Woke ‘World History: Part II’ Flunks Satire 101

They should have stopped at “Part I”.

The biggest joke behind the 1981 scattershot “World History: Part One” was, well, do we even have to spell it?

Still, people seemed eager for a sequel even though “History” remains one of Mel Brooks’ lesser films. (Let’s pretend “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” never happened).

Yet this reviewer remembers working at a VHS rental store in the ’80s, where customers insisted that “Part II” not only existed, but that they wanted to rent it on-the- field.

Now that crowd can sign up for Hulu and see the sequel in good faith — over 40 years later. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The eight-part “History of the World, Part II” features a trio of creators with Brooks’ blessing – Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz. The comedy icon is 96 and still full of vigor, but her ability to pick collaborators has hit a wall.

The Hulu Project will be met with stony faces for most viewers. The sketch collection, which bounces off the historical timeline but includes several recurring tales, is artful on the surface but rarely inspired.

Laughs? Squint hard and you’ll see a few…at best.


The first four episodes reviewed cover the life of Jesus Christ, the Russian Revolution, Sigmund Freud (a very modest moment thanks to Taika Waititi) or even cave women discovering fire. The latter provides the most painful sketch, but it’s wonderfully short.

Some tracks arrive with promise – a “Good Times” style sitcom based on the first black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm (Sykes).

Others wallow, and we mean wallow, in pot humor without laughter. Alexander Graham Bell being made punk by Watson is a great example of this. The same goes for the soldiers of the Second World War who vomit by projectile en route to Normandy.

Kroll works overtime in several roles (as do Sykes and Barinholtz), but he brings the most comedic zip to the show. It is rarely in the service of intelligent writing, alas.

Verbal puns, meta references, and other running gags abound, but they never turn into something worthy of our attention (AKA Funny). Even the most successful track of the initial episodes, the life of Christ as seen via a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” parody, loses its bite after a spell.

The project’s bona fide revival hardly dooms the series, but their presence suggests that the creators cared more about scoring culture war points than making us laugh. The show takes jabs at Florida, “white guilt,” and echoes Hulu’s factually funny “1619 Project” with this quip from Harriet Tubman.

“We’ve built most of the infrastructure in this county,” exclaims Tubman of Sykes. Now, is this supposed to be funny or is this just another woke talking point?

It’s rhetorical.

We also get cast swapped moves with characters like Jesus Christ (Jay Ellis) and Mary Magdalene (Zazie Beetz), among others. Having the great JB Smoove play a follower alongside Kroll’s Judas is perfect, of course, given “Curb’s” intentions.

Other tracks, like Kumail Nanjiani starting a Kama-Sutra project that combines sex positions with soup recipes, are so dead on arrival that it’s hard to understand. Just be thankful it ends quickly.

The series brings together so many recognizable faces, but almost none make a strong impression. An actor we’re told not to share seems locked into the role of Stalin, while Pamela Adlon’s Jewish rebel is obnoxious in every scene without generating a smile.

Suffice to say that no one can compete with Dom DeLuise, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and Brooks himself.

What’s unforgivable about “World History: Part II” is how cheap it looks. The production design looks like an 80s or 90s TV show, decades before studios seriously invested in the format. “Part II” makes no effort to hide its low budget or lackluster direction, creating a chasm between itself and the source material.

The few musical numbers require a strong visual approach that never happens.

The opening episode frantically copies Brooks’ broad, sometimes vulgar style, and it’s the most authentic part of this television sequel.

Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine anyone sticking around for all eight installments.


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