Taking the Waters

Pub date April 20, 2010
SectionFilm Features


SFIFF Jessica Rabbit was just drawn that way, Foster Brooks just happened to stumble on his “lovable lush” act, and likewise, actor-writer-producer Derek Waters — he of Drunk History fame — just sounds like he started poking around in the liquor cabinet earlier in the day. In the same way, we all happened to just look up from our many open browser screens and realize our attention spans have drastically shrunk — one of the many reasons Waters believes the histories have been so popular, leading to offers from HBO to produce a Drunk History sketch show and spinning off a host of homemade copycat videos on YouTube.

“Attention spans are way too small to watch whole movies,” says the 30-year-old Waters, speaking from Los Angeles. “I think if these came out in the ’70s, I don’t know how popular they would be.” And who can blame the pretenders, justly inspired by the shorts — and the sight of soused comedians relating their favorite great moments in history (while occasionally losing their lunch or lying down to get more comfy) while actors like Michael Cera, Jack Black, and Will Ferrell reenact out all the blurry details, down to Ben Franklin’s improbable “Holy shit … there’s a fucking lightning storm happening right now outside!”

The fact that creator Waters could get actors like Crispin Glover and John C. Reilly to play, for instance, the battling Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla is yet another plus. “Edison was publicly electrocuting animals to prove his point,” Waters says. “And to see Crispin Glover doing that was a dream come true.”

No fear that Drunk History will swallow up cable — or traditional academic — programming, though Waters says his old teachers have e-mailed to tell him they’ve shown the films to their students. “I think Drunk History is funny for five minutes,” he says. “I don’t think you can ask too much of a drunk person.” The actor is doing a HBO series called Derek Waters Presents LOL instead (“I like to say it stands for ‘Lots of Losers.’ I guess you write what you know”), remaining committed to the short, funny form, as well as the dream of turning his 13th Grade short, set at a community college, into a full-fledged series.

All that makes Waters a primo candidate for a drunken evening at the theater with Wholphin DVD magazine editor Brent Hoff. He’ll be showing relevant shorts such as Bob Odenkirk’s gut-busting The Pity Card — part of Waters’ and The Big Bang Theory‘s Simon Helberg’s online short series Derek and Simon — and talking about that film, as well as, no doubt, the work he’ll contribute to Wholphin‘s next edition.

Incidentally, Wholphin‘s latest issue, its 11th, is a doozy: “It’s the most edible-looking yet,” quips Hoff in San Francisco. “All bubblegum-y colors.” It includes Ramin Bahrani’s Plastic Bag short with poignant hilarious voice-of-the-bag narration by Werner Herzog, in addition to an excerpt from Bitch Academy, a doc about Russian women taking a class on how to snag millionaires — a grim, scary variant of the cheese-cloaked Millionaire Matchmaker — which Hoff describes as “the most terrifying thing we’ve ever put out.”

More terrifying that listening to writer Eric Falconer lose his eight vodka cranberries and then get back up to talk American history? For some, it might be a draw. “There’s something fascinating,” Waters observes, “about someone so passionate about something but not moving forward at all.”


Mon/26, 9:30 p.m.

Sundance Kabuki

1881 Post, SF