‘Space Force’ and Comedy in the Age of Trump

The Commander-in-Chief is so absurd that satirizing him is a difficult challenge.
Netflix Space Force
By  · Published on January 18th, 2019

It was only a matter of time before someone made a show about Space Force, Donald Trump’s plan for a military branch that could be tasked with fighting in battles beyond the stars. Only time will tell if Trump’s crazy idea will save the Earth from any future alien invasions, but for now we’re just going to assume that it’s another ridiculous reflection of where U.S. politics is at right now. Either way, there’s going to be a Netflix series about it.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming giant has handed out a straight-to-series order for the show, which is being co-created by Steve Carell and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels. Carell will also star in the series, which has been described as a workplace comedy centered around the people tasked with bringing Trump’s intergalactic ambitions to life.

I’m all for any show involving Daniels. The Office and Parks and Recreation made me a fan for life, which is why I’m optimistic that this show will deliver the goods. At the same time, I’m keeping my hopes grounded. Because, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from political comedy in the age of Trump, it’s that it’s rarely ever funny.

Let’s face it, the president has normalized the absurd to the point where satirizing him is a difficult task even for the best writers and comedians. Of course, Trump and his administration deserve to be mocked and ridiculed; but, for the most part, the jokes they’re the butt of are often cheap, easy, and fail to compare to the real Trump’s lunacy. Late night hosts are good for the occasional zinger. However, their jobs are easy because all they have to do is discuss the dumb shit the president has done that day. If Trump wasn’t hurting people with his policies, his whole farcical presidency would be entertaining.

Space Force won’t be the first comedy to get into the heart of the current regime, either. Our Cartoon President immediately springs to mind as an example of a recent series that fails to be funny simply because its portrayal of Trump pales in comparison to the ridiculousness of the real Donald. There’s only so long you can laugh at impersonations of people before it gets old.

Even South Park, which is one of the best shows out there for sociopolitical satire, has failed whenever it’s tried to poke fun at Trump. Mr. Garrison aping the Commander-in-Chief grew stale quickly because, once again, he’s no Trump. No one is. The South Park creators understand this as well. In an interview with The Ringer, Trey Parker summed up comedy about the president rather perfectly:

“If you have like a little monkey and it’s running himself into the wall over and over and you’re like, “That’s funny, but how am I gonna make fun of the monkey running himself into the wall?” I can discuss the monkey running himself into the wall, I can copy the monkey running into the wall, but nothing’s funnier than the monkey just running himself into the wall.”

It remains to be seen if Space Force will be a show that goes beyond simply making fun of the monkey running into the wall. While the show’s premise means that Trump and his absurdity will be a central theme, it will need to do more than simply point and laugh at the president in order to succeed.

Still, Daniels and Carell have demonstrated a strong knack for workplace comedy in the past, and a show set in the workplace of the team tasked with bringing this idea of all things to life is a fascinating notion. If anyone can make Space Force a defining comedy about the state of contemporary politics, it’s this pair.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.