The Blackout Diaries Diaries Vol. 1

For almost two years, Sean Flannery's live storytelling show The Blackout Diaries has been regularly selling out rooms like the Beat Kitchen and The Lincoln Lodge. The show features stories of booze-fueled bad decisions and drunken debauchery from comic performers, as well as the occasional regular person. Last month, the show launched a run of Saturday nights at The Lincoln Lodge and announced a partnership with Jeppson's Malört, Chicago's premiere cult liqueur. You can catch The Blackout Diaries every Saturday night at The Lincoln Lodge at 8pm. 

Over the next few weeks, Sean and the other producers of The Blackout Diaries (Matty Ryan and The Puterbaugh Sisters), will weigh in on a drinking-related subject that's close to their heart. This week, Sean is here to discuss hangover treatment, a subject he takes very seriously.


Sean Flannery
Area of Expertise: Hangovers

First, let me warn you: this will not be funny. Just as Jane Goodall doesn't joke about apes, I don't joke about hangovers. I've spent my whole life studying them, learning from them and, to a certain extent, battling them.

If I were a doctor (and when it comes to hangovers, I should be), I'd be the doctor they send you to after Western medicine has failed. I'd be the Chinese guy you meet in a strip mall, who mostly lights stuff on fire and talks about the universe.

But I'm your best hope and I'm going to level with you: there is no “cure” for the hangover. There is no pill or action you can take to beat the hangover. And that's probably a good thing.

You wouldn't be reading this if the hangover were cured because I wouldn't be typing it. I'd be swimming in a river of whiskey. Actually, let's face it, we'd both be dead. If not from drinking, probably from a building collapsing on us, or planes crashing into our beds or power plants exploding since most of the work force would be drunk in a world without hangovers.

Just as the forest needs fires to control its health, we need hangovers. The dodo bird died because it had no fear and walked right up to loaded shotguns. You need fear. The world falls apart without it.

So, now that we have dropped talk of a cure, let's talk about managing it.

My advice is simple: drinks lots of water and have a kid.


Water is the elemental key to battling a hangover. Many people claim to know this (everyone says “drink some water before you go to bed”), but they do not grasp its full importance. You need to go back to the time of the Greeks (when the only elements were water, earth and wind) to battle a hangover. 

I drink a full glass of water after every beer. I jump into lakes, rivers and pools on my way home. I become water.  Ever thrown your body into a vast expanse of water in total darkness?  It activates things. No longer is your body concerned about a few shots of tequila, it's worried about finding land. Enzymes are released; proteins and ancient instincts take over. Suddenly you are Jonah, escaped from the whale, fearing nothing of land.

Breaking into a pool in Texas

Breaking into a pool in Texas

Discovering an abandoned dunk tank in Chicago

Discovering an abandoned dunk tank in Chicago

I arrive home, after the evening's swim, and I have three humidifiers running, all on the maximum level. I sleep with a CPAP mask, which is a device that helps fat people quit snoring. It has a humidifier that feeds directly into my nose; also set to the maximum. I become water. I am rehydrating with every breath, inhaling what amounts to jungle air as I sleep.

Is it safe?  Of course not. And that's why it works. To manage the hangover you must understand the enemy, and the enemy is not alcohol. The real enemy is your body.

Your body wants a hangover. It is not an ally. It does not like being drunk and it certainly doesn't want to be drunk again tomorrow, which is why it's going to pull every trick it knows (nausea, headaches, lethargy) to punish you. Do not listen to your body.  Ignore it. Confuse it. Amish people listen to their body: it tells them to wake up at 5 AM and drink milk from a cow's udder. You need to be actively fighting your body if you are going to manage the hangover.

I call this "the warp drive", the 3 humidifiers that steam 7 gallons of water into the room each night.

I call this "the warp drive", the 3 humidifiers that steam 7 gallons of water into the room each night.

The Life Line, my CPAP mask

The Life Line, my CPAP mask


This brings us to the next day.  Your body (which we have already established as an enemy, a Benedict Arnold of the flesh) will want you to sleep in.  Ignore it. You must get out of bed.

This is where kids help. Kids have not been introduced to alcohol yet so, like the Amish, they actually listen to their bodies and wake with the sun. They force you out of bed. And, in doing so, they become an ally; also fighting against your body. They want you to build forts, fry eggs, answer questions on the North Pole, and get Frisbees off the roof; all things your body will hate.

This confounds and tires your body. Eventually it will admit defeat. Your body sees a long, strenuous day unfolding and, for its own good, it reduces its punishment. It lowers the nausea and confusion; attenuates your headache. You will feel this moment, the way a jogger feels The Runner's High. We can call it The Drunk's Parole- the moment you have tricked your body into surrendering.

Now you should nap. Put in a DVD for the kids and, when you wake up, this will be as good as a person can feel. This is a managed hangover.

Some will say “this is a lot of work, much of it very unsafe, just to avoid a hangover.” Well, the hangover is an aggressive medical issue and it needs to be treated aggressively. Last year, the hangover cost America over $223 billion a year in lost productivity. By comparison, cancer costs the US $7.5 billion. This means the hangover is so powerful it makes drinkers more useless at work than a cancer patient.

Some will say “why not take a pill?” What an American response. We live in a country where people eat 10K calories of Snickers each day then get mad at science for not producing a pill that will make it OK. You cannot defeat nature with a pill. You must go around nature. You must trick nature into thinking you are both its friend and enemy. You must manage nature.

Also, never get drunk off cooking wine. Long story, but most of these rules become useless.

- Sean Flannery