Why the Creator of Drunk History Is Obsessed With Bad Crime Reenactments

Derek Waters on how he decides which stories to tell


Specs
Name Derek Waters
Age 37 
Claim to fame Creator and star of Drunk History (Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central)
Base Los Angeles
Twitter @derekwaterss

Adweek: What's the first information you consume in the morning?
Derek Waters: Howard Stern. That's information, right? That or Audible. I love driving while listening to books on tape. Right now I'm listening to Norm Macdonald's Based on a True Story. I'm reading it and listening to it, which I love doing.

What are your go-to social platforms?
I enjoy looking at Twitter. I'll post stuff for the show, but I don't get into arguments on there. And Instagram. I've had Instagram since it first started. I was obsessed with how arrogant people could be just through a photo, so I did a show at the Upright Citizens Brigade called the Instagrammys where I awarded people on their self-indulgence.

Apart from Norm Macdonald's book, what else is on your reading list?
I'm rereading Billy Bob Thornton's book, The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts, which I highly, highly recommend. I actually read it for the first time a while ago, but it's so good and I just worked with him on a project.

What TV shows do you watch?
I've been watching the new Amazon show Goliath, and I love it. Love it, love it, love it. William Hurt and Billy Bob Thornton are unbelievable. I probably won't do it justice, but it's about lawyers. Really, really solid show. I'm obsessed with Dateline and 48 Hours and 20/20 on ID. The best show ever is Cops. When you're feeling down, you just watch an episode of Cops and realize your life's OK.

Those shows do a lot of ridiculous reenactments. Is that something that you drew inspiration from for Drunk History?
A hundred percent. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with a show called Rescue 911. That show and Unsolved Mysteries had the best reenactments in that they were just so cheesy. Another great reenactment show is called Snapped. I love dumb passion, and I feel like reenactments are like that. Overdramatic acting makes me laugh every time.

How do you choose which stories to tell on the show?
Every season I kind of go after finding stories in different ways. This season the main thing is picking worlds that I want to capture, different types of themes and then finding stories that fit those themes and stories that make people go, "How did I not know about this?" or, "Why was I not taught the right version of this story in school?" As much as it's a comedy show, it's my job to make sure that every story we're telling is true and that the actual dates and names and events really did happen.

Do you listen to any podcasts?
I listen to Norm Macdonald's podcast. As you can tell, I like Norm Macdonald a lot. I obviously listen to Marc Maron's WTF and Duncan Trussell's Family Hour. Those are my go-tos.

Any favorite apps?
I can't remember the name of the apps I use, but like I said, I like passionate stupidity, so I love sending people GIFs. I think of myself as a GIF guy [laughs]. I like to send people Chris Farley GIFs. How can your day not get brighter by seeing Chris Farley?

This story first appeared in the November 14, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
Click here to subscribe.