Photo: ‘Drunk History’/Comedy Central
Some Comedy Central executive got high one night and thought to himself, what if my high school history teacher was perpetually drunk. That is how I sincerely hope that Drunk History came to be. Drunk History came on the air in 2013. The show’s premise can be figured out from the title: comedians and other celebrities get drunk and recount epic tales from history to host Derek Waters. All episodes of Drunk History are great: after all, who doesn’t like drunk celebrities telling us stories of George Washington and Genghis Khan? But, naturally, some are a cut above the rest. And so, if you only have a little while before your significant other realizes you called in sick to work to catch-up on Drunk History, here are just a few of the show’s must-see segments.
#10- Marina Raskova and The Night Witches
Women in combat across the world have Marina Raskova to thank for opening doors for women who want to serve their country. Yet our history books have conveniently forgotten about her because, as we all know, Thomas Jefferson’s sexual conquest over his slaves is far more important. Maria Raskova convinced Joseph Stalin to allow her to form an all-female battalion of the Russian equivalent of the Air Force. These ladies kicked so much butt that the Allies probably couldn’t have won the war without them.
But of course, it’s more important to hammer into our brains the fact that Churchill probably had a smoking addiction during the same war. These women were destroyed in planes that would be more fit to be crop dusters! And no one remembers their story besides Jess McKenna and Drunk History.
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#9- Dolley Madison saves the White House
FYI, there’s going to be a trend in this article of me calling historical women badasses… But Dolly Madison was a badass. How many American first ladies can you name? There’s Martha Washington, Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama, and I think there’s a chick named Melanin in the White House right now. Most of us assume the First Ladies are given a project (get kids healthy, preserve national monuments, and whatever the heck “Be Best” is) and then put in the corner so the men can do work.
But no, some of them are bona fide heroes, and even though history books like to rant on and on about men, Drunk History makes sure we don’t forget about the ladies in the episode “First Ladies.”
All the stories in this episode are awesome, but my personal favorite is the one about when Dolley Madison saved everything precious in the White House from a fire. It was the War of 1812 and everyone in Washington fled because the British were coming… again. But Mrs. Madison wasn’t afraid and stayed behind to protect the White House while her husband was at battle.
The British came and set fire to the landmark and Madison made sure everything of historical significance was taken out of the White House. Thanks to her, thousands of dollars worth of artifacts were saved from burning. I can’t name a single one of James Madison’s accomplishments that I learned in grade school but I’ll always remember this story about Dolley Madison thanks to Drunk History.
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#8- The First Manned Space Mission
“Imagine what it’s like to be floating around in the 80s… Except this is the 60s.” Kyle Kinane seems to be especially drunk as he tells the tale of the first mission to space with men on board. But, of course, the drunker the narrator, the more entertaining the history lesson. This episode also gets bonus points because it looks like it was made on a $20 budget. So, it’s no Interstellar, but we weren’t laughing through every second of the sci-fi movie with a budget big enough to buy passable effects.
Everything that could go wrong does as Russia sent the first men into orbit. The astronauts almost died five to ten times while completing their mission. The funny thing is that this story is so serious and dramatic. Theoretically, it should be told by a somber history professor with a Ph.D., but if a drunk comedian’s all we’ve got, we’ll take it.
#7- Florence Nightingale: The Mother of Modern Nursing
Florence Nightingale essentially invented the profession of nursing. This segment tells the story of women kicking butt, taking names, and then admitting those names to the infirmary and treating said butt. If you’re like me, you thought nurses had existed since the beginning of medicine. I believed when Hippocrates wrote the Hippocratic Oath it said, “I swear to protect, serve, and also, nurses are a thing.” But Paget Brewster teaches us a different story: one that is far more interesting than what most of us assumed.
Essentially, Florence Nightingale decided in 1830 that she wanted to be more than just a housewife. So, she went against her family’s wishes and got a job interning at a local hospital. But when war broke out in Crimea, Nightingale is sent to the warzone to help out in the infirmary where she revolutionized medical hygiene practices and, of course, founded the profession of nursing while she was at it. If that’s not an epic story, I have no idea what is.
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#6- Claudette Colvin
Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on the bus before Rosa Parks, but because she was only a teenager, the face of the Montgomery bus boycott became Parks. Amber Ruffin is so excited to tell this story to the Drunk History audience and Derek Waters is so excited to hear it. Ruffin’s energy alone is enough to make this a stellar Drunk History segment but add to that the epicness of the story, and this segment is one for the record books.
History books have left out this unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement because she was young and imperfect but Ruffin makes sure her story does not go unheard. Colvin faced so much hardship in her life and got none of the glory for what she did. Her story is incredible but you need to watch this segment of Drunk History to find out the rest.
#5- Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI
To quote this segment, this story is “so important guys, it’s so important.” In high school I idolized hippies. Not that I knew anything about them, history classes taught me hippies just got high, danced around, and when they were in the mood, threw an earth-shattering music festival. But Duncan Trussell sets the record straight and teaches us that some hippies were the most active activists in history. John and Bonnie Rains became suspicious that the FBI is sabotaging the anti-war movement.
So, they organized a group of friends and broke into FBI HQ. This story is as suspenseful as a Drunk History segment gets, as the Citizens ‘Commission to investigate the FBI tries to avoid getting found out by people guarding the FBI office in Media, PA. You can feel the tension in the story despite the fact that narrator Duncan Trussell has a massive giggle attack mid-story. The Rains helped people who have a healthy suspicion of the government not feel crazy and led to more transparency in the FBI.
#4- Mary Phelps Jacob invents the modern bra.
The invention of the word “boobies” alone makes this segment worthy of this list. This episode makes clear a bunch of the unfair circumstances faced by women in Mary Phelps Jacobs’ time and our time. A woman’s comfort has always been put second to how she looks by society, so thank god for women like Mary Phelps Jacob who try to make life a bit more bearable for the ladies. Thanks to Jacob, the issue of women being squeezed like lemons into corsets to make them look pretty is a thing of the past but Paget Brewster, the narrator of this segment, points out the unfairness women faced in Jacob’s time just as they do today.
Jacob was a badass in every sense of the word, and even when the Warner Brothers Corset company (which I sincerely hope is not the same company that owns the movie studio) tried to pass off her idea as their own, she just brushed it off and started her own publishing company. She was an awesome historical figure who is ignored by history books because her story is apparently not as important as who Henry VIII was sleeping with on any given day during his rule. But fortunately, we have Drunk History to let women know we have Jacobs to thank for the fact that we’re not squeezed on a daily basis like a stress ball owned by Gary Busey.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is the most knowledgeable Alexander Hamilton expert I can name. Granted, he is the only Alexander Hamilton expert I can name. But who cares? Let’s get him drunk and have him tell us stories! This segment takes up the entire 30-minute episode as Miranda recounts the many feats of the US’s first Secretary of Treasury. This segment teaches us facts about Hamilton the musical couldn’t cover. For example, the boat that took him from his home island to America was on friggin’ fire as it entered the mainland!
This is something history teachers leave out because it’s not boring enough to put in the curriculum. The story of Hamilton is even more interesting when not restricted to the limitations of a stage. You just need to see it for yourself by watching the “Hamilton” episode of Drunk History.
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#2- Mata Hari invents striptease
This segment starts on a weird note with Sugar Lyn Beard calling Mata Hari “the grandmother of the striptease. “Grandmother” and “striptease” are two words no one has ever wanted to hear in the same sentence. But the segment only gets better from there. Mata Hari earns a living by being a glorified stripper. She gets men to feel less guilty about watching her strip because she learned to dance in Indonesia. If a dance is from the far east, watching it isn’t naughty, it’s cultural – That’s just science. But plot twist, Nazi’s invade!
The Nazi’s do have a special way of ruining everything. In her spot-on impression of a Nazi who probably does a bit of yodeling on the side, Beard explains that the Nazi’s took everything of value that Mata Hari owned. Mata Hari doesn’t take this lying down, and when Nazi’s give her money to spy on them, she pockets the cash and goes on a spending spree. I’m not going to give away the whole story, but it’s a fantastic segment. If you like espionage, sexy ladies being badasses, and a narrator with the cutest little pixie voice known to man, check out this segment in the “Femme Fatales” episode.
#1- Cleopatra and the joys of treason and sexual betrayal.
This segment has the plot of an episode of New Housewives of Ancient Egypt. Aubrey Plaza is always a scene-stealer when she shows up in an episode of Drunk History. In this segment, she is looking fabulous and fly as she plays Cleopatra. My homegirl Cleo tears a royal family apart by maybe taking advantage of Julius Caesar and betraying her brother-husband. Hey, don’t look at me, it’s history!
And all of this while Cleopatra’s 11-year-old sister Arsinoe plots against her and tries to steal her throne like 11-year-olds are known to do. Arsinoe is like the bully from every movie about middle schoolers, only she’s conspiring against the throne while the worst thing middle school bullies do is send mean texts with poop emojis. This segment is one of the most dramatic stories that Drunk History has ever tackled, and demonstrates all the best aspects of the show.
Hey, do not just take my word for it. Get binge-ing on all ‘Drunk History’ episodes. You actually learn from these drunks.
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