For those wondering how much a Mel Brooks project the upcoming History of the World, Part II might be, know that executive producer Nick Kroll spent 25 minutes at the Television Critics Association press tour explaining the comedy legend’s deep involvement with the project.
“It begins with Mel,” Kroll said to journalists on Saturday. “As soon as the show was announced, people reached out saying, ‘I would love to be a part of this, Mel Brooks is a huge influence.'”
Thus we get the wildly star-studded guest cast for the Hulu sketch comedy series, including Pamela Adlon, Tim Baltz, Zazie Beetz, Jillian Bell, Quinta Brunson, Dove Cameron, D’Arcy Carden, Ronny Chieng, Rob Corddry, Danny DeVito, David Duchovny, Hannah Einbinder, Jay Ellis, Josh Gad, Kimiko Glenn, Brandon Kyle Goodman, Jake Johnson, Richard Kind, Lauren Lapkus, Jenifer Lewis, Poppy Liu, Joe Lo Truglio, Jason Mantzoukas, Ken Marino, Jack McBrayer, Zahn McClarnon, Charles Melton, Kumail Nanjiani, Brock O’Hurn, Andrew Rannells, Emily Ratajkowski, Sam Richardson, Nick Robinson, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Timothy Simons, J.B. Smoove, David Wain, Taika Waititi, Reggie Watts, and Tyler James Williams. (Seriously, this is nowhere near the end of the list.)
Kroll mentioned Jackass extraordinaire Johnny Knoxville as one example of a guest star who signed up immediately for the opportunity to participate — Kroll said, “I’ve known [Knoxville] socially for a long time, and I got a text from him five minutes after the announcement [of the show] was made: ‘Anything I can do — Mel Brooks is my hero.'”
Continued Kroll, “So then it’s like, alright, well, let’s figure out a fun place for Johnny to be in the show. And it’s like, ‘Well, we have Rasputin, who everybody tried to kill a million times. Who else would be better to play Rasputin than Johnny Knoxville?’ The only difference is Johnny’s been trying to kill himself in Jackass.”
Beyond inspiring the participation of an entire generation of comedians (who grew up loving Brooks’ work), Kroll said that “Mel has been involved throughout the process as a writer and producer — I remember very early meetings with Mel and he’s like ‘I got jokes.’ He had bits ready to go. There’s a joke [set] in the Civil War, Robert E. Lee during the signing of Appomattox — Robert E.’s got his sword, he turns around and knocks all of his guys in the balls. Watch the show: Jack McBrayer [as] Robert E. Lee, bam, it’s there. Perfect.”
In addition, Brooks narrates the whole series — said Kroll, “I had the privilege and deep fear of directing Mel’s voiceover, and there’s nothing better than hearing Mel Brooks said ‘Oh, good idea.'”
But, Kroll added, “there is nothing more crushing than pitching Mel a joke and [Mel Brooks impression] ‘No, I’m not saying that. That’s bad.’ But just the idea that Mel directly telling you that your idea sucks is one of the great privileges of doing this.”
The first two episodes of History of the World, Part II will debut on March 6th, with two episodes premiering daily ahead of the finale on March 9th.