I want to laugh while I get smarter
February 28, 2012 8:48 PM   Subscribe

I've watched almost all of Terry Jones's history documentaries--what next? What I like about them and what I'm looking for is mainly the humor (enthusiastic but lighthearted, not taking itself too seriously) and the element of looking at things from a different angle. Many of Jones's docs look at the lives of "regular people" in periods of history where most people are familiar with the rich and famous, and others look at civilizations that are overlooked. Sort of the way Mythbusters approaches science, and I'm also a large fan of QI. Recommendations? (I'm looking especially but not exclusively for history.)
posted by sarahkeebs to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
See if you can find episodes of Extreme History with Roger Daltrey floating around. I don't think it was ever a very popular show, but I called it "Roger Daltrey being tortured by re-enactors and various random people" and it's roughly what you describe. I remember a Lewis and Clark-themed episode that talked about what they ate on the expedition and wound up with him trying beaver, for example, much to the amusement of everyone on camera. There was another one where he was doing history of NASCAR and wound up hanging in the woods and sampling moonshine. I found him to be a much more game host than you'd think a millionaire rock star would be.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:14 PM on February 28, 2012

"Connections" by James Burke might work. He covers traditional history, but in a non-traditional way, tracing back through time the various events and discoveries that led to the modern world. He starts with the Normans having stirrups and ends up with modern telecommunications.

Lots of fun, as long as you don't take it too seriously.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:37 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you watched any of the series hosted by Michael Palin? They're more anthropology and earth science than history, but Palin is at least as funny as Jones. Like "Sahara", or "Pole to Pole"?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:21 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Secret Life of Machines, which has links to videos for download.
posted by holterbarbour at 11:21 PM on February 28, 2012

Ian Hislop (also known as the editor of Private Eye) has done a few really great documentaries, including a three-part series on Victorian philanthropy, as well as one-shots on the British rail system and Boy Scouts. Some of them have been uploaded on YouTube, and they're also on iPlayer from time to time.
posted by naturalog at 11:26 PM on February 28, 2012

You don't specify if it has to be a documentary, so I'll recommend books by Bill Bryson. "At Home" and "A Short History of Nearly Everything" are good starts, but he also gives good history lessons in his travel lit.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:32 AM on February 29, 2012

What the Romans Did for Us and its various sequels (Victorians, Tudors, Stuarts etc.) are fascinating, funny and highly recommended.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 1:43 AM on February 29, 2012

You might enjoy any of Adam Hart-Davis's "What the X did for us" shows, where X is Tudors, Stuarts, Romans, Victorians, Ancients, etc. They're not laugh out loud funny, but they are pretty light-hearted.

It seems like quite a lot of these are on Youtube if you want to get an idea, e.g. here's episode 1 of What the Romans did for us.
posted by caek at 3:05 AM on February 29, 2012

You might enjoy the Mark Steel Lectures most, if not all, of which seem to be available on YouTube
posted by VoltairePerkins at 4:24 AM on February 29, 2012

Tony Robinson (Baldrick from Blackadder) has a bunch of documentaries/history series out there.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:42 AM on February 29, 2012

If you want books, Bill Bryson's pop history books are entertaining and funny.
posted by nonasuch at 7:07 AM on February 29, 2012

The Supersizers, a British televison show where the hosts try to eat like typical ancient Romans/under wartime rationing/horrible 1970s food/various kinds of aspic (apparently the most common food across eras!), might be something you're interested in. If you don't find the hosts annoying.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:29 AM on February 29, 2012

You might like the documentaries discussed in these posts.

Also, a bit of a long shot, but you might like the children's programme Horrible Histories. There are extracts on You Tube I'm told.
posted by paduasoy at 12:37 PM on February 29, 2012

I don't know how hard they'd be to find, but there were a series of specials done by David MacAulay to correspond to his history books. I've seen "Castle" and "Pyramid" and "Cathedral" and they were outstanding.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:20 AM on March 3, 2012

« Older Alarm clock computer help please, pleeeeeeeeeeease...   |   Where in Los Angeles should I live? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.