It always seemed to me that reading humorous science fiction was a hit or miss proposition; the comedy usually came at the expense of believable science fiction. But SciFi comedy on film is another matter entirely. Ghostbusters, Men in Black and Galaxy Quest are just a few of the modern films that tickle the Sci-Fi funny bone.
But where did Sci-Fi comedy get its start? Let’s take a look back at some classic Sci-Fi films that featured work by the immortal comedians of yesteryear…
(Note how it is usually an "accidental" event that gets the stars into space.)
Abbot and Costello Go to Mars (1953)
The comedy legends star as the bumbling Lester and Orville, who accidentally board a rocket and – after a brief diversion in New Orleans involving thugs and a bank robbery – wind up on the planet Venus. (Forget "Who’s on First?" Who’s on Mars? Nobody in this movie.) Naturally, Venus is populated by a bevy of beautiful women and comedy ensues.
Have Rocket Will Travel (1959)
In the late 50’s the Three Stooges (Curly and Shemp had passed away and Moe Howard and Larry Fine were joined by replacement Joe DeRita) enjoyed a comeback of sorts, resulting into this film. In it, the Stooges try to help a damsel in distress but accidentally wind up in space. (I hate when that happens.) They land on Venus and trump Abbot and Costello on the scifi quotient: they meet a giant spider, a talking unicorn, an evil supercomputer and robotic versions of themselves. I imagine an eye-poke hurts more coming from a hand made of steel.
The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962)
Not content with merely a single movie set in space, the Stooges returned in 1962 with The Three Stooges in Orbit. Here, the trio gets involved with a scientist who builds the ultimate land/sea/air vehicle to protect the Earth from the Martians he is convinced will launch an invasion. After an accidental transmission by Moe, the Martians, who were indeed going to invade, instead decide to destroy Earth. It’s up to the Three Stooges to save the planet.
The Road to Hong Kong (1962)
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby star in this, the last of their "Road to…" films. It features Joan Collins as a spy who gets the pair of Vaudeville stars into space. OK, so maybe the inclusion of space in this film is more of a bandwagon-jumping maneuver than anything else, but it does feature Joan Collins in a science-fictiony film that predates her appearance on the Star Trek television series. So there.