“Drunk History” returns to Comedy Central with Season 2 on Tuesday, July 1, and creator Derek Waters says this season will be even better than the last. In an interview with Zap2it, Waters shares what’s changed in Season 2, the guest stars he’s most excited about and which episode he directed.
Zap2it: Can you tease what and who we’ll see in the first couple episodes of Season 2?
Derek Waters: You’re going to see this guy named Adolf Hitler — I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him; I don’t want to name drop — played by Weird Al [Yankovic]. That’s something if I didn’t know anything about this show would make me want to watch.
You’re going to learn about Claudette Colvin, who was a 15-year-old girl who did what Rosa Parks did months before Rosa Parks, but we never ever heard about her because the NAACP didn’t think she was a good role model. She was the inspiration for Rosa Parks. She was 15 and pregnant.
There’s episodes about American music. There’s more themed episodes this year. Last year we only had the Wild West episode. This year we have old Hollywood, the First Ladies, we have a sports heroes episode — and American music.
What worked best in Season 1 that you’re trying to improve and expand upon in Season 2?
There’s more me interacting in between, just to break up so it’s not all just reenactment the whole show. In “Montgomery” I learn how to box because we have Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling boxing thing. So I try to learn how to box. More interactions with locals, and me trying to do activities. I wanted to do more of that this year.
Have you had people tell you that “Drunk History” actually taught them about history?
People have said — and even actors, like Lisa Bonet playing her part last year — they had never heard a lot of [these stories]. And that’s the goal of this show. The comedy is that it’s being told by someone drunk, but the goal is that it’s secretly a history show.
Is there an era you’ve been wanting to explore but haven’t had a chance to yet?
No. Everything I wanted to do, we were lucky enough [to do]. Last year was eight episodes, this year is 10. I got to explore every world I was really interested in.
How do you determine which historical facts to play out?
Just searching through stories. Our researchers weed over 160 stories that we’re like, “Man, I love it,” or we’d never heard about it. “OK, which ones are our favorites?” And then we pare that down to 30, and then pick. “That matches Montgomery, that matches American music.” That’s sort of how that went down.
Did moving from an eight-episode order to a 10-episode order change the show in any way production-wise?
It didn’t change how the show was made. It made me more tired. It’s more work. But I got to direct the “Baltimore” episode, which is nice because that’s where I’m from. That made me very happy.
Are there any horror stories you have from the narrators actually being drunk while you’re filming?
Last year we had to reshoot someone that got way too drunk. This year, we’ve learned to have them tell the research team and [director] Jeremy [Konner] the story sober the day before, and then I come over and act as if I don’t know anything about the story, basically like they’re telling it for the first time.
What I realized alcohol does is adrenaline doesn’t allow the brain to realize the alcohol intake. That’s why I try to tell them, “Only drink a little bit before we get there,” because the adrenaline’s pumping up, and they’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to be funny, I’ve got to be better than everybody else.” That’s trouble.
How did you cast the narrators for Season 2?
Most of them, 90 percent were my friends that I knew. Then the other 10 percent, I had job interviews where I interviewed them just to see how they talked, how they could tell a story, what they were interested in, what types of stories they liked — like, underdog stories or sports stories or stuff like that. You really don’t know with anyone what you’re going to get, because alcohol is a strange thing that makes people do different things.
But I’ve learned what it does to every human being. At first it makes you feel like you’re the funniest person in the world. Then it makes you start repeating things. And then it makes you start regretting your decisions in life. That’s every human being, and so all I wanted was to find the best story-tellers knowing that I could game them on how much alcohol they were having while we were doing it.
After doing two seasons of the show, does “Drunk History” affect your desire to drink at all?
It makes me less want to go to a bar, or be around people that are drunk. But no, it hasn’t really affected me at all. I still want to.
I could see it make your tolerance for drunken antics a lot more sensitive.
Oh yeah. I’ll never be drunk. I’ll never be OK drunk.
You have some amazing guest stars in Season 2. Have you found it’s easier to get people to do the show now?
It’s hard. Everybody always says, “Oh, I’d love to do that,” but most of the people we use are very popular and have busy schedules. People will reach out, but most of the times we reach out to them just to see the availability. That’s why I was so excited about Johnny Knoxville, because I had no connection to him and just reached out to his agent and sent him a couple [of episodes] and said what a big fan I was. He did two episodes, so it was really, really good.
It looks like you have a lot of repeat guest stars from Season 1 as well.
Winona Ryder. Jack Black. Yeah, there’s a lot of people coming back, and brand new people like John Lithgow from “Harry and the Hendersons.”
Do you have one white whale of a celebrity who you’d love to get on the show?
Eddie Vedder. I’ve tried every season. He’s a busy man. And Steve Urkel, and that dream came true this year.
What was most exciting for you this season?
Directing “Baltimore,” and doing an Edgar Allen Poe story played by Jesse Plemons, who was Landry on “Friday Night Lights.”
And Todd on “Breaking Bad!”
He’s a little more Todd than he is Landry as Edgar Allen Poe. It’s a story of the rivalry between him and Rufus Griswold — or, as our narrator says, “Rufus F***ing Griswold, America’s first a**hole.”
“Drunk History” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Comedy Central.