History Of The World Part II Features A Joke Mel Brooks Held Onto For Over 40 Years

At the end of Mel Brooks' 1981 sketch comedy film "History of the World, Part I" (a movie /Film once ranked higher than "The Producers"), the director included a preview for the inevitable sequel and some of the segments that might be seen therein. Whereas Brooks explored the Stone Age, Ancient Rome, and Revolutionary France in "Part I," "Part II" was to feature a Viking funeral, "Hitler on Ice," and the distant future of "Jews in Space." In 2023, the mythic second part finally came to fruition — as a six-part miniseries — with the 96-year-old Brooks writing and producing along with an entire team of the comedy world's biggest stars. Wanda Sykes, Ike Barinhotlz, Nick Kroll, and David Stassen are credited as the primary writers, and the sketches are presented in shorter snippets, skipping merrily back and forth in time. 

As of this writing, "History of the World, Part II" has already covered the Romanov family, the Civil War, the presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the life of Jesus Christ, and the invention of fire (so needed to light the world's first joint). Rasputin is played by Johnny Knoxville, leading to a segment called "JackRasp," wherein his character is murdered by his fellow "Jackass" compatriots. 

The Civil War segments involve General Ulysses Grant (Barinholtz) trekking secretly into West Virginia to find some much-needed whiskey to drink. The segment will end with a low-brow sight gag that Brooks has had in mind for decades. /Film's Ethan Anderton recently interviewed showrunner Stassen and one of the series' main directors, Alice Mathias, about how much Brooks was influencing production. Brooks is not directing, but has been paying close attention to the project overall, and insisted on certain gags, including a crotch joke written 40 years prior.

The Civil War gag

According to Stassen, Brooks was always available for comment and his closeness to the production was appreciated. Brooks is active for his age, but not so active that he wanted to direct or perform beyond voiceover work. It was Stassen that revealed that Brooks had been sitting on a crotch gag since the 1980s. At the end of the Civil War segment, Robert E. Lee (Jack McBrayer) will surrender at Appomattox ... and unintentionally inflict comedic testicular trauma on others in the process. Stassen said: 

"It was where they signed the Appomattox surrender, Jack McBrayer bends over and turns, and his sword hits his three lieutenants in the groin. That was one of the first things Mel told us about the show and about 'Part II.' Mel's so sharp and good, he's holding onto a joke, and we're going to get to do it. To me, that kind of set the tone of like, 'Oh, that's the show we're doing.' We're doing the true Mel Brooks homage, so we have to try and build our comedy in that genre that Mel mastered." 

While a working knowledge of history may help a viewer understand the humor of "History of the World, Part II," it seems that all that's really required is an ability to laugh at groin injury, vomiting, and general slapstick silliness. In true Mel Brooks fashion, there may be a poignant point underneath the "low" gags, but the dirty jokes are going to come first. Do you think the idea of Robert E. Lee nailing his army in the crotch with a sword is funny? Then "History of the World, Part II" is for you. 

The series is airing two episodes a day from March 6 through March 9 on Hulu.