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The 5 Best Sketches From Hulu's History of the World, Part II

These are the parodies that will inspire the next generation of comedians.
  • Wanda Sykes, Taika Waititi, Johnny Knoxville, and Jay Ellis in History of the World, Part II (Photo: Tyler Golden/Aaron Epstein/Patrick Wymore/Hulu; Primetimer graphic)
    Wanda Sykes, Taika Waititi, Johnny Knoxville, and Jay Ellis in History of the World, Part II (Photo: Tyler Golden/Aaron Epstein/Patrick Wymore/Hulu; Primetimer graphic)

    In Hulu’s History of the World, Part II, executive producers, writers, and stars Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes, and Ike Barinholtz bring Mel Brooks’ sensibilities into the year 2023, proving the comedy legend’s influence and humor to be timeless. So it’s no surprise that when the opportunity to work with Brooks, who is an executive producer and writer on the show, came up, a long list of talent was ready to do whatever he asked of them. One of the greatest joys of watching the series is seeing just who may show up at any given moment — the series is lousy with comedians, actors, sports stars, and reality TV personalities popping in and out of sketches.

    The best sketches throughout the series are the ones that most successfully use that star power, whether through pitch-perfect casting, spot-on television parodies, or masterful joke execution. These five are the ones that managed to do all three.

    Crystal Kung Minkoff, Poppy Lui, and Atsuko Okatsuka as the Real Concubines of Kublai Khan (Photo: Aaron Epstein/Hulu)

    5. The Real Concubines of Kublai Khan (“VII”)

    Whoever thought a Mel Brooks-Andy Cohen collaboration would never happen, think again. The king of Bravo appears as himself in this sketch parodying The Real Housewives, alongside The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Crystal Kung Minkoff, also as herself. The pair’s surprise appearance and ability to make fun of themselves makes the sketch worth watching alone.

    But it’s Poppy Liu, Atsuko Okatsuka, and Kimiko Glenn as the queen bees among Kublai Khan’s many feuding wives who move the sketch beyond just a cheap excuse for some cameos. They expertly deliver catty dialogue and bring their own twists to references to classic Housewives drama. Anytime there’s an opportunity to poke fun at The Real Housewives of Potomac’s Robyn Dixon’s hat line, it should be taken.

    Rob Riggle, Richard Kind, and Zazie Beetz in "The Last Supper Sessions" (Photo: Aaron Epstein/Hulu)

    4. The Last Supper Sessions, (“VI” and “VII”)

    Parodies of Jesus have been done to death, so it can be tricky to come up with something new. But History of the World, Part II ups its odds by skewering the son of God from four different angles, all of which are standouts of the series. There’s “Curb Your Judaism” in which Judas (Kroll, channeling Larry David) accidentally betrays Jesus with what was supposed to be a “thank you” kiss, not a betrayal kiss. There’s a send-up of The Notebook, turning Mary Magdalene (Zazie Beetz) into a romantic lead.

    “The Last Supper Sessions,” a parody of The Beatles docuseries Get Back, finds its footing in an ongoing bit about the various apostles’ — played by Richard Kind, JB Smoove, Barinholtz, and Kroll — commitment to a Liverpudlian accent. But what puts the sketch a notch above the rest is Beetz’s performance of Mary Magdalene as the group’s Yoko. Her straight-faced delivery of several realistic sounding “baa”s replacing the “backs” in a “Get Back” sound alike is award-worthy.

    Taika Waititi (right) as Sigmund Freud (Photo: Aaron Epstein/Hulu)

    3. Sigmund Freud Masterclass, (“III”)

    Are people always thinking about sleeping with their mothers or was that just Sigmund Freud pushing his own obsessions onto us? Taika Waititi portrays the famed neurologist as the host of a Masterclass on psychoanalysis, who, while passing along his techniques, seems increasingly surprised at his own very Freudian slips. The sketch benefits most from being short, sweet, and filled with punchlines that probably aren’t that far off from exposing real truths about Freud, who is portrayed as a drug-fueled, penis-obsessed egomaniac.

    Colton Dunn and Wanda Sykes in "Shirley!" (Photo: Tyler Golden/Hulu)

    2. Shirley! (“II,” “III,” “V,” “VI,” “VII,” and “VIII”)

    Wanda Sykes was meant to play Shirley Chisholm. The recurring “Shirley!” sketch, a parody of 1970s sitcoms, could have easily grown stale in its repetition, but with Sykes in the lead it not only maintains its comedic rhythm but makes the case for her to star in a singular project about the first Black woman elected to Congress.

    What keeps the sketch fresh throughout are the savvy recreations of sitcom tropes — can Shirley attend a women’s lib meeting, a Congressional Black Caucus conference, and a hot date with her husband all at the same time?! — and the delightful cameos. Black comedian George Wallace as white Alabama governor George Wallace is truly inspired casting. Not to mention, this might be one of the most covertly educational bits in the entire series. It’s only a matter of time before “Shirley!” becomes part of a high school American history syllabus.

    Christ Pontius, Johnny Knoxville, Preston Lacy, and Jason "Wee Man" Acuña in "Jackrasp" (Photo: Aaron Epstein/Hulu)

    1. Jackrasp (“I,” “V”)

    Kroll himself has said that Johnny Knoxville as Rasputin was one of his favorite casting decisions. “Well, we have Rasputin, who everybody tried to kill a million times. Who else would be better to play Rasputin than Johnny Knoxville?” he told Consequence. The only difference is Johnny’s been trying to kill himself in Jackass.”

    So framing Rasputin’s many brushes with death as episodes of Jackass — or more accurately, Jackrasp — only makes sense. When Chris Pontius, Jason "Wee Man" Acuña, and Preston Lacy show up to join in on the stabbing and drowning and maiming of Knoxville’s Rasputin, the recurring sketch reaches new heights, and when Jackass documentarian Lance Bangs (who also directed the Jackrasp sketches) eventually appears on camera up only to retch at what he’s seeing, it soars.

    All episodes of History of the World, Part II are now streaming on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: History of the World, Part II, Hulu, Andy Cohen, Atsuko Okatsuka , Crystal Kung Minkoff, Ike Barinholtz, Jay Ellis, Johnny Knoxville, Kimiko Glenn, Mel Brooks, Nick Kroll, Poppy Liu, Taika Waititi, Wanda Sykes, Zazie Beetz