There should be a trigger warning at the beginning of the new Hulu series, “History Of The World Part II.” Something like, “What you’re about to see is supposed to be comedy, but it contains nothing even mildly amusing. In fact, it is embarrassingly unfunny.”
It’s been more than four decades since Mel Brooks wrote, directed, and starred in “History Of The World Part I,” which had some segments that paid off in laughs and others that didn’t. Sadly, as I wrote in a 2019 piece called “When Mel Was Rotten,” that film was the beginning of a long slide into big-screen dreck for the Hollywood legend. His work in the 1980s and 1990s never measured up to the brilliance of his work in the 1970s, like “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles.” Instead, he turned out garbage like “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” and “Dracula: Dead And Loving It.”
I don’t know how much input Brooks had in the making of “HOTW2,” but the series appears to have been mostly the work of Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes, and Ike Barinholtz. They did manage to capture the rhythms and sensibilities of Brooks’ comedy, but only from the later not-at-all-funny years. Where his early material was both broad and clever, this stuff is simply dumb — and worst of all, it covers no new ground.
Examples: In a sketch about Abe Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, the former is so tall he keeps bumping his head on the doorway while the latter only wants another drink. There’s a scene in which William Shakespeare has a roomful of writers spitballing ideas, at least two of which seem stolen from the hilarious Broadway musical “Something Rotten” (which I reviewed here). There’s a recurring bit about the Russian revolution which looks like a failed parody of “Fiddler On The Roof,” in which Kroll — as mudpie seller Schmuck Mudman — uses the exact same voice and accent he had opposite John Mulaney in their Broadway hit, “Oh, Hello!”
Really? That is the best you’ve got? The sketches in “History Of The World Part II” are so bad, none of them would even make the cut to air in the last five minutes of “Saturday Night Live.” There’s nothing about the series that works.
Unless the goal was to waste a lot of time, money, and talent.