A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Drunk History is hosted by comedians who drink until they're falling-down drunk and then relate historical anecdotes which are reenacted by other comic actors. At the beginning of every segment, titles note how much each host has drunk and what (a bottle of scotch, a six pack, or a half a bottle of absinthe), and we see them slurring their words, falling over, vomiting into buckets and toilets, passing out. All of this is played for laughs and viewers, particularly young ones, will conclude that being drunk is hysterically funny. Though the historical scenarios reenacted on the show are true, interesting, and very often illuminate little-known historical topics, the hosts' inebriation undercuts this positive. Some reenactments feature minimal violence (such as the assassination of Lincoln), and unbleeped four-letter words are common. All this said, the show is hilarious and parents will enjoy watching it with adult kids or older/sophisticated teens. Just make sure you counter iffy messages about being drunk and how funny it seems to be.
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What's the story?
On DRUNK HISTORY, originally a popular segment on humor website Funny or Die, comedians are given a prodigious amount of alcohol and then asked to relate a historical anecdote, such as the rivalry between John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin that led to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, or how former slave Oney Judge wrested her freedom from George Washington. While the drunken comedians are relating their tale, the viewer sees famous comic actors (from Will Farrell to Kristen Wiig) in costume reenacting the stories.
Is it any good?
Drunk History is positively hysterical and made for the same snarky folks who love the Internet's many hilarities. The show's funniest aspect is that the actors reenacting the tale mouth the exact goofy dialogue the drunken comedian gives them in the retelling, complete with slurring and hiccups. "I'm inventing electricity," says John Reilly as Nikola Tesla to Crispin Glover as Thomas Edison. "And you just look like an a--hole!" The fact that the modern actors aping historical figures wear the cheapest wigs and fakest mustaches imaginable really adds to the funny.
Nonetheless, parents don't particularly want their kids absorbing the lesson that drunk people are funny and drinking is hilarious. Parents who watch with their teens, or allow them to watch alone will definitely want to point out what real alcoholics look and act like, and how binge drinking can hurt people or even kill them. Drunk History may be better as a guilty parental pleasure, something to watch when the kids are out rather than something to enjoy with them. No one could say the show's not funny; it's the messages behind the humor that are worrisome.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether drunk people are funny. Have you ever seen any drunk people? How could you tell they were drunk? Did they act like the people you see onscreen in Drunk History? Were they funny or did they make you uncomfortable?
Watch a few vintage shows where alcohol and drinking are frequent topics of humor, such as Bewitched or Absolutely Fabulous. How has our portrayal of drinking changed over time? Why do you suppose it has changed? Are there any shows that still treat drinking as a joke?
Do you find the historical stories illustrated in Drunk History to be believable? Would it surprise you to learn they're true and mostly accurate?
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