If there’s one lesson to take away from last night’s episode of Drunk History, it’s not that New York has a rich and unique past or that women are just as capable as men (both of which are true, by the way), but that when it comes to Drunk History, it’s the drunker the better.
It’s no coincidence that “New York City”’s first and weakest segment, with Eric Falconer telling the story of the Statue of Liberty, is also its most sober. Without the slurred speech or stumble-drunk cutaways that come from a truly hammered narrator, the show loses the bathetic distance between presentation and content, becoming a pleasant enough, but not particularly funny, history lecture.
I have no doubt Falconer’s laid-back storytelling is entertaining enough in person, but as a voiceover it could have used a few more sauce-induced screw-ups to give guest star Taran Killam something to work with as Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. By contrast, Suzi Barrett’s animated ad libs only had to come out of Juno Temple’s mouth to make the second segment about Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old girl who out-Paul Revered Paul Revere during the Revolutionary War, hilarious.
But special recognition in the “New York City” has to be saved for Laura Dern, who out-drunked even Paul Scheer with her tipsy pantomime of Nellie Bly, a journalist who had herself committed to an insane asylum for a story, as voiced by J.D. Ryznar. Watching an Oscar-nominated actress stagger her way through a PBS special as told by two wasted dudes in a bathtub is what Drunk History is all about.