The third time I watched the first episode of Comedy Central's new series "Drunk History" (Tuesday, 10 p.m.), I laughed even more than I did the first two times. At least for two thirds of the show (more on that later).
The way "Drunk History" works is that co-creators Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner get comedian friends plastered and film them telling famous stories from American history. Which is funny. But then, Waters and Konner enlist well-known actors to act out the stories, perfectly lip-synching the drunken ramblings of the narrators. Which is hilarious.
(Note: You may already be familiar with "Drunk History" from the FunnyOrDie website where the sketches attracted stars like Will Ferrell and Ryan Gosling. If not, you'll want to get over there right away and start catching up.)
The first episode for Comedy Central, which is already available online, focuses on events that happened in Washington, D.C.: Woodward and Bernstein break the Watergate story, narrated by Matt Gourley; the sibling rivalry of John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln's assassin) and his brother Edwin, narrated by Allan McLeod; and Elvis meets Nixon, narrated by Eric Edelstein.
Gourley is a charming, almost dignified drunk -- at least up until the point he vomits mid-story. But even that's kinda cute. Gourley's Watergate story is acted out by Nathan Fielder (as Bob Woodward -- or as Gourley calls him, Robert Woodward), Fred Willard (Deep Throat) and Bob Odenkirk (Richard Nixon). All great, but Gourley is the star of this segment.
McLeod is even funnier, though, trying to get through the story of the events that led John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. In that story, Will Forte plays Edwin Booth, Stephen Merchant plays Abraham Lincoln (quite funny in his one speaking scene) and Adam Scott (pictured above with Forte) is John Wilkes Booth. I'm starting an Emmy campaign now for Scott, who is laugh-out-loud perfection miming McLeod's drunken rants and mutterings.
Not as funny is the third story, Edelstein recounting the time Elvis (horribly overplayed here by Jack Black) met Nixon (Odenkirk again). The least said about that, the better.
Some of the other narrators of "Drunk History" will include Kyle Kinane, Jen Kirkman and Jenny Slate. The actors lined up to act out the stories of Patty Hearst, Al Capone, the Scopes Monkey Trial and many others include Jake Johnson, Kevin Nealon, Kristen Wiig, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Parnell and Luke and Owen Wilson.
The eight episodes ordered up by Comedy Central (or at least the segments within the episodes) could very well be hit-and-miss (see Jack Black above), but if even a handful of the stories capture the magic of McLeod and Scott -- or offer a moment like Gourley's clumsy attempt to cuddle mid-story with his freaked-out cat -- "Drunk History" will be one of the most solid half-hour TV bets on the schedule.