Meet the Drinker Behind Drunk History
It all started with one drunk night. Actor Jake Johnson, the dude who plays Nick on New Girl but has also been in seemingly shitty, but actually funny movies like No Strings Attached and 21 Jump Street, was playing quarters with his fellow-actor friend Derek Waters. Johnson was wasted and decided to tell Waters a story about Otis Redding.
The next day Waters and his director friend Jeremy Konner (who was Jack Black’s assistant at the time) called up Johnson with the premise for Drunk History: You get belligerently drunk and tell that same Otis Redding story. They’ll film it, get re-enactors to play the historical parts and it will be a viral YouTube success.
Jeremy was right.
In 2008, the show gained an audience on VICE’s very own VBS.tv as Waters and friends drunk-told historical stories like Ben Franklin discovering electricity and the duel of Hamilton and Burr. It was picked up by Funny or Die. I remember back in high school when my best friend showed me the Alexander Hamilton YouTube clip and I thought it was the funniest video to hit the internet since “Daughters.” It was a glorious time in the beginning stages of online comedy when Childish Gambino was still a very funny Donald Glover and no one quite knew how comedy would progress from five-minute YouTube bits. Last year,Drunk History became a full-fledged 30-minute anthology show on Comedy Central teaching little-known history to the masses. Tonight, it begins its second season.
The rise of Drunk History from YouTube clip to Comedy Central tells us something very remarkable and comforting about American culture. You can attain the riches, fame, and promise of Hollywood by being a little funny, getting very very drunk, and having just a bit of ambition. As the Supreme Court allows religious employers to reign free over the contraceptive rights of their female-employees, at least we have this beautiful and comforting reality—getting drunk and knowing random historical tidbits is still one of the quickest ways to the top. The American dream at its finest.
Ahead of the show’s season two premiere, I sat down with Konner as he ate a burger and fries to talk about getting drunk as a teen and hanging out with Michael Cera, who is apparently perfect at everything. Learn from Konner and never let anyone turn you away from your weirdest, least socially acceptable goals.
Do you drink while filming?
Jeremy Konner: Derek [Waters, host of Drunk History] will get fucked up. When we did it for the web, I totally would because it felt like camaraderie. I wasn’t wasted, but I was drinking. We were all drinking. You don’t want to drink alone. Then for the first season, we were like yeah everyone will be drinking together it’ll be great. But we had a crew. Then the crew started being like, then we’re all drinking! It was like, wait, cancel this plan. This is a bad idea. It was around that time that you’d just see crewmembers wandering off.
Do you remember the first time you drank?
I remember the first time I got wasted. It was during the summertime. I was about 14, hanging out at my friend’s parent’s house. We went upstairs and he had a handle—that’s what it’s called right?—of vodka and he was like, “Should we try some vodka?” I was like, “Yeah, let’s try it.” I did a shot and I was like, “Oh that’s the worst thing! Oh my god! I’m in so much pain! That was terrible! Ok, one more.” We did it again and I was like “Ah!” but it wasn’t quite as bad. And then the third it was like, “That almost tasted like nothing.” And then the fourth it was like, “Now it’s like water.” At this point I was the smallest kid in my class. I weighed 90 pounds. I was tiny. He told me that in the end I probably had 16 or 17 shots.