‘Drunk History’ toasts Hawaii
BY CHRISTIE WILSON /firstname.lastname@example.org
Comedy Central’s “Drunk History” will toast Hawaii Tuesday with irreverent homages to three iconic figures: the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, legendary waterman Eddie Aikau, and 18th-century British explorer Capt. James Cook.
7 p.m. Tuesdays on Comedy Central
The show, now in its second season, features inebriated “narrators” describing important figures and events in history while costumed actors re-enact the stories and lip-sync the narrator’s often-slurred words — F-bombs, burps and all.
The laughs come from the anachronistic, R-rated dialog and watching such well-known actors as John Lithgow, Jack Black, Courteney Cox and Jason Momoa goof.
But in raising a glass to revered historical figures — and none is arguably more revered in Hawaii than Inouye and Aikau — does “Drunk History” also dishonor them?
In filming the Hawaii segments, show co-creator and director Jeremy Konner said he was fully aware of the potential backlash from pouring alcohol on Hawaii’s already smoldering tinderbox of racial and cultural sensitivities. (Most likely to raise hackles are the farcical depiction of Cook’s encounters with Native Hawaiians in Kealakekua and the salty narration of Inouye’s World War II heroics.)
“We treat all aspects of history with equal silliness … ,” Konner said. “But we’d be lying if we said we didn’t think about (cultural sensitivity) in this particular episode. It was very stressful for me personally because of that.”
While the episode includes on-location scenes of co-creator and host Derek Waters jumping off Kapena Falls, surfing with Tom “Pohaku” Stone and attempting to climb a coconut tree, the three “Drunk History” segments were filmed in Los Angeles. Producers had hoped to cast Native Hawaiians, but it didn’t quite work out.
“We initially really were trying to get only Hawaiians actually playing Hawaiians and it wasn’t entirely possible,” Konner said. “And that’s something that, to be honest, says more about how hard it is to cast Hawaiians in Los Angeles than it does about our desire to have Hawaiians play Hawaiians.
“We want it to be respectful but we hope people can recognize our enthusiasm and our love for Hawaii and not fixate on our production limitations and casting limitations. They are just the reality of making a TV show.”
Narrating the Cook segment is Hawaii-born comedian Jonah Ray Rodrigues, whose own series, “The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail,” airs Wednesdays on Comedy Central.
In the second segment, nationally syndicated talk-radio host Phil Hendrie calls Inouye a “true patriot” after describing the prejudice he faced and his battlefield exploits in Italy. Steven Yeun (a fan favorite as Glenn on “The Walking Dead”) stands in for Inouye, who utters bleeped expletives courtesy of Hendrie’s off-color storytelling.
Comedian, writer and avid surfer Kurt Braunohler recounts the life of Aikau, who is portrayed as a fearless wave rider, dedicated life saver and peacemaker among hostile surfing factions.
Aikau’s 1978 disappearance while attempting to rescue fellow Hokule‘a crew members is depicted as respectfully as possible for a show called “Drunk History.”
Konner acknowledges the Hawaii segments may offend some, but would like to remind viewers of the show’s concept and the fact it airs on Comedy Central — the comedy channel. (Along with Waters and Konner, the executive producers include actor Will Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay.)
“We are not the History Channel,” he said. “This is not a real biopic. This is not a documentary. This is comedy and entertainment, and if we get you to think about stuff, to Wikipedia it, if we taught you even a tiny bit about our history, that’s a bonus — that’s the sprinkles on top.”