Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Talking with a historian about Charleston's episode of "Drunk History"

Johnny Knoxville and Patton Oswalt take their place in S.C.'s (drunk) history

Posted by Sam Spence on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 12:53 PM

First off, "Drunk History" is a weird show. We're not sure if it's the mis-matched lip-synch narration or the weirdly-bizarro-perfect casting, or if it's just the booze talking, but it's weird. Like Crispin Glover as Edison? Weird Al as Hitler? C'mon.

So, when we saw the promo images released ahead of Drunk History's Charleston episode on July 29, we of course went directly to CofC historian Scott Poole. (I mean, who is better qualified to comment on anything weird+South Carolina than the guy who's written on both state history and traced the story of Vampira through 1950s L.A.?)

We sent Scott the photos and asked him to parse what obscure Charleston-related (drunk) history stories to expect in the upcoming episode.

The 1856 caning of Mass. Congressman Charles Sumner by S.C. Rep. Preston Brooks

The inimitable Johnny Knoxville pops up right on cue as that wild ol' coot Preston Brooks, while the equally unmistakable Patton Oswalt plays the unsuspecting Yankee abolitionist Charles Sumner. Drunk History creator Derek Waters recently described Knoxville in a Reddit AMA as one of his favorite actors to work with.

Poole: "Douglas had apparently said of Sumner that 'that damn fool will get himself killed by some other damn fool.' You probably know that Brooks was sent canes by admirers all over the South since he had broken his over Sumner's head."

click to enlarge Johnny Knoxville plays Preston Brooks and DH creator Derek Waters plays Stephen A. Douglas - COURTESY OF COMEDY CENTRAL
  • Courtesy of Comedy Central
  • Johnny Knoxville plays Preston Brooks and DH creator Derek Waters plays Stephen A. Douglas
click to enlarge Patton Oswalt plays Charles Sumner - COMEDY CENTRAL
  • Comedy Central
  • Patton Oswalt plays Charles Sumner

The 1862 escape of slave Robert Smalls

Waters highlighted the story of Robert Smalls in the interview we posted last week, but here we get a peek of Brandon T. Jackson (Tropic Thunder) in the main role.

Poole: "[Smalls] gained his freedom (and that of his crew and their families) by stealing the Planter out from under the noses of Charleston harbor defenses. He later became an officer in the US Navy and captained a retrofitted Planter in battle in Charleston Harbor. He served in the US House during Reconstruction."

click to enlarge Brandon T. Jackson plays Robert Smalls - COMEDY CENTRAL
  • Comedy Central
  • Brandon T. Jackson plays Robert Smalls

The story of Judge J. Waties Waring

Judge Waring wrote the initial dissent in Briggs v. Elliott as a U.S. District Court judge, a case that would eventually become part of the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board to overturn school segregation. Needless to say, Waring was a bit of an outlier in mid-century Charleston society.

Poole: "He divorced his first wife, of an old Charleston family, to marry [Elizabeth Hoffman]. She was from NYC, Jewish, and a civil rights activist. He became a supporter of civil rights and apparently the local nabobs were upset that they continued to live downtown and received African-American guests (including Septima Clarke). One story has it that the only Klan cross ever burned downtown was in front of their home."

click to enlarge Rich Fulcher plays J. Waties Waring, Busy Phillips plays Elizabeth Hoffman - COMEDY CENTRAL
  • Comedy Central
  • Rich Fulcher plays J. Waties Waring, Busy Phillips plays Elizabeth Hoffman

Drunk History airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on Comedy Central. The Charleston episode of DH airs next week, July 29.

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