Baltimore is featured on the July 22 episode of "Drunk History" on Comedy Central, with Lutherville native Derek Waters and company re-enacting stories from the lives of Edgar Allan Poe, Francis Scott Key and Abraham Lincoln.
The episode, which includes portions filmed at Mother's Federal Hill Grille, is at its off-the-wall best in the Poe segment.
Here's some of what I wrote about the episode, and an interview I did with Waters when he filmed in Baltimore.
“I didn’t choose Baltimore just because it’s my hometown,” Waters said during an interview in January when he and his crew were here to film part of the episode in a jam-packed, loud and extra-boozy Mother’s Federal Hill Grille.
He chose it, he said, for its character.
“People are proud to be from Baltimore,” Waters said. “In any industry you work in, you need support to survive. And this city has that support for anyone who was born or lived here. I feel it, and it gives you a feeling like, ‘Oh, I stand for this place, and if I do something I’m not proud of, I might not make my town proud.’ That motivates me, because I want to make Baltimore proud.”
More than a million viewers a week tuned in for “Drunk History” in its first season, an audience the creator of any freshman series on basic cable has a right to be proud of. And the crush of fans who came out to see Waters at Mother’s was such that when he and a camera crew first moved into one of the ground-floor barroom areas to start shooting, club security had to quickly move Waters into a back room to break the body-to-body gridlock and pushing that engulfed the room...
Waters says his “dream for any city” that his show visits is to find stories from its past that are “true” and make viewers wonder, “Why weren’t we taught that in school?”
There is room for debate about the extent of the truth of some of the details in “Drunk History.” Take the Poe story in the Baltimore episode, which focuses on the author’s intense rivalry with Rufus Griswold, a poet and editor. The basic rivalry part seems to be on solid enough historical grounds.
But then, there are the embellishments by the drunken narrator, standup comedian Duncan Trussel, and some of the actors like Jesse Plemons who plays Poe with an off-the-wall anger and comic abandon.
At one point Plemons’ Poe refers to Griswold as a “holographic piece of [expletive].”
“Holograms don’t even exist yet, and I’m calling him a [expletive] hologram,” Plemons lip syncs to Trussel’s narration.
And then, there’s Trussel’s alcohol-wacky explanation of Poe’s fame: That immediately after the writer died, Griswold went to town trashing Poe as a drunk and drug addict who was mentally ill — only it backfired.
A woman is shown holding a book of Poe’s poems and saying, “A drunk, crazy guy who writes about ravens? Where can I get his books? This is awesome.”
The story also has Griswold, who is played by Jason Ritter with one of the cheesiest looking beards in the history of TV, dying of tuberculosis alone in a room with a picture of Poe looking down on him. All of a sudden, the picture starts talking.
“Look at you, man,” Poe’s image says mockingly to the dying Griswold. “Where are you now?”
Plemons is outstanding in his extended riff as Poe...
Talking about the bar scenes filmed at Mother's and elsewhere in Baltimore, Waters said his goal is to “capture the voice, the heart, the soul of the city — and people’s opinions of it.”
He said he was looking for someone in the crowd at Mother’s who would say “he loves Baltimore so much, he’d be willing to take a bullet for it.”
Based on what’s on the screener for the July 22 episode, he didn’t quite find that.
But there is a nice montage of Baltimore in the opening moments and a ton of energy in the bar scenes.
And Waters did find one guy who said, “You pay me eight bucks, I’ll snort Old Bay — which I did last weekend.”
The guy looked and sounded as if he might have had a drink or two — and might be just about ready to be a “Drunk History” story teller.
The episode airs at at 10 p.m. Tuesday (July 22).