What’s So Funny About Sci-Fi?


Is there room for humor in science fiction? Let me rephrase that because I think humor is essential in everything. Is there room for humorous science fiction? I believe so, but maybe not for the reasons you think.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s say there are two types of people: those who appreciate and enjoy science fiction and those who do not. Those who do not are probably the ones who think that all science fiction is frivolous nonsense about Martians and magic wands (yes, for this argument ONLY will I use a broader definition of science fiction to include fantasy).
Starting with the sci-fi appreciators, we (I am one) recognize the value of science fiction as legitimate literary fiction that addresses socio-political, ecological, and technological issues of the day. It is a springboard for deep thought, innovation, and creation. I surmise that some die-hard sci-fi fans might take offense to a parody of our beloved genre. Ribald comedies only demean and diminish the value we perceive in “well-written” novels or “well-produced” films.
To my fellow sci-fi appreciators who follow this train of thought, I say you’re missing out. Humor is often its own reward, even (or especially) stripped of meaningful commentary. Life can be hard, and laughter soothes the pains. I enjoy silliness or a well-crafted pun as much as action or drama. Not everything that’s intended to be funny makes me laugh, and not everything that’s intended to be thought-provoking makes me think. Everyone is different, and everyone who seeks to grow is a different person every day.
Even if your funny bone just isn’t tickled by all the humorous sci-fi that’s out there, please consider its value another way. Think of humorous sci-fi as a gateway “drug” for those in the second type of people, the sci-fi meh-ors, the ones who *GASP* do not like Star Wars, or Star Trek, or [insert your favorite book/movie/comic/video game here]. If the Weekend at Bernies type of person doesn’t have any interest in watching Interstellar, perhaps they’ll give Spaceballs a try.
Whether or not you appreciate sci-fi, and whether or not you appreciate humor, everyone should be able to find something to like in the following short list of humorous sci-fi I have compiled here:
As a teen completely mesmerized by all things Star Wars, I soaked in anything I could find that had anything to do with space – Star Trek, novels by Niven, Card, et. al., graphic novels, etc. – so, when a TV series about a spaceship captain was produced in 1977, nothing could stop me from watching it. Richard Benjamin plays Adam Quark, the captain of the space version of a garbage truck. It was short-lived, and I don’t remember much of it except that I liked it and it was silly.
To be honest, I didn’t care for this one, but to be fair, I’m including it because it does have somewhat of a cult following. It’s a straight-out parody of Star Wars, and while it has its moments, I think it’s just one of those Mel Brooks spoofs that didn’t do it for me (I loved Young Frankenstein, hated Men in Tights).
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
If you like British humor, this one’s for you, and you can pick from the original series of novels as well as the movie adaptation.
Mork & Mindy
This TV show showcased the comic frenzied genius of Robin Williams as an out-of-place alien living in a modern (for the time) woman’s apartment. Nanu Nanu.
3rd Rock from the Sun
I was reservedly excited about this TV show when it came out. I was skeptical that enough people would appreciate it as much as I did, but it ended up lasting 6 seasons. The premise involves a group of aliens sent to Earth to observe its inhabitants. To this day, I still think of Joseph Gordon Levitt as the old man, French Stewart as the pet, and William Shatner as the Big Giant Head (and Captain Kirk).
Red Dwarf
In the far distant future, a human, a hologram, a robot, and an evolved cat try to get along as the remaining inhabitants of a huge spaceship. Anything can happen, and does, in this British sitcom.
Galaxy Quest
The first time I watched this was on pay-per-view in a hotel room. I was bored, homesick, and in no mood for a comedy, so I didn’t appreciate this one and ended up falling asleep. I was convinced to watch it again later, and it was better the second time. I’ve now seen this one many times and love it! I don’t get tired of this one. An acquired taste? Watch the Trailer.
A raucous comedy, you should watch the unrated version for all its humor if you can tolerate the language, etc. I’ve only just seen this one recently, and I love it. Star Trek reboot fans will recognize Simon Pegg (Scotty) who stars in and co-wrote this movie about an alien that is stranded on Earth and trying to get home (no, nothing at all like E.T.). One thing I enjoy about this movie is all the references to popular sci-fi. Watch the Trailer.
The Last Man on Earth, People of Earth, Making History, Ghosted, and The Orville
It seems that science fiction is making a TV comeback and so are humorous versions of it. I love The Orville and wrote about it in another post. I’ve also been watching most of these comedies and enjoying them. Watch The Last Man on Earth for post-apocalyptic misfortunes, People of Earth for alien hijinks, Making History for time-traveling mishaps (now canceled, but you can watch online), and Ghosted for paranormal problems.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Do you enjoy humorous science fiction? What are your favorites? Please share in the comments…

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