For as irreverent as History of the World, Part II might be, there was one person for whom everyone involved had great reverence: Mel Brooks, the man behind the original film being lovingly continued for the new Hulu sketch series.
“I think for many people in this project, our world centers around Mel Brooks,” guest star
Pamela Adlon tells Consequence. “I grew up with Mel Brooks as part of my DNA, he’s in my bones with Free to Be… You and Me. I learned how to do voices by imitating him and Marlo Thomas being babies. And then ‘The 2000 Year Old Man’ with Carl Reiner, Young Frankenstein, and History of the World, Part 1 — I don’t remember the first time I saw it, I just remember it being in my body. That’s what a huge Jesus Mel Brooks is to me and Nick [Kroll] and everybody else.”
Brooks might be 96 years young, but he still actively contributed to the new project as an executive producer, writer, and narrator, with executive producers Nick Kroll, Ike Barinholtz, and Wanda Sykes spearheading the project. According to showrunner/executive producer David Stassen, “We were just thrilled right away to meet with Mel. He already had jokes he’d been waiting 40 years to tell for the sequel.”
“It’s the most joyful thing, knowing that Mel is able to see this at this point in his life and we’re able to give him flowers. But it’s not passive, he’s actively involved. It’s a kind of a harmonic convergence, a perfect moment,” Adlon says.
While Brooks was present, the series represents a huge amount of collaboration between today’s funniest comedy voices, with nearly 100 credited guest stars from all spheres of entertainment. Some of those guest stars also contributed behind the scenes, because as Kroll explains in the full video interview above, key to making the series feel like something made today, but still true to the Brooks ethos, was the writing.
“How do you pay respect to what Mel’s work always was, which was funny and on the cutting edge and risky and silly and fun, and then bring that into a 2023 context? It really started with our writers’ room,” he says. “We tried to bring together all different kinds of folk, all under the guise of just bringing as many funny voices in as possible.”