The PopCulteer
March 17, 2023

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and…I got nothing for that. Sorry.

Even though I’m almost half-Irish, I was never really able to muster any enthusiasm for this holiday. As a kid, all it meant was getting pinched if you forgot to wear something green. As an adult non-drinker, it’s a pretty useless day, since the only thing I ever binge-drink is water.

And if I want to celebrate my Celtic roots, I’ll do it at Celtic Calling, which happened a couple of weekends ago.

But that doesn’t mean I’m empty-handed for this week’s PopCulteer. Below we have a book to recommend and a TV series to avoid.

The PopCult Bookshelf

Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace
by David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker with Jeff Chenault and Doug Motz
The History Press
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1467152846

Five years ago I discovered and raved about the book, Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, by the same roving gang of historian authors listed above. That book had been published in 2014, but I was late to the game and enjoyed it so much that I still reviewed it, even though it had already been out for four years.

At the time, my only complaint about the book was that I wanted to read more about this legendary Tiki supper club.

So I was pleasantly surprised last year when I found out that Meyers, Meyers Walker, Chenault and Motz were planning a follow-up book. Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace is just out, and it’s a great supplement to their original visit to The Kahiki.

It turns out that, after the publication of Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, the authors were inundated with much more information, photos, recipes and stories about this now-vanished Columbus institution.

As the publishers’ blurb says:

The Church of Tiki To aficionados of Polynesian Pop, the Kahiki Supper Club was and remains the touchstone for all things tiki. The epitome of a fad that started at the end of Prohibition, it has been rediscovered by each successive generation, with relics of the original ‘mothership’ proudly displayed in tropical restaurants and bars throughout the country. Years after its razing in August 2000, the legacy of the Kahiki continues to inspire artists, entrepreneurs, and other visionaries, many of whom never set foot inside the fabled tiki palace. From the authors of Kahiki Supper Club comes a new collection of more stories, more images, and more delicious recipes that explain why the Kahiki was such a historically, culturally, and sociologically important artifact of the twentieth century.

Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace is a great follow-up, loaded with first and second hand recollections of the employees of the Kahiki, along with photos (including a color section), cocktail and food recipes and updates on the key players in both books.

If you loved the first book, you’ll want the second. If you haven’t read Kahiki Supper Club, this is still a good starting point. Any fan of Tiki culture should want to read Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace. Maybe someday they’ll combine these books into a coffee-table book with full-color illustrations throughout.

You should be able to order Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace from any bookseller by using the ISBN code, or take the easy route and get it from Amazon.

The History of the World Part Duh

I really wanted to like Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II, the eight-episode series that premiered on Hulu earlier this month.  It’s a sequel to the movie, History of the World Part I, from 1981, which is a mixed blessing because, while funny in places, the original movie is not primo Brooks.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mel Brooks. I think it’s great that he’s still active at the age of 96, even if he only narrates and appears as a deepfake muscled up guy.  I really wanted this to be good.

But History of the World Part II, which is largely the work of writer/producers Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz commits one of the cardinal sins of comedy: If you’re going to be stupid, at least be funny.

History Part II has the stupid part down pat. In fact, it’s fair to say that the writer’s room must be profoundly ignorant of history. Unfortunately that makes it difficult to create an effective parody of said history.

Most problematic is the Civil War sketch, which runs through six of the eight episodes. It’s based on two faulty premises: Ulysses S. Grant was a raging alcoholic during the entire Civil War, and West Virginia was a member of the confederacy.

A big chunk of this multi-episode sketch craps all over The Mountain State. The ignorance of basic American history is galling. This sketch has Grant’s Union Army based in Virginia (A confederate state) and sees Grant going undercover to go on a raid in confederate West Virginia, which for the sake of one decent gag (a callback to Blazing Saddles) is depicted as an Old West town, complete with a Saloon with swinging doors.

Possibly among the worst comedy sketches to ever air on television.

Given that Grant’s issues with alcohol were exaggerated and fictionalized as part of the “Lost Cause” mythology that sought to belittle his efforts and rehabilitate the traitorous South, you’d think that maybe the diverse and supposedly politically aware writer’s room might have chosen a different direction.

That they depict West Virginia as a racist confederate stronghold is just dumb as hell. I mean, yeah, the state is run by racists NOW, but back then this state split off from Virginia so we could remain with the Union. They literally had eleven genuinely confederate states to choose from, and picked a Union state for this bit. Would it have killed them to set this sketch in Virginia or North Carolina?

If they wanted to do something funny about the Civil War, why didn’t they just hire Mark Metcalf (Douglas C. Neidermeyer in Animal House) to play Stonewall Jackson, and show how the bumbling general was shot by his own troops, and had his arm amputated and buried in a different state from where he was ultimately interred. That’s comedy gold waiting to be mined. But no, they took the Jay Leno/Rosie O’Donnell/Whitney Cummings tack of punching down on West Virginia any chance they can get.

The startling ignorance of their chosen subject matter is one of the major downfalls of History Part II. They do a sketch about Genghis Khan’s proclivity for fertility tied into an ancestry service, which is a really funny premise, but then they ruin the joke by confusing Genghis Khan with his grandson, Kublai Khan.  Also the sketch is eight times longer than it needed to be.

Johnny Knoxville, easily the best part of the series.

Yet another weakness of the show is that every single sketch, save for Johnny Knoxville’s appearances as Rasputin, goes on way, way, way too long. A sketch about the Russian revolution would have been really funny at one-fourth the running time. A brilliant parody of Shirley Chisolm’s campaign for president, done up as a Black 1970s sitcom, overstays its welcome by its second installment.

A running sketch about Jesus goes on and on and on and confusingly jumps from being a parody of Curb Your Enthusiam to The Notebook to The Beatles Get Back to a Superhero movie. The first installment was pretty funny. The rest should have been left on the cutting room floor. The idea of an historical figure using modern social media is a funny idea…once. They milk that premise for gags so many times that by the fourth episode it induces groans.

That’s the biggest problem with History Part II…it needed a strong editor, someone who would look at at an eight-minute sketch and say “It’s done after two minutes.”  Or somebody who would say, “That isn’t as funnny the fourth time you do that gag.”

As it is, I don’t think that there’s an hour of good material spread across the eight episodes. By the sixth episode Melanie and I were yelling at the TV because sketches that weren’t funny to begin with (“statue removal service,” I’m looking at you) were brought back four, five or six times and seemed to go on for hours.

If brevity is the soul of wit, History Part II is soulless.

Jack Black as Stalin

There are some nice cameos in this series, Jack Black is great as Josef Stalin. Josh Gad is interesting as Jack Black doing Shakespeare. Johnny Knoxville as Rasputin is brilliant and is easily and by far the best thing in the entire series. David Duchovney does a great, make-up assisted imitation of Howard Cosell. Taika Waititi is hilarious as Sigmund Freud…in a sketch that could have easily been trimmed by half.

Other cameos are wasted. Margert Cho and Sarah Silverman are seen briefly in throw-away gag roles. Andrew Rannells manages to be somewhat funny, but in a sketch that horribly overstays its welcome. Jason Alexander shows up so late in the Civil War sketch that you just can’t care anymore.

Taika Waititi as Freud

Like I said, I really, really wanted to like Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II. Evidently most critics bent over backwards to be overly kind to this show. It currently has a 73% positive critic’s score at Rotten Tomatoes.

The audience score is only 30% positive.

It seems like the show is largely written by the folks who do Big Mouth for Netflix. Melanie enjoys that show. It doesn’t do much for me. I’ve enjoyed the work of Kroll in other things and Sykes is one of the bright points of History Part II (until the sketches she’s featured in run too long), but I think History Part II is a mostly a swing and a miss.

Hopefully, if there ever is a Part III, they’ll let anybody else take a crack at it. Maybe give it to the writers of Mr. Show or Upright Citizen’s Brigade or Kids In The Hall.

Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II does acurately reflect the real history of the world in one respect…it’s mostly disappointing.

That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features and fresh content every day.