Friday, 22 October 2010

Why Science Fiction Isn't Funny

VAMPIRES SUCK has just come out into UK cinemas and BETTER OFF TED has just shuffled off UK TV screens, so it's an opportune time to look at the failure of genre subjects for comedy.

It has long been our contention that the three scariest words in the english language when put together are science, fiction and comedy. Admittedly VAMPIRES SUCK is more a horror spoof than sci fi, but it is genre and it comes on the tail of severe rubbish like SUPERHERO MOVIE and DISASTER MOVIE etc. BETTER OFF TED is a comedy along the lines of THE OFFICE (it wishes), but it is set in a company where universal translators, cryogenic freezing and all manner of science fiction inventions, so we're classing it as sci fi.

The thing is that for every classic sci fi comedy (RED DWARF, GALAXY QUEST... OK, we admit it - we're out) there are dozens of horrible things like MY HERO, QUARK, SPACEBALLS, CLONE, NO HEROICS, HYPERDRIVE...the list goes on.

The problem is that science fiction, fantasy and horror all require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. There is an inherent silliness about them because they involve people who can leap tall buildings, spaceships that go faster than light, monsters that look like men with false foreheads etc. Comedy is about pointing out the absurd in life and if there is an inherent absurdity built into the initial concept then the comedy falls flat.

Look at the two choices for good sci fi comedy, RED DWARF and GALAXY QUEST, and it is obvious that the comedy comes from the characters and the situations, not from the science fiction. RED DWARF is THE ODD COUPLE on a spaceship and GALAXY QUEST is taking the mickey out of the very real phenomenon of the science fiction convention. It's all about the characters not the sci fi trappings.

Other almost great sci fi comedies include 3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN, MORK AND MINDY and...once again we're out, but these also are about the characters discovering the absurdities of life, not being caught up in space alien situations.

The conclusion is pretty clear - genre comedy isn't funny unless it's done very very well.

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