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5 questions for Mel Brooks about ‘The History of the World Part II’

The legendary comedian and filmmaker discusses his latest project and how Zoom has transformed comedy writing

There’s a surprise in the credits for Mel Brooks’ The History of the World Part II. Ike Barinholz, Nick Kroll and Wanda Sykes are among the credited writers. The 2,000-year-old man is not. Go figure.

On the face of it, you’d think the 2,000-year-old man would be the perfect resource for the four-night super-event that debuts Mar. 6 on Hulu. He’s been there. Seen it all. It seems odd that he didn’t contribute here. Nothing on social media indicated there was a feud between Brooks and the 2,000-year-old man or a battle over money.

There’s good news, though. 2,000 is not missed. And, it is a testimony to Brooks’ comic legacy that so many talented comics so comfortably adopted his style.

Brooks agreed to an email interview, which allowed him the luxury of not commenting about the absence of the 2,000-year-old man or the possibility of a History of the World Part III — though, at 96 (may the Schwartz be with him), he has 1,904 more years to consider it. Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Was there ever any doubt that you would film more of the history of the world?

I put a “Part I” at the end of the title of the original film as a joke — but it was taken seriously! Many fans wrote to me asking, “Where and when are we gonna see Part II?!” So finally after 42 years I can give them an answer: “You’ll get your Part II on March 6, 2023!”

What prompted you to do the film series now? Was there a particular incident?

I was getting a little stir crazy when we were all on house arrest thanks to the pandemic. So I thought, what a wonderful way to get back to making people laugh — History of The World Part II. And luckily history never stops making history. So I have 42 years of inspiration piled up since I made the first one and plenty of the same historical wrongs that have to be comically righted!

What was different this time around in the process? 

Back in the writers room on Your Show of Shows, we never could have imagined a time when writers would collaborate through a thing called “Zoom” instead of all arguing, shouting over each other, and jumping up and down in one small room together. Now we talk to each other through machines, which works well but maybe is not quite as emotionally satisfying as yelling at each other.

Any thoughts to other sequels? Maybe a Blazing Saddles II?

Actually I’ve always toyed around with the idea that Blazing Saddles might make a good musical — like I did with The Producers on Broadway. The biggest problem would be the horses. I’ve heard they have no respect for the stage.

Serious question: During the making of this show, your close friend Carl Reiner died. That obviously impacted your life and I assume the film. When did it become okay to be funny again?

I can’t tell you how much I miss Carl, but he would never want tragedy to stand in the way of comedy.

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