Interview: Derek Waters, creator of Drunk History

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Derek Waters, left, with Nathan Fielder

If you haven't already heard of the funnyordie series Drunk History, now you have. Now please go tell your friends. Series creator Derek Waters (he's the Derek in Bob Odenkirk's Derek and Simon web series) spoke with Chris Bowman and explains how alcohol + academics = comedy.

CHRIS BOWMAN: One of the great things about the Drunk History series are the lessons that can be learned. What are some important lessons as an actor/writer you have learned while filming this series?

DEREK WATERS: The most I've learned making Drunk History is working on timing. The whole way it works is all in the timing. In the narration and the re-enactment. Also I've learned in the bigger picture that telling people about this idea was very hard. It has taught me that if you find something funny, you should DO it and not worry what others think. Just make it.

CB: Not everyone who drinks to excess throws up, and yet it seems you have a knack for finding the ones that do. Eric Falconer in episode 2 is an absolute champ. How do you select the storytellers for Drunk History?

DW: Everyone we have filmed does puke. This isn't anything I do to him or her. It just happens. Eric Falconer is the winner though. We only show it once. I don't find puking funny...but Eric's puke was beautiful. All the people that are storytellers, I've known for a while. I know they are smart... and drink. Then I ask certain people, what their most passionate time of history is, and what they feel more people should know about. All the stories they tell, they really love and are excited to tell. Works better that way, rather than some idiot making stuff up.

CB: There are some very funny people involved in this series. I can't imagine it feels much like work when you all get together. What is a typical shoot day like?

DW: Man...I don't know. I'm working with people I look up to, in front of the camera and behind. Everyone is there for fun, and wants to be there. With no money, it means you are doing it just ‘cause you love it. Very few things you get to work on are ones that everyone around you wants to be there. I only want to work on stuff like that. That's my dream.

CB: It's not everyday an actor is asked to mime along or lip sync to a drunk retelling of history. How do they initially respond to the challenge?

DW: It's hard. Jack Black said he had never done anything like this. We have the narrator voice on a computer playing as we shoot. It takes awhile, but it's very fun. The actor has to talk like the narrator, and act like the character they are playing. It's a lot to do.

CB: I think this series needs to be shown in classrooms (although, I see the problem with that). It's a great example of the fun you can have with history after actually learning it. I guess it could apply to most subjects. Why did you go with history?

DW: Thanks! I was going to do a different subject, which I'm going to do soon. But I think you have to start at history. Most people don't take drunk people seriously unless they too, are drunk. And most of the time drunk people don't talk about anything important. So I thought it would be great for them to talk about stuff that actually does matter, and on a subject we all know. And if we don't know it, we might remember some of it from school.

CB: Given that DH is a labor of love, do you only work on it when you have time, or do you have some sort of schedule?

DW: I wish I could make them every day. It’s hard because I want to do it all the time, but I also don't want it to ever get old to me. When Jeremy Konner and I go to the narrators houses it takes a lot out of us too. Watching someone drink a lot and get sick isn't always fun.

CB: When can we expect the next episode? Who do you have lined up to appear?

DW: I would love to tell you but that is a surprise! Please don't hate me for that answer. It's the most amazing thing to me how many people want to be in these little videos. That's been the biggest surprise to me.

CB: Anything you'd like to add for The Sound Of Young America listeners/readers?

DW: Please watch Drunk History and send it to your friends if you like it. You will see it on TV hopefully in July. I wish I could say more but people make me keep my mouth shut.