and tell the same story with different storytellers and have a different show.
That’d be real lazy. You’d know I’d given up, if I’m doing that.
What particular episode stands out to you the most?
Claudette Colvin, [the little girl who sat on a bus before Rosa Parks] that’s my favorite for sure. That story is like, “Why weren’t we told about her?” When did you realize it was real?
I mean, not ’til the end. You don’t get taught it in any schools.
What’s the process of choosing a narrator and a story? Is it picking things they like?
Sometimes, yeah. Most of the time I know the narrators so I know the types of stories they like, so I pick a story from our researchers, that I hire to pitch stories that are like, “Why weren’t we taught this in schools?” That’s my goal, finding stories that question why that wasn’t in a history book. Then I go, “Well, blah blah blah…loves that world, I’ll pitch him, he would be the best one to tell it.”
Will you ever have a rock and roll episode?
Yes. My dream is to get drunk and tell the history of Pearl Jam, and have them reanact it. The thing is, you gotta know it, and it’s gotta be something we haven’t covered before. So like, the underground version that the band wishes they could have out.
Have there ever been stories you thought were bullshit when you first heard them?
Oh yeah! All the stories. It’s my job to make sure there’s enough sources to back it up.
Is there a lot of behind the scenes research and fact checking?
Yeah, 100%. If it’s just like, one website I’m not gonna trust it. We spend like, two months researching the whole season, or three months. Yeah, it’s books, and all different kinds of stuff. Because that would be just the worst, if these stories didn’t happen.
What’s the theme of the new season?
Every episode is a brand new theme, so there’s stories like, Great Escapes, there’s all different types of escapes – Timothy Leary escaping prison, that’s a good one. There’s a great one about the Titanic, the baker who survived it, and the main reason was, because he was so drunk the water didn’t effect him.
Did you have a favorite narrator and guest star this season?
I love ’em all. I know it’s a bad answer, but…I guess…my hero, Bob Odenkirk got drunk and told a story . He did the Disco Demolition, from 1979 Chicago.
How’s your liver?
I don’t know! But I go to the doctor all the time, they say I’m fine, so.
Do you get drunk a lot when you’re not on the show?
I only drink when I work.
So you’ve found the dream career, then.
Mmm hmm. I got no complaints.
Do you follow your narrator, or do you have your drink of choice?
It depends. So like, someone I don’t know as well, I drink what they’re drinking, so they feel like we’re doing it together. But if I get a choice, it’s usually Bullet Bourbon. That’s what I like.
Would you do an alternate series with the outtakes?
Yeah, but it’s just…they’re too much. The best parts of Cops are when everybody’s crazy drunk – it would just look like an episode of Cops without a story…there’s a lot that people just like, they can’t talk. It’s a poison. If done to access.
Have you ever had to stop because the narrator was just too far gone?
One time Natasha Leggero – I think I’m allowed to tell this story – she got too drunk and wanted to do the rest in the bathtub. I was like, “It sounds funny, but I guarantee you it’ll be too sad, if all of a sudden we’re in a bathtub.” So yeah, that was one where we had to go back. But we always have them practice it with a producer over the phone, so we make sure, like, sober they know how to tell it.
Have you finished the season?
Do you have plans for the season after that?
I don’t know. We’ll see, I’m not the one to say Yea or Nay, but…Dr. Viacom makes those choices. I just follow a leader. But I think there’s some more history to cover. I’m excited.
Is there somebody you wanted but couldn’t get? Like for a narrator or an actor?
Oh man – if I say it, it might not come true. But hopefully I’m gonna get Bill Murray some day.
Sometimes people ask to be on the show, but I let them know, it’s not something to jump out of your seat to do. And it looks more fun than it is.