Derek Waters, creator and host of Comedy Central's "Drunk History," says his "dream for any city" is to find stories that are "true" and that make viewers wonder: "Why weren't we taught that in school?"
The Lutherville native is back in Baltimore this week filming for Season 2 of the cable series that was watched by more than a million viewers a week last year in its rookie run.
Thursday night, he was at Mother's Federal Hill Grille filming part of the episode that will be devoted to Baltimore stories. And it felt like about 999,999 of those weekly viewers were packed into the club and yelling at the top of their lungs to be heard over the pounding jukebox.
So many fans turned out to see Waters that when he and a camera crew journeyed into the front bar area so that he could interview patrons, the filming had to be stopped after a few minutes. The crush of fans surrounding him resulted in such gridlock that producers moved him to a back room until Mother's staff could "clear out an area" and "secure the perimeter."
That took quite a while.
But before he journeyed into the crowd, the Towson High grad sat down for an interview with The Sun and talked about Baltimore, the upcoming season of "Drunk History" and what it feels like to be enjoying mainstream success for what started out as an idea of making online videos of people trying to recount historical stories after having too much to drink.
Each episode contains three stories told by boozy narrators. And as the stories are told, they are brought to life by some very well-known performers. Past episodes featured Jack Black, Winona Ryder, Tony Hale, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera and others. The less than fabulous makeup and wigs are part of the fun.
Last year, there were eight episodes. This season, there will be 10. Seven of the episodes will be defined by the cities visited, while the other three will be "something new," according to Waters. They will be structured by themes. One of the themed episodes will explore "American music," he said, but he's not revealing the themes of the other two.
The three stories in the Baltimore episode will feature Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln and Francis Scott Key, Waters said.
"The Poe story is about him and Rufus Griswold – they had a big rivalry," Waters said over the din at Mother's between bites of a steak dinner. "It's a really good story. There's no political viewpoint. It's just a good story."
The second story's focus: "How Francis Scott Key came up with 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' his life as a lawyer, what he really wanted to stand for and how he was so anti-war," Waters explained.
"And the third story's about Abraham Lincoln traveling from Philadelphia to D.C., and how between Philadelphia and D.C., the Pinkerton detectives find out there are seven assassins waiting to kill Lincoln in Baltimore," he said. "So, they came up with this great plan, so that the assassins waiting on the track would never ever see Lincoln."
Waters wasn't in Baltimore looking for storytellers. All 30 stories had been told and filmed before he arrived here.
"We shot 30 narrators in Los Angeles," he said. "That's why I look so tired. But I always look tired. So, we're all finished with the stories and as we're editing them, I'm going to the cities where these stories took place, and what we're filming now will be the interstitials between the stories and the commercials."
After seeing the story about Poe, for example, Waters said he wants viewers to see what "Baltimore is like now."
The goal in Baltimore, and in each of the other cities for the kinds of segments filmed Thursday, is "to capture the voice, the heart, the soul of the city -- and peoples' opinions of it."
Waters said he didn't choose to include Baltimore this year only because it's his hometown. He chose it for its character.
"People are proud to be from Baltimore," he said. "In any industry you work in, you need support to survive. And this city has that support for anyone who was born here or lived here. And it also gives you the feeling, 'Oh, I stand for this place. And if I do something I'm not proud of, I might not make my town proud.' And I want to make Baltimore proud."
Waters paused for a moment when asked if he always liked history.
"I love stories," he said. "And as I got older, I realized how important what happened yesterday is to how you try to make your present better. I had the best teacher in high school named Mr. Stange at Towson High."
Waters said Gil Stange, who is still teaching, "was a special guest" at a filming Waters and his crew did Wednesday in Towson with some of the performer's former classmates.
"I had all my high school friends meet up," Waters explained, "and I said, 'We have a special guest.' I know they were probably thinking it was going to be Will Ferrell. But I then said, 'It's the man who made history interesting, the man who we all love,' and they all went crazy to see Mr. Stange."
The crowd at Mother's went pretty crazy in its own right when Waters started filming in the room. During the interview, he said he was looking for someone to say on-camera that they loved Baltimore so much "they would take a bullet for it."
He appeared to have found one in 29-year-old Dewitt White. After his on-camera moment, White stood on the sidewalk in front of Mother's, proudly talking about his encounter with Waters and "Drunk History."
"He asked me what I love," White said. "I told him I love the Ravens. I love beer. And I love Baltimore. Beer and Baltimore -- I love 'em."