Season 2 | Episode 1 | “Montgomery” | Aired July 1, 2014
Welcome to season 2 of Drunk History, the only show where people get drunk and narrate celebrity-studded reenactments of their favorite historical anecdotes. For the college history majors out there, it’s like your weekends, but with a bigger budget. This week, the crew heads to Montgomery, Alabama, where new chemicals are synthesized, a teenager refuses to give up her seat on a bus, and a boxing match takes Hitler down a peg. Those who don’t drink history are doomed to repeat it, so let’s see what there is to learn from the biggest little city in the world (east of the Mississippi).
1. Write home about all of your affairs.
As an African-American growing up in Montgomery at the turn of the century, Percy Julian (Jordan Peele) lived with daily segregation. He escaped into the study of plants and their chemical properties, which earned him entry to DePauw University, but it apparently didn’t earn him the right to live on campus. Some fraternity guys agreed to let him live in their basement because they needed someone to make hot dogs on command, which he put up with until he didn’t. For his Ph.D., Percy relocated to Vienna, Austria, where no one asked him to make hot dogs and plenty of women found his knowledge attractive. (“Carbons and hydrodrons, oxydrons and carbotrons. And that’s molecules for ya.”) Percy wrote home about how well he was doing with the ladies, which would later get him fired from a job at Howard University.
Because sleeping around doesn’t interfere with the ability to make paint dry, the vice president of Glidden (Derek Waters) hired Percy to do research in his lab, where he inadvertently discovered how to make steroids out of soybeans. The discovery laid the foundation for many of today’s modern drugs and made him millions in the process, and none of it would have happened if Percy hadn’t gotten fired from Howard. All great scientific advancements come from accidents, and all great accidents come from writing letters about international trysts. QED.
2. You’re never too young to change the world, but you might be too young to be remembered for it.
Rosa Parks (Lisa Bonet) might be the most famous African American to stage a bus protest, but she wasn’t the first to get arrested for it. That would be Claudette Colvin (Mariah Wilson), a 15-year-old girl who drew Parks’ attention when she refused to give up her seat to a white woman. Parks, then the secretary of the NAACP, bonded with Claudette and invited her to stay at her house after meetings. When the president of the local branch of the NAACP (Jerry Minor) decided to start a bus boycott, he considered using Claudette’s arrest to drum up support, but some members had concerns. They worried that Claudette’s skin was too dark to get the support of white people and that she was too young to be the face of a movement, so Rosa Parks took the lead, getting herself arrested for the same crime Claudette had committed.
Word got back to Claudette right as she found out that she was pregnant. Kicked out of high school, she moved to Birmingham, had her baby, and testified at a trial that would rule bus segregation unconstitutional. (“You’re welcome, Montgomery!”) Claudette became a nurse in New York and was never really recognized for her role in history. Think about that the next time you try to tell a teenage girl what she can’t do.
3. Golf won’t solve your problems.
Joe Louis (Terry Crews), a promising African-American boxer with a great set of abs, was set to go up against Max Schmeling (Tim Heidecker), German world heavyweight champion. Because Schmeling had won the world championship on default, Louis mostly golfed when he should have been preparing for the fight, and it cost him the win. Unable to let that stand, he arranged a rematch in 1938, at which point things were starting to get tense with Germany. FDR actually met with Louis to tell him how important it was that America beat the Nazis. Meanwhile, Hitler (“Weird Al” Yankovic) was so sure that Schmeling could win that he arranged to broadcast the match across the country.
This time, Louis held off on the golfing, trained like a Rocky montage, and beat Schmeling so handily that Germany pulled the fight off the radio before it ended. Louis’ win united the country behind a black man and boosted national sentiments in America. So, basically, stop procrastinating or Hitler gets what he wants.
How much did you know about these stories before tonight? What are some of Montgomery’s other historical secrets? And does anyone NOT look better in old-school glasses?
Drunk History, rated TV-14, airs Tuesdays at 10/9C on Comedy Central.