After 42 years, “History of the World, Part II” is finally here! (Oy, now we collectively know how the ancient Israelites wandering in the desert felt.) The sequel to Mel Brooks’ cult classic movie “History of the World, Part I” has been reimagined as an eight-part series on Hulu, and it’s truly better than I could have imagined.
As previously mentioned in Hey Alma. executive produced by Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz, “History of the World, Part II” provides hilarious insight into historical moments and figures untouched by the original movie. This means all-new sketches about the Civil War, the Russian Revolution, the Oslo Accords and the Last Supper, featuring characters like Shirley Chisholm, Sigmund Freud, Kublai Khan, Amelia Earhart, Galileo, Rapustin and the Romanovs, Jesus Christ and the Apostles, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin… and more. (Though Mel Brooks no longer plays a starring role, the 96-year-old still serves on the project as an executive producer, writer and narrator for the series.) Plus, the series features an all-star cast including the three executive producers, Taika Waititi, Hannah Einbinder, J.B. Smoove, Seth Rogen, Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Richard Kind, Pamela Adlon, Ronny Chieng, Jack Black, Josh Gad, Johnny Knoxville, Emily Ratajkowski, David Duchovny, Kumail Nanjiani, Sarah Silverman… truly, the list goes on and on.
(Seriously, if you haven’t binged it yet, I highly recommend that you do.)
While I personally think “Part I” and “Part II” are on equal footing, one place that the sequel surpasses the original is in the sheer volume of Jewish jokes. Of course, “The Old Testament” and “The Spanish Inquisition” from the 1981 movie are classics. But I have a hunch that some of the new bits from Brooks et al (including the finally fully fleshed out “Hitler on Ice” and “Jews in Space” sketches) will become classic Jewish jokes in their own right.
So, read on for the best Jewish jokes from *imagine this as Mel Brooks’ voice* “History of the World, Part II”:
Though their characters did not have any Jewish jokes, I simply must mention the performances of Jewish actors Jack Black, Taika Waititi and Hannah Einbinder. Waititi and Einbinder only performed in one sketch a piece, and Black was only a somewhat minor character in different parts of “The Russian Revolution” sketch, but all were absolute show-stealers as sex-obsessed Master Class teacher Sigmund Freud, gay Amelia Earhart and submissive songbird Joseph Stalin, respectively. If you don’t watch the entire series, I recommend at least checking out their contributions.
11. Mel Brooks is swole now
After a montage of clips from the original movie, Mel Brooks introduces the new “History of the World” by saying that one of his conditions for making it was that Hulu had to “make me look exactly how I did in 1981.” Cut to a tall, tan and extremely buff man with Mel Brooks’ face and voice. I have to hand it to the guy, if I were a 96-year-old Jewish comedian and icon, I too would ask for someone to CGI me an eight-pack.
10. The Civil War
In “The Civil War” sketch, General Ulysses S. Grant (Ike Barinholtz) is ordered to stop drinking and focus on the war effort by President Lincoln (Timothy Simons). The only problem? He is a raging alcoholic. Of course, Grant denies this, saying that he only drinks on holidays. A flask promptly falls out of his jacket in front of Lincoln, prompting Grant to say, “I believe today is what the Hebrews call Pesach, sir.”
Despite this amazing excuse, Lincoln orders Grant to stay sober and has his soldiers confiscate all his liquor. Then, in one final request, he asks Grant to allow his son Robert Todd (Nick Robinson) to become a soldier. Grant is initially hesitant to take the younger Lincoln under his wing, however he soon realizes he can take Robert Todd on an important mission: sneak into West Virginia and get more booze.
Unsurprisingly, however, the pair are caught by Confederate civilians and are about to be hanged when Robert Todd begins to say his last words. Hilariously, he launches into a longwinded awards ceremony-style speech, thinking that if he keeps talking, the Confederates won’t hang them. Eventually, music starts playing him off out of nowhere, leading to a hilarious Jewish moment. “There are so many people I have to thank still,” Robert Todd says, adding, “Everyone at UTA, Jared Levine, Jared Cohen, Jared Cohenstein, Billy Rosenberg, David Greenbaum…” He continues on until one of the Confederates cuts him off, saying, “That’s enough. We ain’t got time for the Jew stuff.”
Despite coming from the mouth of a racist character, that sentiment is a perfect encapsulation of how I feel while watching awards shows…
Anyway, with some help from Union soldiers and Harriet Tubman, Grant and Robert Todd escape so Grant can sign a treaty with General Robert E. Lee to end the Civil War. Upon arrival at Appomattox Court House, everything is going well until a presumably Jewish notary public named Maurice Cheeks (Jason Alexander) rushes in. After explaining that he officializes documents, Cheeks adds, “I also perform the occasional bris.” He then forces Grant and Lee to resign the treaty (as he wasn’t present at the first signing) and despite a slight hiccup with his notary tools that includes the line, “Goddammit! I brought my mohel bag,” the Civil War is officially ended.
9. The Last Supper Sessions
In “History of the World, Part II” there are a whopping four different retellings of the story of Jesus. Parodying The Beatles documentary “Get Back,” “The Last Supper Sessions” reimagines Jesus and the apostles as a Liverpudlian band, coming together one more time to write one final sermon.
The sketch includes Jesus (Jay Ellis) and Mary (Zazie Beetz) arriving to the session saying that they were smushed “like a latke” by a rolling stone and a recording studio called “Apples & Honey.” (For the unaware, this is a nod to both Rosh Hashanah and the fact that The Beatles’ label was named Apple Records.) But my favorite Jewish joke of the sketch is when Judas (Nick Kroll) attempts to play the shofar, ultimately declaring that “the fucking shofar is broken, Peter.”
We’ve all been there, Judas.
8. I just want matzah on a stick!
At the beginning of “The Story of Jesus & Mary Magdalene,” we meet the Magdalene sisters, Mary (Zazie Beetz) and Martha (Quinta Brunson). As the pair are entering an outdoor carnival, Martha is intent on selling a basket of eggs (which she later decides to turn into Easter eggs), while Mary just wants to take the day off from work. “I just want matzah on a stick,” she whines to her sister. Forget the matzah brei and matzah toffee, everyone! I have a feeling matzah on a stick is going to be all the rave this Passover.
7. Noah & The Ark
In the Torah story of Noah’s Ark, God tells Noah that they are going to destroy the world via flood because it had become wicked. However, God also says that they will spare Noah and his family if he builds an ark and collects two of every animal on board. And Noah listens to God.
But in the version from “History of the World, Part II” Noah (Seth Rogen) is going rogue. He doesn’t want to live on a boat with gross, messy, wild animals, so instead, he’s only saving tiny, adorable dogs (including three pugs, instead of just two). Naturally, Noah’s family is a bit skeptical at first. “This is bananas,” Jaspeth (Nick Kroll) says. “No, this is Bananas,” Noah says, pointing to one of the small pups, “and she’s a rescue!” How can you argue with that?! Eventually Noah’s family gets on board — with the exception of Noah’s son Ham’s wife (Jessica St. Clair), whom the group eats for sustenance.
6. Curb Your Judaism
“History of the World, Part II” tells a few different versions of the Jesus story. However, my personal favorite is a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” parody called “Curb Your Judaism.” In the sketch, a Larry David-esque Judas (Nick Kroll) alongside Luke (J.B. Smoove) is entreated by Roman guards to betray Jesus. “Everyone knows you’re the most weasley apostle,” one of them says, to which Judas replies, “That feels antisemitic.” Still, Judas accepts the silver.
Later, Judas and Luke are at Peter’s (Richard Kind) one-man show where they spot Jesus. Judas, realizing that Jesus is eating an extremely not kosher bacon cheeseburger, states that he thinks Jesus is trying to phase out his Jewishness, which leads to a discussion between Judas, Luke and Peter about whether or not Jesus is trying to grow back his foreskin and if that’s even possible. In an attempt to get a look at Jesus’ foreskin or lack thereof, Judas follows Jesus into the bathroom where he accidentally pees on Jesus’ feet. Running out of the bathroom, Judas runs into the Virgin Mary (Anna Maria Horsford) who heard the commotion and tells Judas to wash Jesus’ feet because he’s the son of God. It all leads to Judas saying, “She thinks her son’s God? The mother’s definitely Jewish.”
Ultimately, however, Judas is prepared to wash Jesus’ feet. He even begins to believe in Jesus and Christianity, that is until he kisses Jesus (out of genuine disciple-like devotion), alerting the Roman guards to Jesus. They then take Jesus away.
5. Egyptian pyramid scheme
Did you know that the ancient Israelites didn’t build the pyramids in Egypt? It’s true! But, according to “History of the World, Part II,” the Egyptians didn’t build them either.
In “The Pyramids” sketch, an Egyptian couple run into a tiny man-like creature named Glorp (Fred Armisen) at a bazaar who tries to sell them Afteralife. With Afteralife, Glorp tells them, they can make riches by selling pyramid building materials to two friends, who then sell more pyramid building materials to two more friends, and on and on. The Great Pyramids being built via pyramid scheme? Mel Brooks, you’ve done it again! (Though, in the sketch, Glorp cleverly says, “It’s not a pyramid scheme, it’s a pyramid opportunity!”)
One kinda Jewish joke comes when Glorp explains, “With the pyramid project, you are your own pharaoh.” The very funny dig at language used by MLMs isn’t technically Jewish because pharaohs didn’t solely exist in the period of ancient Israelite enslavement. Even so, I personally cannot help but think of the Exodus from Egypt when the word “pharaoh” is used.
The other, definitive Jewish joke comes at the end of the sketch where Glorp is revealed to be an alien and teleports away to Machu Picchu. “Ugh, looks like it’s about to rain,” one of the Egyptians say as frogs begin to rain down on them a la the second plague of Egypt.
4. The Russian Revolution
With the stories of the Romanov family and the Bolsheviks being interconnected through the antics of the Mudman family from the shtetl, “The Russian Revolution” section has almost too many Jewish jokes to count. So, for brevity’s sake, here’s a bulleted list of all my favorites:
- In voiceover, Mel Brooks gives context to the power struggle between the ruling Russian family and the Lenin-led Communist revolution. Then, introducing the shtetl-life and the Mudmans, he says, “Meanwhile, in the countryside, my people did what they had done for centuries: be poor Jews.”
- The entrance of the shtetl has a sign which reads “SHTETL: pronounced ‘Shit-hole.'”
- We meet Shmuck Mudman (Nick Kroll) who, fittingly, peddles mudpies. According to Shmuck, his pies are “made with the abject suffering and eczema of the Jewish diaspora.”
- After Shmuck’s son Joshie (Charles Melton) complains about joining the family business, Shmuck tries to convince him that submitting to a higher power is a good thing. He then breaks into a song about submission, which he sings to the tune of “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
- Shmuck’s wife Fanny (Pamela Adlon) cuts him off to tell the family that she wants to move to Moscow and be a part of the communist revolution. Shmuck, Fanny and Joshie break into song about whether or not they should move to the city “where a dream life in the ghetto waits for you” or stay in the shtetl.
- For his part, Shmuck would like to stay in the shtetl, singing, “I rather like the easy lifestyle of the shtetl, where every murderous cossack knows your name.”
- Ultimately, the family decides to move to Moscow, and somehow Shmuck starts serving food to the Politburo, consisting of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and a few other officials. Upon arriving late to their meeting one day, Shmuck apologizes, “We didn’t keep time in the shtetl, we just kept secrets.“
- Meanwhile, Fanny starts hosting meetings of Jewish social revolutionaries in the family apartment. One day, Shmuck comes home in the middle of a meeting, prompting one of the revolutionaries to ask, “Who’s this schlub?” In response, Shmuck says, “No, Schlub Mudman is my dead brother. May his memory be a bleching.“
- Upon seeing a social revolutionary whom he thinks he knows, Shmuck asks, “Your misery looks familiar to me, are we from the same shtetl?” “No,” the man responds, “I’m a a miserable city Jew.”
- In a third storyline, Joshie meets Princess Anastasia (Dove Cameron), who survived the murder of her family, and they immediately fall in love. “You’re the hottest person I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen like 30 people,” Joshie tells Anastasia, referencing the fact that shtetls were isolated communities.
- Back at the Politburo, Shmuck arrives once again to deliver food. When Trotsky (Ike Barinholtz) asks if he has black and white cookies, Shmuck responds, “Due to an icing error of my own making I do not have black and white cookies, but only grey cookies today.” Then, Fanny pops out of Shmuck’s cart, shooting Lenin, and the pair run away.
- Back at the Mudman apartment, Fanny and Shmuck prepare to leave Moscow. Joshie and Anastasia return and announce that they are engaged. Shmuck promptly freaks out. “I’d always assumed I’d have Jewish grandchildren with hip dysplasia and bipolar disorder,” he sobs on the floor.
- Eventually Shmuck gets over it though, and the group head to the train station. In order to get passed some Red soldiers and board the train, they dress up like “a golem.“
- Inside the golem costume, Fanny expresses some concern about Joshie marrying Anastasia, to which he replies, “She’s really cool, Ma, she was teaching me all about something called a Christmas tree.” Despite nearly getting caught, Shmuck, Anastasia and Joshie board the train to flee, and Fanny decides to return to Moscow to see the social revolution through.
3. Oslo Peace Accords
When episode seven opened and I saw that “History of the World, Part II” was attempting to cover some of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I bristled. Was Mel Brooks trying to cause controversy?
Thankfully, the main joke of the sketch is hilarious. As Israel and Palestine are about to sign the Oslo Peace Accords, the delegate from Norway says, “There’s just one more thing concerning who gets to claim the homeland of hummus.”
The once cheerful room becomes immediately tense. “We must settle on who created hummus before we sign, or we can never have true peace,” the Palestinian delegate relays.
Naturally arguments ensue with both sides claiming they invented hummus. “What do you think the Jews were eating in the desert for 40 years, Amir,” the Israeli delegate questions, “wet sand?”
“That’s exactly how you describe Israeli hummus,” the Palestinian delegate replies.
OK, that’s a pretty sick burn.
The fighting isn’t just between these two delegates, however. Soon, other countries like Egypt, Greece and Turkey begin claiming they invented the delicious chickpea dip. Finally, the fighting ceases when everyone realizes that if they sign the treaty, they can finally have lunch.
2. Jews in Space
After being hinted at in “History of the World, Part I,” the Jews are finally in space!! In the final sketch of the series, Nick Kroll plays Captain Mudman, commander of a Jewish spaceship, with Sarah Silverman as Lieutenemant Silverman, Ike Barinholtz as an officer named Borowitz, Gil Ozeri as an anthropomorphic dreidel named Joot (a parody of Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Wanda Sykes as Doctor Kaufmanberg.
As their ship takes fire, Captain Mudman shouts, “Lieutenemant Silverman, status update!”
“I’m single, but looking,” she responds.
Mudman replies, “Well we’re doing an event at the JCC Saturn this weekend, I know there’ll be a wonderful guy there for you. But I mean a status update on the ship!”
“Oh I can’t operate anything until sundown which, in space, who can tell?! Best I do nothing.”
Then, Mudman turns his attention to Borowitz who reports, “Captain, the weapons system is loxed and loaded, but I got no schmear!” The camera pans down to show the weapons board is covered in bagels, lox and other toppings, sans cream cheese.
Then, after some banter between Mudman, Joot and Dr. Kaufmanberg, the ship shakes with an explosion.
“Captain, we’re being boarded! Hopefully by a doctor,” Silverman yells.
“At this hour? Dayenu,“ Mudman replies.
The sketch goes on and has a fun surprise at the end. But I won’t spoil it for you. Rather, let’s move on to my number one Jewish joke/sketch of the series…
1. Hitler on Ice
The 42 year-long wait for this sketch was oh so worth it.
After Hitler’s poor showing on the ice, Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz, as sportscasters in giant yellow puffer jackets, absolutely dunk on the fascist dictator. “The master race isn’t looking so masterful,” Sykes as announcer Trish says, later calling Hitler a “greasy-haired motherfucker.” For his part, Barinholtz delivers perhaps my favorite line of the series. When Hitler receives his scores and Poland opts to give him the score “Fuck You!” his character offers, “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, if you put concentration camps in people’s countries you better be flawless on the ice.”
Other hilarious parts of the sketch include the French giving Hitler a score of 10 — a skillful dig at French collaboration with the Nazis during World War II and the Holocaust — and Nick Kroll saying, “And coming up next, we’ve got men’s downhill with Benito Mussolini.”
He adds, “Let’s hope he falls down and breaks both of his fucking legs.”
Well, there you have it, folks! Fingers crossed “History of the World, Part II” releases another season, as is hinted at in the final episode!