Some of the worst acting you’ll ever see is a drunk person trying to act not-drunk. Once someone’s burrowed beyond half in the bag, the intoxication becomes that person’s primary feature. Trying to deny it is as futile as a giraffe hoping to pass as a horse.
Conversely, one of the most difficult acting challenges is a sober person pretending to be a drunk person trying to act not-drunk. Anyone hoping to pull it off convincingly, though, would do well to study Drunk History, the Comedy Central series whose third season premiere is tonight.
It’s a show that features the best drunk performances in TV or film right now–because they are 100% genuine. Creators Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner recruit actors and comedians to tell true historical tales they know well and are passionate about–and then feed them way too much alcohol and turn on a camera. The eventual telling of the story–always hilariously earnest, as though it would be lost in the sands of time if not told now–is intercut with reenactments that are word-for-word verbatim, including slurring and period-inaccurate turns of phrase.
Waters and Konner are obsessed with authenticity. Any time the storyteller seems to be playing up their drunkness, rather than struggling to stay on track, they rein that person in. This authenticity extends to the stories as well. The creators want their show to actually teach people the odd bit of trivia, even if it it’s coming from a source one might cross the street to avoid. As rooted in truth as the show is, though, it’s not without occasional flights of fancy.
“This season we get a bit more anthropomorphic,” Konner says. “There are talking clouds and things like that when the story calls for it.”
In addition to this change, the new season experiments with theme episodes. Ordinarily, each installment features legends particular to whichever city the show is filmed in that week. This time around, there are episodes where the focus is on, say, spies, with one segment revealing that Harriet Tubman was a spy, and the next unmasking Roald Dahl.
Whichever flavor of history the show zeroes in on, though, the undeniable draw is seeing funny people get blotto–with the uninteresting parts edited out. Perhaps the reason it’s such a draw is that observing drunk people in TV and film is so often a mixed bag. There are nuances to playing drunk, and Konner and Waters have observed enough of them in the flesh to be experts on how to fake it properly.
To celebrate the intoxicated arts, Co.Create selected some of the most famous scenes of drunk acting in movie history–some of which involve actual drunk actors–and asked the Drunk History duo how they rate them. Read on in the slides above to find out which performers aced it when they got wasted.