Derek Waters previews 'Drunk History Christmas Special' — and Season 5

Mandi Bierly
Deputy Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

‘Tis the season to be jolly, which sometimes involves alcohol, so it was only a matter of time until Drunk History did a Christmas special (premiering tonight on Comedy Central). Not that that’s what co-creator Derek Waters necessarily set out to do. As always, he and Jeremy Konner determined which stories excited them most while researching new stories, and then looked for a link.

Waters never knew that George Washington (Rob Corddry) crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776 for a sneak attack on drunk and hungover Hessian soldiers. “I got nervous because we were shooting that on a real projection screen for the background — some of those shots were too good. So whenever it looked too good I’m like, ‘Let’s throw fake ice.’ I always am very conscious of the show never taking itself too seriously,” Waters says. See also: the use of tiny models for the wide shots of the boats in the tale, narrated by Craig Anstett. “It was ice cubes in a very small tub, and those little models being pulled by fishing wire,” Waters says. “It’s a tough job.”

Colin Hanks as Charles Dickens (Photo: Comedy Central)

Next, he learned the story of how a washed-up Charles Dickens (Colin Hanks) was forced to self-publish A Christmas Carol. “I wanted to make it like a little Christmas play,” he says. “Phil Hendrie, the narrator, is one of my all-time heroes. He has the best radio show in history, and Colin is a fan of his. I thought Colin would be able to play it so genuine. He makes me feel good at Christmas. Colin Hanks feels like Christmas. Yeah, I’m confident in saying that: He feels like Christmas.”

Suddenly they just needed one more story to make a holiday-themed half hour. Conservationist Teddy Roosevelt (Ken Marino) banned Christmas trees in the White House? Perfect. The true delight here: watching the young actors playing Roosevelt’s sons Archie (Cole Sand) and Quentin (Noah Ziggy James) lip-syncing narrator Rich Fulcher’s choice language. (Don’t expect an all-kids themed episode of Drunk History anytime soon, though. “People drunk, and kids lip-syncing bad language makes me a little nervous,” Waters says. “Most of the time it’s me asking my friends [to do the show], and I don’t want to brag, but I’m not friends with that many kids. So these kids just auditioned, and those two were my favorite.”)

Drunk History fans have more to look forward to after the holidays: Season 5 premieres Jan. 23, and it’s the biggest season to date — 13 episodes with a total of 39 stories. The premiere’s theme is “Heroines,” with stories narrated by first-timer Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) and returning favorites Paget Brewster and Amber Ruffin.

Comedy Central has released a synopsis:

During the premiere episode Tiffany Haddish narrates museum curator Rose Valland’s (Busy Philipps) risky quest to save Europe’s masterpieces from the Nazis; Paget Brewster slurs her way through the story of Deborah Sampson (Evan Rachel Wood), the first woman to take a bullet for America during the Revolutionary War; and Amber Ruffin recalls the bravery of “The Angel of the Battlefield,” Clara Barton (Mandy Moore), who founded the American Red Cross with the help of surgeon James Dunn (Alexander Skarsgård) and Abraham Lincoln (Jack McBrayer).

Waters is also looking forward to the episode called “Drunk Mystery,” which is a parody of one of his favorite shows, Unsolved Mysteries. “I play Robert Stack. It’s pretty amazing,” he says. “Vanessa Bayer’s in that. Kyle Mooney from SNL is the narrator. Taran Killam is in that episode. Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. It’s an all-star cast this season.”

He’s the first to admit that anybody in his position, promoting a new season of a show, will insist the new episodes are the best to date. “But this [season] is by far, way better than anything that we’ve done,” he says. “I make it a point that the show won’t get old, and make it thinking of a fan — like how would I watch this and not be like, ‘Come on, I’ve seen this before’? The stories are more exciting. The actors are more exciting. The narrators are more exciting. It’s just good history.”

Although he likes to keep the stories a surprise, he will tease that there is an episode called “Underdogs,” in which Jenny Pearson makes her debut as a narrator. “She tells the story about an Asian girl who created the design for the Vietnam War Memorial,” he says. “You look at that story and you’re like, ‘Well, that’s not very funny,’ but if you get someone funny to tell it, they’re going to be able to find funny moments in it, and it’s one of the best stories.”

One thing we definitely won’t see this season: a Donald Trump-themed episode. “You can’t have drunk people talk about something that’s too recent and too sad. It has not crossed my mind, just because I think my job, and the show’s job, is to make you forget about what’s going on and to make you laugh, but also tell stories that make you go, ‘Oh wow, this is still going on?’ You know, where it’s not too recent, but it’s also tackling topics that still exist and still need to be taken care of,” he says. “I like the show being political in its own way of talking about stories that have a beginning, middle, and end. This one just doesn’t have an end yet.”

The Drunk History Christmas Special premieres Nov. 28 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central. Season 5 premieres Jan. 23 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.

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