One in a series of evenings and special screenings presented as part of The Paley Center for Media's PaleyFest New York 2018. This evening celebrates "Drunk History," the comedy/history series in which increasingly inebriated narrators discuss important individuals and events from the past with the help of live-action reenactments.

Host Diane Lewis (executive vice-president of programming, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks and introduces actor Jack McBrayer. McBrayer moderates the following panelists: executive producer/creator/host Derek Waters; and narrators/reenactors Bob Odenkirk and Amber Ruffin.

The panelists touch on such topics as: the show's origins, including why "snob" Waters was initially apprehensive about putting early episodes online on the website Funny or Die; the show's immediate popularity online and eventual evolution into a television series; selecting historical stories that "we should have been taught in school," particularly those with an intriguing "rumor-y" quality; Waters' original idea for the show as a travel series in which he traveled to different American cities to hear their most outlandish local tales, with inspiration from the BBC miniseries "Stephen Fry in America"; the decision to "make it everyone's journey," rather than just the host's; the show's "funny and slightly sad" nature in depicting forgotten or ignored moment in history; why Odenkirk, who had not overindulged in alcohol in several decades, almost backed out of narrating a 2016 episode in which he told the story of the "Disco Demolition Night" of 1979; Ruffin's description of the narrator's process, including their freedom to pick one's own stories and drinks and the experience of filming in one's home; why the narrators generally tell their stories to Waters "four or five times" for maximal accuracy and humor; their use of "safeguards" to prevent dangerous over-drinking, including an on-hand nurse who administers a Breathalyzer test; Odenkirk's portrayal of the "cartoon-y crazy" W.C. Minor, the convicted murderer who contributed thousands of quotations to the Oxford English Dictionary, in a 2018 episode; why Waters chose to omit a certain grim detail from later in Minor's life from the episode; the show's impressive production values and commitment to "never taking itself too seriously"; the extensive planning and research that occurs prior to the filming of the reenactments; Ruffin's experience as a guest host in season six; whether certain narrators or reenactors are not welcome back to the show; Ruffin's nervousness in telling the important story of the Little Rock Nine; and Waters' love of soul singer Sam Cooke, whose mysterious 1964 murder is the subject of an upcoming episode.

Questions from the audience then lead to a discussion of the following topics, among others: whether the show will ever expand into other forms beyond historical tales, including the exasperating experience of listening to a drunk person for an extended period of time; why the narrators are primarily comedians and not historians or teachers; incorporating narrators' funny verbal errors or behaviors into the reenactors' performances; how the tone and style show has changed since growing in size and budget; how Waters handles narrators' rambling tangents and incorporation of funny invented dialogue; determining the best moment for narrators to record their introductory comments on a "case-by-case basis"; their "wish list" for narrators and stories, including Waters' desire to drink with renowned documentarian Ken Burns and his interest in the story of Martha "The Mouth" Mitchell, an oft-ignored figure in the Watergate scandal story; avoiding stories that are too dark or frightening to be told humorously; how the reenactors memorize the narrators' dialogue, including their pauses and unnatural rhythms; how the show has affected Waters' "relationship to alcohol," and his plans of becoming a special-education teacher before finding success in comedy; and the importance of the narrators' likability and entertaining methods of telling their stories.

Clips and segments from past and future episodes are interspersed throughout the program; for synopses and credits, see ACCNUM 134166.


  • DATE: 6:30 PM
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 134152
  • GENRE: Seminars


    • Maureen Reidy … Host
    • Jack McBrayer … Moderator
    • Amber Ruffin … Panelist
    • Bob Odenkirk … Panelist
    • Derek Waters … Panelist
    • Ken Burns
    • Sam Cooke
    • Stephen Fry
    • Martha Mitchell
    • W.C. Minor