How FUTURAMA Nailed the Science of Comedy

Good news, everyone! YouTube’s  kaptainkristian, who has been making richly detailed and exceptionally thoughtful videos about everything from the real reason Superman can fly to the problem with X-Men movie costumes, has turned his analytical eye toward the show that’s been making nerddom shut up and take its attention since 1999. Yes, he’s talking about Futurama and how it magically—nay, scientifically!—nailed comedy.

In the video, kaptainkristian discusses how Futurama took a “grand sci-fi adventure concept and weaved it into a heartwarming character-driven sitcom” and ultimately established itself as “a master of hiding brilliance in plain sight.”This feat was achieved, as kaptainkristian points out, largely due to the fact that the Futurama writers’ room had more big brains in it than a brain spawn party inside an Infosphere. Stacked with three PhDs and seven master’s degrees, the Futurama writers’ room had “over 50 collective years at Harvard University,” and in the video, David X. Cohen (who developed the show along with Matt Groening) says that the show “had several actual scientists on [the] writing staff.”

Because of these writer/scientists, we Futurama fans have been treated to episodes that both tickle our funny bones and bend our brains. Kaptainkristian notes one episode in particular, “The Prisoner of Benda,” in which writer Ken Keeler literally proved a mathematical theorem in order to solve a brain-switching problem that was at the core of the episode’s plot.

Kaptainkristian highlights the fact that because it took science and science-fiction seriously, Futurama was able to play around in—and make fun of—the genre so effectively. Or as Cohen puts it, “I think what ultimately happened is the more seriously we took the math and the science and the science-fiction element, the better the comedy worked too, ’cause we had… this serious set-up side and then the characters’ petty concerns [played] very well as comedy against the fate of the universe…”

But forget about the fate of the universe, what about the fate of Futurama? It’s been cancelled four times, but could it come back from the dead again like the Planet Express ship’s crew from a birth machine full of stem cells? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! (The Hypnotoad commands you to comment.)

Image: 20th Century Fox via kaptainkristian

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