5 Times 'Drunk History' Schooled Us on American History
Sure, Comedy Central’s Drunk History is a fun way to watch your favorite actors lip-sync their way through historical reenactments narrated by very drunk people. But it’s also, dare we say… educational?
We’ve picked up plenty of fascinating nuggets of untold American history from Drunk History’s reenactments. And with the show returning for a third season this week, we’re celebrating by putting five of our favorite lessons on your assigned reading list.
1. John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin (Season 1, Episode 1)
You may have known that Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth was an actor… but did you know he had a brother, Edwin, who was also an actor? Or that the brothers performed Julius Caesar together, which inspired John Wilkes to shout “Sic semper tyrannis” while attacking Lincoln? We sure didn’t — and it’s extra delightful to see all of this acted out with Adam Scott as John Wilkes, Will Forte as Edwin, and Stephen Merchant as a goofily bearded Lincoln.
2. The tragic tale of Mary Dyer (Season 1, Episode 4)
Before we declared our independence and got that whole “religious freedom” thing going, being a Quaker was against the law in the all-Puritan Massachusetts colony. But one woman, Mary Dyer, bravely stood up and fought against this injustice — and got hanged for her trouble. Good thing we have Winona Ryder to act it out and educate us on the bad old days.
3. Lewis and Clark’s X-rated journey (Season 1, Episode 7)
The history books portray Lewis and Clark as brave, intrepid explorers of the untamed frontier. Drunk History paints a slightly different — and NSFW — version, with the pair of explorers (Tony Hale and Taran Killam) striking a peace treaty with the Lakota Indians, enjoying the company of the native ladies… and picking up “crazy STDs” as a result. Five words we hope never to hear again: “mercury tonic on your genitals.”
4. The amazing inventions of Percy Julian (Season 2, Episode 1)
Percy Julian (as portrayed by Key & Peele’s brilliant Jordan Peele) was a gifted scientist, but because he was a black man growing up in “Jim Crow Segregation Land,” he never got his due. Well, until now, with Peele acting out Julian’s struggles with discrimination and eventual triumph in discovering how to make steroids out of soybeans rather than horse urine. Because, as we all know, “there’s, like, a million soybeans per every one horse d–k.”
5. The battle over the Statue of Liberty (Season 2, Episode 2)
The Statue of Liberty is an enduring symbol of American freedom, so it’s a bit surprising to learn how strongly our U.S. Congress resisted it in the first place. French designer Frederic Bartholdi (Taran Killam, again) offered us Lady Liberty as a gift, free of charge, but Congress still said no thanks (because “the French are kind of pussies”). Then when Bartholdi finally got them to accept the statue, they balked at paying for a pedestal! We ask you: Can you put a price on liberty? Well, apparently, you can.
Season 3 of Drunk History premieres Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.