History Of The World: Part 2 Series Premiere Review

The History of the World: Part 2 series premiere is hit-or-miss, but very Mel Brooks.

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

That Mel Brooks is not considered one of the great auteurs of Hollywood is pretty much definitive proof that comedy will never be as critically praised as drama, regardless of how it affects culture. Brooks stands above almost every living filmmaker in being a director, writer, producer, actor, stand-up comedian, singer, Academy Award winner (heck, EGOT winner), and basically has every award you can think of, but the thing is, he’s undeniably goofy. The History Of The World: Part 2 series premiere shows that even at 96 years old, Mel Brooks values goofiness more than anything else, for better or worse.

History Of The World: Part 2 Series Premiere


The History Of The World: Part 2 premiere consists of the first two episodes of eight that will be released on Hulu this week, each of which is narrated by Mel Brooks (who also occasionally appears on-screen in a deceptively classy tuxedo-and-piano setting). We will get this straight out in the open immediately: this show is very stupid, but mostly in a good way. To expect that it would be anything other than a series of loosely connected jokes riffing on history, often to the lowest common denominator is to be completely unaware of Mel Brooks’ canon of work.

However, does that mean that the History Of The World: Part 2 premiere is any good? Just because the humor fits the style of the man who made perhaps the longest sustained fart scene in cinematic history, does it stand up to criticism? Let’s put it this way: if Triangle of Sadness had not been recently released, the History Of The World: Part 2 premiere would probably have one of the longest sustained puke scenes in recent history.

history of the world part II

All of that is to say, the History Of The World: Part 2 premiere is something of a mixed bag and mileage will vary based on appreciation for broad, dumb humor. Each episode of the show is broken up into short sketches (not dissimilar from the original 1981 film) starring some of the most prominent working comedians of right now, jumping from historical period to period. The first two episodes focus heavily on the American Civil War, the Russian Revolution, the ministry of Jesus Christ (Jay Ellis of HBO’s Insecure), and the career of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (Wanda Sykes).

The History Of The World: Part 2 premiere seems to be telling a sustained story within each of those sketches, just in small segments of plot, schtick, and extremely broad visual jokes and puns. Interestingly, many of the sketches loosely are riffing not just on history but also on various genres of shows (or even specific series). This is not dissimilar to History of the World: Part 1, which parodied Biblical epics, Rat Pack buddy comedies, and Busby Berkeley musicals, 

For example, in History Of The World: Part 2 premiere, the sketch focusing on Judas Iscariot (Nick Kroll, also one of the series primary directors, writers, and producers) and Luke (J.B. Smoove) is aping Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, to the point of using the same incidental music. The Russian Revolution segments alternate between Fiddler on the Roof bits and the idea of Princess Anastasia (Dove Cameron) as a social media star, down to having a hand-cranked camera to post messages to her followers. Shirley Chisholm’s story is a classic The Jeffersons riff, down to the idea of her boss (James Adomian as Richard Nixon) unexpectedly coming to dinner.

Not every sketch works in the History Of The World: Part 2 premiere or even close to it. While the incredibly talented cast (including Ike Barinholtz, Johnny Knoxville, Josh Gad, Danny DeVito, Jake Johnson, Richard Kind, and so many others) are consistently giving it all, a lot of the individual gags simply do not land. For every joke that works, like description of Richard Kind as Saint Peter’s terrible one man show, there is an extended one that doesn’t, like the storyline of Barinholtz’s Ulysses Grant really, really wanting a drink.

However, that same compulsive drinker Grant storyline in the History Of The World: Part 2 premiere also has simultaneously one of the best, worst, and most typical Mel Brooks gags. Ike Barinholtz’s Grant gets into an armed standoff with a group of Confederates, who loudly curse out “Yankees,” only for an anachronistic Boston Red Sox fan to join in cursing Yankees, then begin cursing everyone else out. The Confederates break character, telling him they need to finish the scene and everyone gets awkward.

It is the kind of very obvious, very stupid, very funny fourth-wall-breaking that Mel Brooks has always done. We should not expect any difference in the 21st century.