Another Benign Violation: Drunk History

With Drunk History in its 3rd season on Comedy Central, let’s look at why this show is funny.

Drunk History features a guest recounting historical stories while actors re-enact the tale. The catch: the guest story-teller is wasted. Imagine watching a History Channel special and having to wait for the narrator to finish ralphing.

According to the Benign Violation Theory,  humor arises when something is wrong yet okay, threatening yet safe, or what we call a benign violation. This intersection explains why Drunk History’s inebriated education is perfect comedic fodder.


The show is set up as historical documentary show, with elaborate costumes and settings that re-create the past.



However,  the story-teller often gets the details of the story quite mixed up. Getting the details of well-documented historical accounts wrong is, well, wrong. What makes it okay? The story teller has a good excuse: he or she is totally sloshed.

Complete with clips of vomit, slurring, crying, tangents, and ridiculous embellishments of the past, Drunk History can be quite delightful to people who approve of a few extra drinks in pursuit of comedy.