History can be a fickle beast. While some landmark events stand out as the must-know moments from America's past, other seemingly mundane scenarios play out just to fall by the wayside. But however mundane some historical scenes may be, they may just be the ones that send us down a new, life-changing road.
That is the concept for History's new comedy series "Night Class: The Crossroads of History." Each 10-minute episode explores the stories that aren't as well known but just as important in world history. Zap2it's exclusive clip is a sampling of what the show, created by Elizabeth Shapiro, has to offer.
In the video, Wayne Knight ("Seinfeld," "Jurassic Park") stars as King Louis XIV opposite Jack McBrayer ("30 Rock"), who takes on the role of royal barber, Charles Francois.
During this time in France, barber's were known as "barber-surgeons" as they provided double duty in cutting hair and performing surgical duties. Louis XIV's "anal fistula" definitely sounds gross, but it's this moment that sparks the beginning of what modern surgery is today.
It's scenes like these that has set History down a new road with its Thursday night comedy lineup. Airing along with Dan Harmon's "Great Minds" -- in the "Night Class" block -- the network has begun using humor as a way of informing the audience. Hey, if it worked for "Drunk History" ...
"Essentially, I had this idea for a long time to write about the second time that Hitler had gotten rejected from art school," Elizabeth Shapiro tells Zap2it.
"It was a fascinating and totally true moment in history that is probably the most important moment of the 20th Century and sealed the fate of the 20th Century and yet, it's such a mundane moment that no one talks about."
Shapiro got some of her comedian friends together -- Paul Sheer and Josh Fadem, to be specific -- and they shot what turned out to be the pilot episode for the series. Watching Adolf Hitler be rejected from art school is both cringeworthy and hilarious. Who knew?
Once this took off, interest grew, which led Shapiro to "think about the show in a bigger way." She continues, "History isn't usually looked at in this way. You know, it's not usually zoomed in to such a degree where you're looking at these moments that changed the world."
"Often focusing more on the consequences," Shapiro explains, "like for Lincoln's assassination, you don't often talk about the four hours before that when John Frederick Parker -- his alcoholic body guard -- showed up super late to his post and then decided to get wasted at intermission ... people don't really talk about that!"
Shapiro points to moments like this as the ones that "started the boulder rolling down the hill." It's one thing to explore lesser known moments in history but it's a whole other responsibility to make it funny and Shapiro tapped some great talent to help keep that boulder moving.
Aside from on-screen work by the likes of Scheer, McBrayer and Knight, Shapiro has also brought Brian Baumgartner ("The Office"), Michael Mando ("Better Call Saul"), Lou Diamond Phillips ("Young Guns," "Longmire") and Oscar Nunez ("The Office") on board to help with different episodes. On the writing side, "Key & Peele's" Colton Dunn ("Superstore," Lazer Team") joined forces with Shapiro to add that humorous edge felt throughout multiple episodes.
"'Key & Peele' was a huge influence on me for the show," Shapiro says.
"I feel like they really upped the bar in terms of what sketch comedy can look like. You know, just so freaking cinematic and beautiful. That was a really big inspiration for this show, so to then have this opportunity to have Colton be involved ... he basically saw the Hitler pilot and was into it!"
One of the other standout details from these episodes is that they revolve around a handful of characters in one specific location. Whether it's because of budget or not, Shapiro's interest in character development is strong and she points to her strong roots in improv and theater as the culprit.
Shapiro's excitement about "Crossroads" is infectious and she wants to make sure others begin to view history in the same way she does.
"We have this distorted way of looking at history as if it just happened in the past," Shapiro says. "But really, history is the consequences we're living. Like ... history is the Quarter Pounder we decided to eat at two in the morning and now we can't zip our pants."
With a perspective like that, it's hard to argue ... and also zip up your pants depending on what food you regretfully ate last night. All jokes aside, Shapiro is extremely grateful to have this opportunity.
"Jesus, how many people can say their first show on the air is companioned next to Dan Harmon's show? It's like the best prom date you can ask for!"
"Night Class: The Crossroads of History" airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on History.