The Pitch: Over 40 years after Mel Brooks‘ beloved Part I, the long-awaited sequel to The History of the World has arrived — this time as an eight-part series on Hulu and tailor-made for the streaming age. Though Brooks served as a writer, executive producer, and narrator, Brooks himself takes the backseat and lets a new generation of comedians take the wheel: Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes, and Ike Barinholtz serve as executive producers and principal cast members, amidst a vast sea of hilarious guest stars, including Jack Black, Pamela Adlon, Seth Rogen, Taika Waititi, Josh Gad, and many more.
Similar to Part I, The History of the World jumps across the timeline of human existence for an anthology-style sketch show. Now that the project has broken free from the limited runtime of a film, Part II stretches its longer sketch arcs into multiple episodes, all including the same cast members — for example, “The Story of Jesus” takes place over the entire series, with three concrete eras of Jesus’ story being represented in three different ways, while “The Civil War,” “The Russian Revolution” also serve as overarching stories.
In addition to larger historical movements that take place over a long period of time, several important moments in history are parodied in individual sketches. “The Invention of the Telephone” finds Alexander Graham Bell being pranked called by his associate in the next room over, “William Shakespeare” sees the literary figure berating his writers’ room as they complete work on Hamlet, and “The Invention of Fire” follows three cavewomen as they figure out how to light up a joint.
As always with Mel Brooks, the jokes range from quippy one-liners and dad jokes to totally absurd meta-commentary, with breakout musical numbers, pop culture skewers, and a healthy amount of showbiz comedy. They also parody specific properties and genres: The third phase of “The Story of Jesus” takes on the title of “The Last Supper Sessions” as it satirizes The Beatles’ Get Back documentary from 2021, and the story of Kublai Khan’s hundreds of wives and mistresses is parodied as a reality show titled “The Real Concubines of Kublai Khan.”
The Business We Call Show: Just as with Part I‘s extended arc covering “The Roman Empire,” Part II is littered with showbiz jokes. Josh Gad’s turn as a volatile showrunner-version of William Shakespeare (who takes credit for everyone’s ideas) is cheekily relevant, and Jillian Bell hosting a focus group to essentially “rewrite” the story of Jesus as a blockbuster hits the nail on the head. “The Last Supper Sessions” also likens Jesus and his apostles to The Fab Four, with Judas serving as George Harrison (“I think I’ll be leaving the band now,” he says, quoting Harrison’s infamous exit depicted in Get Back).