Mel Brooks returns to tell history 40 years later


Sean Reed

The icon for “History of the World: Part II” on a computer screen. The show is the first Mel Brooks directed piece to come out in almost 30 years and is releasing episodes from March 6 through March 9.

By Eli Tecktiel, Lifestyle Writer

Though the comedic stylings of Mel Brooks represent an older, perhaps antiquated form of comedy, the actor-director-writer has unexpectedly returned to the limelight with “History of the World Part II.”

The original film, which was released in 1981, provided a humorous look at the history of civilization, beginning with the Stone Age and ending with the French Revolution. For years, Brooks’ fans had waited for a follow-up to the film.

At 96 years old, it seemed unlikely to Brooks’ legions of dedicated fans that he would ever follow up on the cult-favorite film, whose title practically promised a sequel. However, defying all odds, Mel Brooks has returned, perhaps for the last time, to tie up some unfinished business. 

Brooks’ last film as a director and writer was 1995’s “Dracula: Dead and Loving It.” The film failed to hold a candle to Brooks’ classic 1974 film “Young Frankenstein,” which similarly satirized a classic horror story. In Variety’s review of the film, critic Joe Leydon bluntly said, “Brooks’ pic seems positively understated. Indeed, there isn’t much here that would have seemed out of place (or too tasteless) in comedy sketches for TV variety shows of the 1950s.”

By returning to his classic era, Brooks demonstrates a true devotion to his craft. 

The filmmaker and comedian first rose to prominence as a writer on “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950s during the “Golden Age” of television. He would then go on to create the iconic recurring “2,000 Year Old Man” routine with fellow “Your Show of Shows” writer Carl Reiner.

Brooks’ directorial debut came in 1967 with “The Producers,” starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. Critics quickly praised the film and its director, and it wouldn’t be the last time they would do so. In 2001, Roger Ebert included it as one of his “Great Movies,” saying, “There is such rapacity in its heroes, such gleeful fraud, such greed, such lust, such a willingness to compromise every principle, that we cave in and go along.”

In the decades that followed, Brooks ventured into the art of parody with films like “Blazing Saddles,” a parody of westerns, “Young Frankenstein,” a parody of classic horror stories and “Spaceballs,” a play on the Space Opera genre that included films like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture.”

To help the show appeal to a modern audience, “History of the World Part II” was co-created by Nick Kroll, who is best known as the star and co-creator of the Netflix series “Big Mouth.”

As for its cast, the program features an all-star cast of Brooks, Kroll, Wanda Sykes, Johnny Knoxville, Jake Johnson, Richard Kind, Pamela Adlon and Will Sasso. 

The long-awaited sequel to Mel Brooks’ film “History of the World Part I” premiered on Hulu March 6. Two episodes will be released per day, culminating on the series finale on March 9.