In its season finale, Drunk History launches into space, with narrators Holly Laurent, Matt Gourley, and Kyle Kinane each embodying different but effective qualities of successful drunk historians.
A part of me wishes the first and last segments of the episode had been switched. I understand why Derek Waters and his team ultimately started with Laurent and ended with Kinane. Laurent tells her story in a slow, calm drawl. She hangs onto every word. The story swells, just like the music she requests to score the beginnings of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s courtship. Kinane, meanwhile, has more of a bulldozer approach to storytelling. He punches every point, and his segment is frantic from the start. In terms of building energy, it makes more sense for Laurent to lead into Kinane, with Gourley being the happy middle ground between the two styles.
But Kinane’s aggressive growls and action movie levels of intensity, while fun in spurts, are a strange note for season three to end on. The best thing Kinane has going is that he’s most definitely being himself here. He tells the story like no one else would, and that’s one of the most important parts of being a drunk narrator. It’s a much more personal experience than reading a textbook or looking up any of these stories online. The stories are being told by real people—real drunk people—with real personalities that they bring to those stories. Kinane’s segment has a ton of personality, and the frenetic energy definitely works during the story’s more heightened moments. The desperation in his voice matches the desperation of Blake Anderson and Adam DeVine’s astronauts. It’s an immersive story that certainly never drags, but it almost seems like Kinane’s just racing through his story to get it over with. He barely even wants to finish it by the end. Waters, in his Drunk Whisperer ways, knows how to get him to wrap it up, and he finally gets there, but it still feels so forced. For as frenetic as his storytelling is, it also comes off as somewhat mechanic.
Laurent, meanwhile, is a perfect example of a narrator who takes their task very, very seriously. Like Kinane, she has a very particular way of telling her story that reflects who she is and what she cares about. In the tale of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, she focuses mostly on the relationship between the two, telling a deeply personal story with complex characters who we can root for instead of just focusing on the space element. She cares about the story, and that comes across in her attention to detail. Even as she’s getting more and more sloshed and can’t remember if “outlive” is a word or not, Laurent remains committed to conveying the emotions of this love story. It’s a weird segment, but one that captures the strange beauty of Drunk History, which is why I wish it could be the note the season ends on, even if it’s a bit of an emotional one. Laurent gets so wrapped up that it seems like she’s possibly crying by the end of her segment. But that’s what makes Drunk History so bizarre: These drunk bozos make you care about the people in their stories. Drunk History is mostly silly, but even when it’s just silly, dumb fun, it can make you feel something.
Of course, the reenactors are also a big part of what brings these characters to life and makes them feel like grounded, fleshed-out people. Paul Scheer is great as Sagan, but Chelsea Peretti steals the show as Ann Druyen with a funny and yet still somewhat touching performance. Peretti’s talent for physical comedy is especially useful here, and she really takes Laurent’s words to the next level with the physicality she puts behind them. In Gourley’s segment, Nathan Fillion similarly commands every scene with humor and delight. Look, just because they’re mouthing drunk ramblings doesn’t mean these reenactors can’t give layered performances. For all its silliness, season three’s best moments have come from the careful attention to detail poured into creating these stories. Drunk History is the most functional drunkard there is. It gets plenty weird but never sloppy.
- This brings us to the end of Drunk History’s third season. It has been quite the dizzying ride! Paget Brewster, Maya Rudolph, and Jenny Slate remain some of my favorite parts of the season. I love this weirdo show, and I would like to put it out into the universe that I would love to see Alison Brie be a narrator one day.
- All three segments are united not only by space but by burps.
- “Is outlive a word?”
- Derek’s face as he hugs an emotional Laurent is priceless.
- According to Gourley, S.S. stands for “Serious NaziS.”
- “Have I outdrunked Derek Waters?”
- Rogue sneezes are pretty common on this show, but they usually don’t come from the Drunk Whisperer himself!
- “Do you know what a deal it is to get to the moon?”
- “Smells like burgers.”
- Kinane’s shirt unbuttoning from the bottom up is a great visual gag.
- “I know how TV works.”
- “Well I guess we should start on some sweet kisses.”