Thursday, March 30th | 8 Nisan 5783

March 14, 2023 10:48 am

Mel Brooks’ ‘History of the World: Part II’ Is Hilarious

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avatar by Alan Zeitlin


Mel Brooks. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In 1981, when Mel Brooks brought us “History of the World: Part I” there was an iconic comedy moment when Brooks, dressed as Moses, dropped one of the three tablets he had, giving us only 10 commandments. In Hulu’s “History of the World: Part II,” Brooks, at 96, is providing alternate histories to make us smile. For example, the Oslo Peace Accords nearly failed because leaders were arguing about who created hummus, and even Greece and Turkey said they were responsible.

In a “Jews in Space” segment, when Nick Kroll asks Sarah Silverman for a status update as to where their ship is, she answers that she is single, but looking, and we learn the weapons systems are “loxed and loaded.”

Jewish actor Kroll gets the most screen time of anyone, and his best character is Schmuck Mudman, who sells lunch to Joseph Stalin (played by Jewish actor Jack Black, who hilariously busts out into a song) and Vladimir Lenin. Kroll’s version of Galileo doesn’t really work, but his version of Judas is funny in “Curb Your Judaism,” a spoof on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” where J.B. Smoove is Luke and Kroll as a Larry David-type accidentally gives away the identity of Black Jesus with a kiss he didn’t mean. But the concept that Judas would sell out Jesus for a giant meatball is a bit lazy in the writing department.

Jay Ellis is impressive as Jesus, who is also a singer. Ronny Chieng is also on point as Kublai Khan, and there is an absurdly fitting sketch hosted by Andy Cohen as if there was a Bravo reality show about Khan and his wives.

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A scene with Seth Rogen as Noah, taking only cute dogs instead of all animals, is somewhat witty, but much more could have been done with the sketch. Jewish actor Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame is on the mark as Maurice Cheeks, who argues that the Civil War must go on because as a notary, he did not witness the signatures. Jewish actor and director Taika Waititi is perfect as a cocaine snorting Sigmund Freud.

Brooks, who famously mocked Hitler in “The Producers,” portrays Hitler in this movie as a terrible ice skater. It was okay, but Brooks should have gone for the jugular. In a scene where Kroll is Schmuck Mudman and he fights a Cossak and says he’s giving him “a little nosh to brighten up your genocidal nose,” it’s clear they are going for shock value. His singing “Submission” to spoof “Tradition” from “Fiddler on The Roof” is clever.

Jewish actor Josh Gad is quite amusing as William Shakespeare, who steals a writer’s idea for “Romeo and Juliet.” Richard Kind is spot on as Peter. I would have liked to have seen more of Danny DeVito, who plays Czar Nicholas, as well as model actress Emily Ratajkowski, who was underutilized.

A scene where soldiers on D-Day all start vomiting doesn’t really make any sense, but it is still funny. The “Kama Souptra From Soup To Nuts” idea, in which the book about intimate acts would be combined with soup, was perfectly executed by Kumail Nanjiani.

Brooks has outdone himself with the series, even though the first four episodes are better than the second four. He deserves much credit, and he proves that he is one of the greatest of all time at satire, even though he went too easy on Hitler this time.

The author is a writer based in New York.

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