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“Most good sequels take at least 40 years to make,” joked executive producer Nick Kroll of his follow-up to 1981 Mel Brooks film History of the World, Part I. And indeed, 42 years later, History of the World, Part II has arrived from the team of Brooks, Kroll, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes and David Stassen, featuring a variety of sketches lampooning different periods of human history.
Brooks called Kroll with the idea of revisiting the project, which the star told The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s L.A. premiere on Monday was “not only one of the highlights of my career, but really one of the highlights of my life. To get a call from your hero, not only just a call but then a call to say, ‘Would you help me make this thing?’ I still can’t imagine a higher honor — and frankly, a slightly frightening thing to try to not screw up what he has done.”
Brooks himself made a surprise appearance at the premiere, taking the stage at the Hollywood Legion Theater to great applause.
Kroll enlisted Sykes (“someone I greatly admired”) and Barinholtz (“we needed a punching bag, so Ike won a fan contest”) as his partners after looking for “people who have great relationships in comedy, who have a really distinct voice, who also will be able to understand and honor what Mel Brooks has done.”
Sykes said when she got the call from Kroll she thought he was pranking her, “but once I realized it was real I was just blown away, and more so that Mel knew of me and wanted me involved in the project.” Barinholtz added of hearing the idea, “You know in cartoons when the cartoon character runs away and there’s just a cloud outline? That’s what happened. It’s the world’s fastest yes.”
“I think we’re at a point right now where people are reexamining our history and there’s lots of different opinions on what makes up our history, and we’re of the belief that it should all be made fun of,” Barinholtz said of Part II’s timing.” If we can do our job and laugh at it a little bit then maybe it won’t be so angsty.”
The sketches feature all-star appearances from the likes of Seth Rogen, Kumail Nanjiani, Jay Ellis, Josh Gad, Dove Cameron, Danny DeVito, Johnny Knoxville, Hannah Einbinder, Sam Richardson and Tyler James Williams, which Kroll said came from “a lot of calling of friends and emails and trying to just get people” during the pandemic.
“The truth is, there’s no easier way to get people on the phone than, ‘Do you want to be part of a Mel Brooks project?'” he said. “It truly is the greatest door opener you could ever ask for.” He added that on top of the asks, people like “Johnny Knoxville and Sarah Silverman had reached out to us to say, ‘If there’s anything that comes up let me know,’ and of course we’re going to find those opportunities because those people are some of the best, funniest people in the world.”
Barinholtz said one big star they tried to get but couldn’t (due to schedules) was Justin Theroux, joking that maybe he would appear in a Part III as “a sexy JFK.”
Kroll himself plays Judas in the sketches, teasing “I guess I really am a self-hating Jew, I figured I’d play the true enemy.”
“It just felt like it was going to be a really funny part to play, between [sketch] ‘Curb Your Judaism’ I felt like I was a good person to play,” Kroll continued, joking, “I think the nicest thing we did in this whole process was not bother to ask Larry David to do this, that was the nicest thing we could do. But we got to play with J.B. Smoove — you almost can’t do Curb Your Enthusiasm without J.B. Smoove — so it was an amazing opportunity. And it was fun doing the Beatles stuff as Judas; it’s been a blast.”
History of the World, Part II starts streaming on Hulu on March 6.
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