History of the World Part II Review

Arguably, as is the case with “History of the World, Part I,” this sequel series is hit-or-miss in terms of how funny the gags are (and there are many, many gags strewn throughout each sketch), and how often the gags hit to begin with. Two of the continuing sketches focus on the Russian Revolution (through the point of view of a Jewish vendor named Schmuck, as well as from the Russian leaders themselves), and on the story of Jesus Christ (played here by Jay Ellis of the HBO series “Insecure”). Some of the specific sketches work better than others — Schmuck’s almost gleeful shamelessness in working as a Putzmate vendor is a bit funnier than his wife’s attempts to cause revolution. And the way the tone shifts almost implies the writing staff knew some gags were funnier than others. (The story of Jesus, which pops up often, shifts tones between an outrageous action movie, a very familiar HBO comedy, and a very recent music documentary, the latter two of which are funny enough that you’re better off discovering the specific parodic inspirations for yourself.)

The strength of “History of the World, Part II” is such that when the comedy hits, it hits incredibly, incredibly hard. Though comedy is naturally subjective, some of the gags here are hilarious even days later. (Ellis’ sheepish delivery to Zazie Beetz, as Mary Magdalene, of the line “Aw, my dad’s back on his bulls***” is still making me laugh days later.) The show’s generally at its funniest in how it mines modern culture to frame through historical events, from social-media riffs to reality TV gags. In this respect, “History of the World, Part II” is awfully reminiscent of Kroll’s past Comedy Central program, “Kroll Show,” with its continuing characters, commentary on current television, and high-intensity amount of gags, whether or not a ton of them work. The benefit to this approach, too, is that any sketches that may appear to overstay their welcome by a minute or so are bound to be quickly replaced by something snappier and funnier.

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