To acquire wisdom, one must observe

‘History of the World: Part II’ brings fresh takes to a timeless classic

Mel Brooks finally lived up to his promise of a sequel to his famous comedy “History of the World: Part I” (HOTWPI). Released in 1981, HOTWPI was a comical take on human history with the gag in the title being that no sequel would be released despite it being named “part one.” In the same way that World War I could never have been named that until World War II occured. HOTWPI made light of events such as the delivering of the 10 Commandments as an accident where Moses was supposed to deliver the 15 Commandments to the Israelites but dropped one of the tablets on the way to present them. Using a combination of ’70s slapstick humor and ’80s sarcasm the movie was filled with performative gags and dance sequences that gave everyone a laugh.

But the biggest tease in the movie was that it concluded with a genuine trailer for a potential second film. But alas, all the trailer truly was, was a tease. That was, until Nick Kroll and Wanda Sykes saw a brilliant opportunity. The two of them, with Mel Brooks as the producer and a writer, turned “History of the World: Part II” into a television show on Hulu.

This was not just a passion project between the two of them. This series was headlined by a literal laundry list of A-list celebrities and actors. The impact of Mel Brooks on the entertainment industry is abundantly clear as actors and celebrities such as Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes, Ike Barinholtz, Dove Cameron, Zazie Beetz, J.B. Smoove, Blake Griffin, Taika Waititi, Josh Gad, Jack Black, Marla Gibbs, Richard King, Ronny Chieng, Seth Rogen, Jake Johnson, Kumail Nanjiani, Danny DeVito, Sarah Silverman, Emily Ratajkowski, Ken Marino and so many other notable individuals starred in this series.

Now certainly, Hollywood nowadays has a tendency to accumulate big names onto a single project to sell tickets but this series cast all of them in perfect roles and played to their comical and satirical strengths. Throughout the series there are a number of different events which all get covered—one of them being the writing of the “Kama Souptra” which was a book that explained how to make soup while having sex. It was then edited by its peers to only contain the sex and thus, the Kama Sutra was born. And even the visit of Marco Polo to Ghengis Khan is featured in the series where Marco Polo invents the game “Marco Polo” to save himself from being slaughtered after bringing no gifts to Khan.

But throughout the series there are four storylines which are told throughout. One being the story of the Civil War, where General Grant’s alcoholism gets a few Union Soldiers into some funny situations. Another being the story of Christ told as if it was a story on Larry David’s show “Curb Your Enthusiam”. One more being the story of Shirley Chisholm, the first black representative in the United States House of Representatives, told as if it was a ‘70s style sitcom with a “live” studio audience. And the final story being that of the Russian Revolution where Nick Kroll’s poor family who is fighting to change the Russian state communicates through song, dance and violence! On the other side of that is the Russian Royal family who after being murdered are left with a single survivor: Anastasia Romanova who live streams everything that is happening to her while also providing make-up tutorials.

The series tackles major issues through these stories in history such as racial divides, economic injustices and historical white washing. Yet, getting to the heart of these issues does not prevent Kroll and Sykes from finding the humor in it all. The series is a comedy and it follows the same comedic traditions Brooks wrote the first movie in. Slapstick gags, funny dance sequences and well timed fourth wall breaks all allow for a wonderful return of a cinema classic to our living room televisions.

A goal of mine is not to spoil this series in any way as watching it for the first time, and truthfully the second as well, made me laugh uncontrollably at parts. So all I will conclude this “review” of “History of the World: Part II” with this—it is impossible for any sequel to truly surpass the original after nearly 40 years of the original’s release. But it is clear from the passion given to this project by its cast that this was as good a job as anyone could have done. Kroll and Sykes knew just how to write this series to make it relatable, laughable and meaningful all at once. Now all that is left to ask is if a second season is truly coming or if that is also just another gag?

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