Derek Waters’ “Drunk History” is one of the strangest, funniest, most absurd concepts in web series history. Playing on the inherent comedy of drunken incompetence and memory loss, each of the series’ six episodes takes a different comedic actor or writer, puts way too much booze in them, and then follows their muddled, profane accounts of important historical events. The episodes then cut between these slurred, rambling monologues and dramatic reenactments of the events, featuring famous actors such as Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel. The genius of these reenactments is how closely the actors follow the exact words of the inebriated nonsense that forms the basis of their script, lip-syncing the dialogue perfectly right down to the inadvertent sniffles and hiccups of the actual speaker.
The first episode features Mark Gagliardi recounting the story of Alexander Hamilton’s famous duel with Aaron Burr after drinking a bottle of Scotch. Though it is unclear how large the bottle was, it was clearly quite a bit of liquor, as he spends most of his segment reclined on a couch with a bucket nearby, just in case. Hamilton is played by a suitably innocent-looking Michael Cera in the reenactment, but the real show-stealer is Jake Johnson in a brilliantly shifty-eyed performance as the loathsome Aaron Burr. In episode 2, Eric Falconer takes on the famous story of Benjamin Franklin‘s discovery of electricity, expounding upon his theory that it was actually Franklin’s “bastard son,” William (Clark Duke), who actually flew the legendary kite with the key tied to it. This is also the series’ first instance of vomiting in the midst of the storytelling, but not its last, so be warned that the series is not for the weak-stomached. Jack Black portrays Franklin again in a special volume 2.5 episode, in which Falconer tells a hilarious tale of Franklin’s sexual deviance.
These are the only official episodes of the series (plus a very special Christmas episode included below), so beware of the unofficial knockoffs, most of which are pretty terrible. In fact, the one I linked to there is pretty much the only one that’s watchable, and it’s still nowhere near as good as the real thing. In addition to the recognizable stars, look for Waters’ name and also that of series director Jeremy Konner to avoid being duped.
The nation may be in the throes of economic peril, but you’d never know it based on the boondoggle trip offers we’ve received lately. Will Harris was invited to drink whiskey in Belfast, and Editor-in-Chief Jamey Codding was invited to Capetown, South Africa (!) to take part in the sequel to “Death Race.” I, meanwhile, had to settle for a weekend in Lake Tahoe with the stars of the movie that I’ve been drooling over since November: “Hot Tub Time Machine.” MGM planned a fantastic weekend for us, all expenses paid. Of course, that didn’t stop one of their guests from complaining by junket’s end, but more on that later.
Long travel day to get there (I was flying in from Columbus). Thank goodness Southwest flies to Reno, so I didn’t have to pay to check my bag (biggest bullshit expense ever). The flights were on time and uneventful, and I finished Matt Beaumont’s new book “e²” before landing. It’s as funny as Beaumont’s other books, though the comedic factor of a couple of the plot threads was questionable, to say the least. Sorry, but I don’t find people stealing anything and everything to cover their gambling debts funny. But that’s just me.
There is a shuttle bus waiting to take us to Tahoe, which is only 35 miles away, but the road to get there is very twisty, so it takes roughly an hour to drive…on a normal day, anyway. Halfway up, a snow storm drops on us with ninja quickness and the conditions become treacherous in a matter of seconds. Not that that stops our driver; dude plowed through it as if the snow wasn’t there. Well, until he slid into a snowbank, anyway. But he quickly got himself out and carried on like we were in “Ronin.”
Eventually, we arrive at the Hyatt Regency in Incline Village. Very nice. It has a heated pool with a swim-in/swim-out feature, so even in the middle of a blizzard, there are a bunch of people in the pool. We check in with the studio, and then we have a few hours to ourselves to poke around the hotel and get situated in our rooms. I took a nap.
MGM secured us a discount rate at a local ski resort, and since I live in Ohio, I’m all about taking advantage of good skiing when I can. As I’m getting fitted for skis, who should walk in returning his gear but Crispin Glover, who plays one-armed bellhop Phil. We talk for a bit about the movie, which he’s proud of (“I like it when people throw up,” he says), and he says he just skied the place I’m hitting tomorrow, and that it’s nice. Sweet.
As I’m poking around the lower level, I run into Craig Robinson, who’s on his way to the gym. Super sweet.
At 7:00, we gathered at the Cutthroat Saloon for drinks and “heavy appetizers,” which is my new favorite expression. I met up with the people on our bus, which consisted mainly of DJs and contest winners. The only other writer was Paul from Screen Rant. This would prove to be a pattern, as I saw very little of the other writers all weekend. With everyone well fed and boozed up, we were bused over to the local movie theater for a screening of the movie, with free popcorn and soda.
Now, I am forbidden from telling you how I felt about the movie until it’s released, and that’s fine; I’d like to see it again before starting my review anyway. But I will tell you this: the crowd went absolutely fucking bonkers. Bar none the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard at a movie theater. The audience just lost themselves in this movie, some to the point where they seemed to forget that they were in a movie theater, and refused to shut the hell up. All around me, yak yak yak yak yak. For a critic, it was unbearable. For the studio, it was heaven. Loud crowds are good crowds.
From there, we go back to the hotel, and I head back to the Cutthroat for a drink. I have only met two writers at this point (the other is Thor from Heavy.com), so for the moment, I’m drinking alone. That doesn’t last long, though, as the couple next to me at the screening – who were taking pictures of themselves during the opening credits of the movie – come in and invite me over for a drink. Turns out they’re contest winners from Kansas City, and their unofficial DJ chaperon, who calls himself Dave O, knows someone I went to high school with. Small world. I spend the rest of the weekend hanging out with these three.
There is free breakfast in the hospitality suite, but it doesn’t start until 8:30, and I have a date with the slopes (as far as I know, I’m the only media person who skied, thus perpetuating the stereotype of writers as non-athletic dorks), so I hit the buffet at the Sierra Cafe instead, for the low, low price of $21. As I’m waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to Diamond Peak, I run into Craig Robinson again, who holds out a fist, which I promptly bump.
Diamond Peak is a small resort. There are only four working lifts (two other lifts remain as decoration) and about 25 runs, but since I’ve only skied three times in my life and four years removed from my last outing, it’s perfect for me. Everyone is really friendly, and the blue runs are all very manageable. Best of all, it’s wide open. There are no lines for the lifts, and wherever you go, you’re basically skiing alone. I got some incredible shots of Lake Tahoe from the top of the mountain. Here’s one of them.
I call it a day after a couple hours and head back to the hotel, shower, and poke around the shops on the other side of the street. Hey, a liquor store! I buy a pint of Jack, which costs as much as a single Jack and Coke at the hotel.
Back to the Cutthroat, where I once again run into Dave O and his contest winners Georgia and Kris. We grab lunch (salad, to counter the heavy appetizers), and I get ready for the roundtable interviews. I’m paired up with three guys I haven’t seen all weekend. Damn. I was hoping to know at least one other person. I sit and chat with the other writers for a bit, and they’re all very nice…but I don’t see any of them for the rest of the weekend. Where the hell were all the writers? Is there some online writer’s club that I need to join? No matter; the DJs and contest winners were more fun, anyway.
Interview #1: Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke
I haven’t listened to the playback of this one yet, but I’m guessing it’s going to be nothing but laughter, because these guys were just killing it start to finish. Craig even wore a Dunder Mifflin jacket. Clark had just flown in from Austin, where they premiered his movie “Kick-Ass” at South by Southwest, but if he’s jet lagged, you wouldn’t know from his responses. These guys all clearly like each other, and everyone in the room bows down to John Cusack. So far, so good.
Interview #2: Crispin Glover
Before Crispin entered the room, we all admitted that we weren’t sure what to ask him. There are a couple hot-button issues that we wanted to ask about, but we weren’t sure if we should. Eventually he comes in, decked out in a badass double-breasted suit, and eases any concerns we had about filling a 20-minute interview block by answering every question rather thoroughly. Eventually, one of the writers gets up the nerve to ask him about his lawsuit with the producers of “Back to the Future,” at which point Crispin gives us the seven best minutes of the weekend. You can read about that moment in more detail here, while the full interview will go live in a few days. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
Interview #3: Lizzy Caplan and Collette Wolfe
Another one we writers were sweating, solely because of the limited résumés of both actresses. Impressive résumés, yes, but small. Still, Lizzy was good with a one-liner (“What do you think two weeks on Poison’s bus would be like?” “Itchy.”), and there was a funny moment where she’s describing a scene she did with Cusack and inadvertently made it sound like he was wearing a dress, prompting yours truly to ask, “But what were you wearing?”
As for Collette Wolfe…I think I’m in love. I mean, look at her, for crying out loud. (She’s the blonde.) She’s gorgeous, but most importantly she’s the sweetest actress I’ve ever met. Confident, but not full of herself. And her wedding ring is the freaking Rock of Gibraltar. (Well played, Jody Hill.) I spend the rest of the weekend pondering the awesomeness of Collette Wolfe.
Interview #4: “Hot Tub Time Machine” director Steve Pink
Oh man, was this one interesting.
Steve Pink is not the biggest guy in the room, but he is a formidable presence. The first thing he does, before he even sits down, is ask us if we like the movie. Then he asks us what we didn’t like about the movie. Mind you, he still hasn’t sat down. When no one says anything, he says, “Let me guess: the movie’s perfect.” Clearly, he can take criticism, and wants an open dialogue. I like that in a director, so I’m honest with him about my feelings about the movie. It proves to be a catalyst for the rest of the interview, and I walk away with tremendous respect for the man. Whether it’s mutual, I’ll never know (I’m betting against it), but it produced some good interview moments nonetheless, and he didn’t recoil in horror when I spoke with him about stuff after the interview was over. Steve Pink: cool guy.
Interview #5: Clark Duke
I requested a solo chat with Clark because he was in “Sex Drive,” which for my money is the funniest movie since “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut,” and I want interviews with all three leads. (Amanda Crew, you’re next.) Also, he’s in “Kick-Ass,” so he clearly has a thing for awesome movie titles. We spent the majority of the interview talking about music, and Clark positively lays waste to ’90s rock and grunge. “You sound like Mickey Rourke in ‘The Wrestler,'” I tell him. He seems flattered.
Two hours to kill before the big ’80s-themed party, so I head back to my room and upload my interviews to my laptop. (*reaches for Jack*) We are strongly encouraged to dress up, but I’m 41 years old; I already spent ten years dressing like it was the ’80s, so the thrill is a bit lost on me. I plan on bringing my camera to the party, but when it makes my pockets look like I’m wearing clown pants, I leave it in my room, opting for my camera phone instead. Fool. I missed some primo photo opportunities.
The first thing I see is a much fancier “heavy appetizer” spread, and these two promo posters above the pizza. Hell, yes.
One of the members of the house band, ’80s tribute band Aquanett, DJ’s before their set, playing the usual big hits. Everyone’s having fun. The actors appear, and God love Collette Wolfe, she’s decked out in a skin-tight outfit complete with lopsided ponytail. (None of the other actors dress up.) Spandex and lace are the order of the day for the women, and I have to admit, several of them had me flashing back to high school, with one big difference: nearly all of these women, in their attempts to wear revealing ’80s outfits, revealed their tattoos in the process. One girl would totally have had my number in 1985, were it not for the giant tat going from shoulder to shoulder…in the front. Pass.
Aquanett gets up and plays their set. It’s what you’d expect from an ’80s tribute rock band: Priest, Ratt, Guns ‘n Roses Def Leppard, etc. (They also cover “Play That Funky Music,” so the girls will dance.) And they were okay, though the singer took too many breaks in the songs (i.e., he skipped the high notes). And then I hear someone say, “Holy shit, look!”
Craig Robinson’s on stage, wearing a blonde mullet wig.
This is a callback to a scene in the movie, and as you can see, the crowd ate it up. Craig was pretty much the fucking Man all weekend, approachable and having the time of his life. Clark, on the other hand, was a bit withdrawn in the public setting. He had a glass of what looked like bourbon, and when I innocently asked him what it was, he said, “I don’t drink and tell.” Um, okay. (He told me later it was originally Maker’s Mark, then Jack Daniel’s.) He, Lizzy and Steve Pink played blackjack back at the hotel, and I got the vibe that they just wanted to be left alone. Luckily for them, Craig was ready and willing to do the heavy lifting when it came to pleasing the masses.
Finally, I ask an MGM rep: why isn’t John Cusack here? The official word: one of his sisters was getting married. It’s probably a good thing he wasn’t here, because he would have been smothered every second of the day.
Feeling a bit worse for wear, but not miserable, at least not compared to our studio contact, poor thing. We were not officially invited to the hospitality room for breakfast since we were checking out that morning, but I knew they had another day of interviews planned, so I snuck up there to see if they had some yogurt and bananas or something. As it tuned out, they had the exact same spread I spent $21 on the day before. Score.
As I’m waiting for the shuttle to take us back to Reno, I overhear someone at the front desk telling one of the DJs that the per diem the studio provided us expired at 2:30 in the morning, so he will have to pay for that buffet breakfast he just charged to the room. He walks towards us muttering, “This is bullshit.” I wanted to laugh in his face. There is no per diem for the day you’re checking out of a hotel. That’s an understood business rule, or so I thought. And anyway, MGM had just spent TONS of money wining and dining us all weekend. This guy naively thinks he has another $75 in house money to spend, and somehow that’s the studio’s fault? I hope they don’t reimburse him. Maybe that way he’ll know better next time.
The drive back to Reno was quiet, though we eventually start talking about, surprise, movies. Kevin McCarthy, a DJ from Washington DC, talks about his love for “Shutter Island” and the writing of Dennis Lehane, to which I say, “The one whose books all involve dead children? Fuck that guy.” As I give Kevin my card, he says, “Do you have a guy in London?” Turns out he remembered Will from the “Pirate Radio” junket last year. World suddenly becomes even smaller than I thought.
Walking to the airport, Breakfast Bullshit DJ comments about how rough the drive was. I tell him I didn’t notice, then think to myself, Man, what a bitch.
I’m on a flight to Vegas with three other DJs. I trade cards with Krayzie Kat (not her real name), and realize that I didn’t trade contact info with a single writer all weekend, and start to wonder if I have a bias against my own kind. I am a music guy first and foremost, after all.
Eventually, I crawl through my front door around midnight, thoroughly exhausted but also totally wired from the most thrilling weekend I’ve had in, well, years. As a father of two, trips like this don’t come around very often, and unfortunately I had to miss my son’s first rock concert in order to do it. (I originally had plans to take him to see They Might Be Giants that Sunday. Fortunately, my wife was happy to step in.) Hats off to MGM for organizing one incredible weekend, and the movie looks like it’s going to be a big hit. I’m seeing it again next week. Hopefully I’ll be able to actually hear it this time.