Review: Drunk History and Nathan For You

Drunk History: B-
Nathan For You: A-

Drunk History is an odd kind of comedy and its presence on Much would’ve been absolutely perplexing just a year or two ago. The network, however, recently purged many of its teenybopper shows and went heavy on comedy giving us this show and a few other Comedy Central imports.
Lisa Bonet as Rosa Parks being taken away by the police

Lisa Bonet as Rosa Parks (image via Bell Media)

So, what is Drunk History anyway? It’s exactly what it sounds like: History, drunk. The show is essentially a bunch of people wasted out of their minds recounting some of history’s most pivotal moments while drunk, and professional actors/celebrities (such as Lisa Bonet, Terry Crews and Weird Al Yankovic in the season two premiere) reenact their interpretation of history leaving all the profanity and leaps in logic in place.

Most of the humor comes from seeing drunk people trying to recount history, but it’s amplified by the actors lip-synching their words verbatim. Hearing historical figures saying, “I’m the shit” and randomly losing their train of thought is often quite hilarious.

However, at times, depending on who’s telling the story, Drunk History can be as boring as sober history, but I guess that just comes with the territory. You never know how much fun someone can be when drunk. Actually, when watching the show I wasn’t too sure if the drunk storytellers were just acting that way, really were, or perhaps a mixture of both meaning they might have had a drink or two but they were acting more drunk than they were.

 You can learn something from Drunk History, but as the narrators are supposedly drunk there seems to be ridiculous turns in the stories they’re telling, and if you’re unfamiliar with them you may not be able to tell if the odd quirk was just supposed to be a joke or if it’s actually true. You’ll likely feel embarrassed by that and wouldn’t want to admit that a drunk guy could recite an important event in history but you’ve never heard of it before. It makes you want to get off your ass and read a book.

Weird Al Yankovic poses as Hitler listening in on a boxing match

Weird Al Yankovic as Hitler (image via Bell Media)

Drunk History does get awkward when it touches on some of the more sensitive areas of history, such as the racism in the American south or pretty much anything with Hitler. There’s a lot of history that isn’t funny, but rather quite horrifying and sad. So you don’t want to come across as poking fun at it. Drunk History toes the line, but rarely, if ever, crosses it.

A screenshot of Much/Comedy Central's Nathan For You

Nathan For You title card (screenshot via muchmusic.com)

Much couples Drunk History with Nathan For You, and a lot like Drunk HistoryNathan For You isn’t afraid to tackle sensitive topics, albeit in a different way. While Drunk History is like History, drunk, Nathan For You is like CNBC or BNN on crack.

Nathan For You follows Nathan Fielder around the US helping small businesses find new, unorthodox ways of attracting new customers, and boy does he ever find strange ways to help businesses. In the first season he suggests that a frozen yogurt shop sell pooflavoured yogurt, that a clothing store allow attractive people to shoplift one item, that a burger shop pay people $100 if they think their burger isn’t the best in town and that a pizza shop give away free pizzas if they fail to deliver their pizzas within eight minutes (but that free pizza could fit in the palm of your hand). It’s intense, over the top stuff that is usually funny.

Nathan Fielder (right) with the owner of G&Y (image via Comedy Central)

Nathan Fielder (right) with the owner of G&Y (image via Comedy Central)

Most of the humour is hard to see coming and typically smart stuff, except that the show for some reason repeatedly makes homophobic jokes. In fact, I think I’ve come across at least one in each episode I watched. For example, in the first season Nathan puts up a poster in a deliberate attempt to get someone to draw penises next to his face, he tells a bunch of ladies that the host of a fake game show he created had a threesome with two other guys, Nathan has an argument with a guy about how many penises he has seen and he asks a different guy why he was wearing nail polish only to hear him say he’s gay.

G&Y Import Domestic Auto Repair on Nathan For You

The show went out of its way to highlight that G&Y looks like GAY (screenshot via muchmusic.com)

In the second season premiere, he doesn’t waste any time and gets to the homophobic humour right out of the gate. In that episode he helps out a company called G&Y, which, when he introduces it, he says he thought the company’s name was “GAY.” That was obviously well thought out and I wouldn’t be surprised if they scoured the country just to find a business called G&Y to make that joke. I can’t seem to figure out why the show is so obsessed with that type of humour. It gets stale the second time around and just annoying the third, fourth, fifth, etc. time around.

A screenshot of Nathan Fielder's Transcript

Nathan Fielder says he graduated from business school with really good grades (screenshot via muchmusic.com)

However, the rest of the show’s gags are usually funny, like right in the title sequence when Nathan claims he graduated from a Canadian business school with good grades. The transcript, however, appears for about a second and reveals he received an A-, B+, two Bs and a C+. Other gags include Nathan’s disguise of wearing an unconvincing beard or hiding in a hollowed out boring looking video game machine  to scope out businesses before he gives advice. There’s a lot of thought put into that arcade machine. It says takes dozens of coins to operate to deter people from actually playing with it and has an electrical cord that’s a straw to drink from if Nathan gets thirsty while he’s in there.

Nathan Fielder taking a lie detector test

Nathan Fielder hooked up to a lie detector (image via Bell Media)

In the second season premiere, he suggests that G&Y use a lie detector to prove to customers that he wouldn’t rip them off. The gag there was when Nathan tries out the lie detector and someone asks him if he uses online porn. Naturally, Nathan says no but the lie detectors says he’s lying, so he spends a lot of the show trying to claim that the lie detectors aren’t completely accurate.

It’s all preposterous and so ridiculous to the point you can’t help but laugh, it just that Nathan For You needs to lay off the homophobic jokes. They just come across as lazy and hinder the show from being truly unexpected.

Drunk History episodes reviewed: Montgomery, AL (second season premiere) and select season one episodes
Nathan For You episodes reviewed: Mechanic; Realtor (second season premiere) and select season one episodes

Drunk History airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Much
Nathan For You airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. on Much
(Featured image: screenshot via muchmusic.com)  
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