Star Trek: The Next Generation gives off the funky funny like a brilliant nova. Science Fiction romps may be traditionally chock full of space battles, laser gun shoot outs or time tripping adventures, but there’s so much more. Next Generation, created by Gene Roddenberry, can claim purchase on all those familiar tropes – while consistently churning out purely comic delights.
A Vulcan might say, Laugh Long and Prosper. Or in the words of Enterprise’s Captain Picard, ‘Let’s see what funny stuff is out there….’
You’re All Astronauts On Some Kind of Laugh Trek
Thanks saucy loads, oh boozy warp drive creator Zephram Cochrane. We all love hearing the movie title smack dab in the film’s dialogue!
And don’t you say it oh so spontaneously and theatrically.
For seven seasons broadcast in syndication, Star Trek: The Next Generation delivered the cosmic chuckles. With its many regular characters, plus scores of great guest stars, it’s a tough exercise to pick out the funniest. For this focus, we’ll only be selecting four main cast members – the funniest regulars of TNG.
Here now – The Fantastic Funny Four of Next Generation laughter.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard – A Bald and Brazen Starship Leader
He’s bald, british and bawdy – well, at least the first two. Jean-Luc Picard would probably never be accused of being bawdy, but neither would he ever be called boring.
In episodes such as Menage A Trois and Captain’s Holiday, Captain Picard shows us his more playful side. But of all the many mission interactions, his exchanges with the all powerful entity called Q, played by the wonderful John DeLancie, may be most knee slapping.
From the pilot, Encounter At Farpoint, to TNG’s grand finale, All Good Things, Picard and Q rocked us all with their rib tickling repartee.
Picard even showed us, albeit with another actor, not Patrick Stewart, just how willful a child he can be in the youthifying episode, Rascals. Enterprises 1701-D’s Captain hanging out with Guinan also can’t be discounted as some prime comedy time.
And now we’re told there may be more funny to come. Fans looking for more Picard humor may just have their wish fulfilled. We’ve been promised to see another side to JLP in the upcoming CBS All Access series starring Patrick Stewart. Let’s hope it’s a comedic chance for him to shine as funnily as ever.
Cmdr. William T. Riker – A Mischievous First Officer
Maybe it’s because actor Jonathan Frakes was known as a mischievous practical joker while performing on the Next Generation sets that his cinematic alter ego is so playful. Perhaps Riker became more playful after he grew the beard. Whatever the case, Riker has show us to be a kin to colorful comedy.
Riker may have been afraid of getting the big chair promotions, but he was never afraid of having a good time.
Whether it’s teasing Worf about his ‘little ship’ – the Defiant – or joking about the Klingon remembering how to fire phasers, Riker loves girth and mirth. He’s never above pulling a joke – even on a superior. The episode, Captain’s Holiday, remains convincing evidence. Telling his vacationing Captain to buy a Horga’hn on Risa, the pleasure planet, but neglecting to inform him that displaying the item tells the world one is horny and looking for action, tells us all we need to know about Riker’s limitless prankish sensibilities.
William T. Riker only has to flash that brilliant warp core smile. We know we’re going to have a good, rollicking time.
Data – An Annoyed Android
Is he truly alive? How can we actually prove he’s really sentient? Artificial Lifeform mixed with artificial intelligence rights? Data’s pretty much done it all. And that alone means he’s been mired in some pretty intense black comedy.
He’s also taken a swipe at stand-up comedy.
In the second season episode, The Outrageous Okona, Data is schooled in the nuances of live, stage comedy by Saturday Night Live star Joe Piscopo – with help from Guinan, Whoopi Goldberg. Data may not be the best student in the fine art of laughter, but he does learn to tell a joke – after a fashion. The only problem? Guinan doesn’t think it’s funny.
Does Data come from a funny family? You could make the case for just that theory.
Perhaps his most darkly comedic moments is interacting with his brother – the treacherous Lore. Whether it’s being compared to Lore’s superior grasp of human comedy or when he’s influenced by his brother’s tech control, Data just can’t beat Lore comically. Soong’s android seems more at ease and natural when he’s not trying to be funny. It’s that unintentional humor that Data, and many of us, excel at. Maybe not trying to be funny comes across as the funniest shtick of them all.
Worf – A Merry Man Klingon
When we learn an alien as tough and no nonsense as Worf loves drinking prune juice, it’s a pathway to funny stuff.
Prune juice keeps you regular. Maybe it also keeps you funny?
He’s got an intensity only other Klingons can truly appreciate, yet there’s still a playfulness about him. Seeing him mixing it up with his old flame, K’Ehleyr, in the Holodeck, or assuring Guinan no human woman could keep up with him sexually only solidifies his comic pedigree.
After K’Ehleyr’s death, Worf raised his son, Alexander, alone. Being a single father isn’t easy for anyone, let alone a busy, responsible Starfleet officer. The natural comedy which came from Alexander and Worf’s interactions were both amusing and touching.
Of all the episodes, of all the chuckle pregnant Worf lines, the one most fans fondly remember is taken from the episode, ‘Q-Pid’. After Q zaps the crew into Sherwood Forest to romp around as Robin Hood and his crew, Worf cries, ‘I protest! I am not a Merry Man!’ We know, Worf, and that’s why it’s so darned funny.