“Los Angeles” sticks two of the guys behind Drunk History in front of the camera: co-executive producer Seth Weitberg and director Jeremy Konner. As a result, there’s a certain meta quality to the episode, especially during Konner’s retelling, which ends up commenting more on Drunk History itself than the story of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Konner played Henry Kissinger earlier this season, but this is his first time as a narrator on the show he directs. He’s at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the actually story, as the tale of the Los Angeles Aqueduct isn’t all that exciting. The fun comes not from his storytelling but rather Konner’s own incredulity at the very conceit of this show. Konner feels uncomfortable on the other side of the camera, and it’s perversely delightful to see him squirm. I could almost see the thought bubble over his head saying “oh my god, this is what we make people do?” In fact, he literally says “this is so stupid” out loud at one point.
Even though the segment isn’t as funny as Drunk History tends to be, it isn’t boring. It’s just different and more like watching a fish out of water. Usually, we’re watching narrators try their hardest to get their stories right. Konner seems barely interested in the story he’s telling. The struggle for him has more to do with realizing that he isn’t the one in control, that he’s the drunk, bumbling dummy who they’re going to later edit to look like even more of a drunk, bumbling dummy. Honestly, the Drunk History team probably gets more enjoyment out of Konner’s role reversal than anyone else, but still, I think the segment still lives in the awkward but relatable discomfort Drunk History thrives in.
Even though Konner sticks to the talking points of his story, his incredulity at what he’s doing says more about the show than about the story. Drunk History asks people to do something very strange. It asks them to do something most people do quite readily and easily with friends and very little spectacle but to now do it in front of cameras, while mic’d, for a national audience. There’s a certain vulnerability that comes with the willingness to be drunk on camera. It’s a vulnerability that Konner doesn’t seem to have, and that’s okay, because he’s so good at what his job normally is for the show.
Weitberg is definitely more comfortable in the narration chair, especially since he has done this before in seasons one and two. But he’s almost too comfortable, clipping along through his story in a way that’s so fluid it almost feels scripted, which definitely goes against the general philosophy of Drunk History. He’s not a bad storyteller by any means, and the segment still has a decent amount of jokes, especially when the drunk words from his mouth jump to the screen in the form of newspaper headlines and the chyron that adopts his elongated pronunciation of “Los Annnnggggeles.” Still, there’s an almost mechanical feel to the way he hits his story’s bullet points. It’s also one of the rare times where the story he’s telling feels too big to condense. Really, every story Drunk History tells is one that wouldn’t fit into a short segment without cutting a whole lot of parts out. The narrators have to focus on what they think are the important parts or whoever or whatever from the story they connect with most. Weitberg’s story lacks focus, and there are a lot of players involved (all played, it should be noted, quite wonderfully, especially by guests Giancarlo Esposito and Ryan Phillippe), which contributes to the feeling that he’s running through bullet points.
“I’m sick of all these people on message boards saying we’re not really drunk,” Eric Edelstein says at the top of his segment as he throws back mason jars of lite beer like they’re water (and hey, they basically are). Ironically, I wouldn’t be surprised if people end up complaining that he isn’t drunk enough for Drunk History. I trust that he’s drunk, only because I trust that Derek Waters makes sure everyone gets to an appropriate level of inebriation. But as I’ve written about before, Drunk History showcases a wide spectrum of drunk behavior. Edelstein isn’t a sloppy drunk or a giggly drunk or an overly excitable drunk or even an easily distracted drunk. He’s pretty even-keeled, a quality that probably makes him an excellent drinking buddy but not that great of a Drunk History narrator.
But even though he doesn’t really have the qualities of an exceptional drunk narrator, he’s the best storyteller of the episode. The story of Rin Tin Tin is great, but Edelstein makes it even better with his keen understanding of what points matter the most and where to heighten the drama. The real MVP of the episode, though, is Rowdy, the dog who plays Rin Tin Tin. At one point, Edelstein provides dialogue for Rin Tin Tin, and Rowdy barks on the “yeah” so it looks like even the dog is lip dubbing in the traditional Drunk History way.
- Konner: “I’m the goddamn director of this.”
- Weitberg: “I can’t feel my teeth.”
- Edelstein describes the jerk newspaper boy as a “Bennie Arthur-type asshole,” so of course Drunk History ensemble player Bennie Arthur plays him.
- I laughed way too hard at the image of a real German Shepherd surrounded by a bunch of stuffed German Shepherd puppies. All of the stuffed animal “special effects” in the Rin Tin Tin segment are wonderful.
- Terminator gets two shoutouts in this episode.
- I respect Edelstein’s commitment to having at least one dog in his lap at all times.