CLOSE

Pigs in Space!

Remember Pigs in Space? It was a series of sketches on The Muppet Show parodying Star Trek (and other 60s/70s space-themed TV shows), featuring the adventures of a crew of pigs aboard the Swinetrek. Pigs in Space became so popular that it was used to wake up actual astronauts on the Space Shuttle Columbia during its second mission. Muppet Wiki tells the story:

The height of pop-culture awareness for the crew of the Swinetrek occurred in 1981. As part of NASA's morning wake-up call tradition, by which the crew of the space shuttle are awakened with stirring music, familiar song lyrics, or comedy routines in order to boost morale and encourage camaraderie between the astronauts and their mission control colleagues, the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, part of the STS-2 mission, were greeted by Pigs in Space on two consecutive mornings. Specially recorded by the Muppet performers for this occasion, two separate comedy routines were heard, one on the morning of November 13, and another on November 14, where it followed a rendition of "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean" by a flight directorate band.

For the record, STS-2 happened to be the first shuttle launch during which O-ring problems were observed. We all know how that turned out.

Anyway, enough actual space trivia; here are five Pigs in Space sketches to get you through a decidedly earthbound Tuesday!

The Star Wars Crossover

Mark Hamill and company join the crew of the Swinetrek on a space voyage.

Fun With Music

The ship's computer adds dramatic music at various points throughout the sketch.

The End of the Universe

See that white glow? That's the end of the universe. "When we reach the end of the universe, we will be given the meaning and purpose of life."

The Swinetrek Lands on Koozebane

The crew lands on a strange alien world.

Fixing a Gas Lighter

"Is this the end of Pigs in Space?" Quite likely.

See also: A Brief and Incomplete History of Launching Animals Into Space, including -- wait for it -- pigs.

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
The Funniest Word in the English Language? 'Booty,' According to New Survey
Original image
iStock

Some words, regardless of their meaning, are simply more chuckle-worthy than others. To determine which expressions in the English language are truly the most comical, Smithsonian reports that psychologists at the University of Warwick in the UK conducted a survey in which they asked people to rate the “humor value” of a sampling of chosen words. They recently published their findings in the journal Behavior Research Methods.

The researchers selected nearly 5000 words, and then used Amazon’s online crowdsourcing tool Mechanical Turk to ask more than 800 individuals to rank the humor value of 211 randomly chosen words from the list, on a scale from 1 (humorless) to 5 (humorous). Likely not surprising to anyone with younger siblings, the funniest word ended up being “booty,” with an average ranking of 4.32. In descending order, the remaining top 12 words—which all received a score of 3.9 or higher—were “tit,” “booby,” “hooter,” “nitwit,” “twit,” “waddle,” “tinkle,” “bebop,” “egghead,” “ass,” and “twerp.”

Why these words are so funny remains fuzzy. But when they analyzed their findings according to age and gender, the researchers did find that sexually suggestive words like “orgy” and “bondage” tended to tickle the funny bones of men, as did the words “birthmark,” “brand,” “chauffeur,” “doze,” “buzzard,” “czar,” “weld,” “prod,” “corn,” and “raccoon.”

Meanwhile, women tended to laugh at the words “giggle,” “beast,” “circus,” “grand,” “juju,” “humbug,” “slicker,” “sweat,” “ennui,” “holder,” “momma,” and “sod.” As for people under the age of 32, they were amused by “goatee,” “joint,” and “gangster,” while older participants liked “squint,” “jingle,” “burlesque,” and “pong.” Across the board, all parties were least amused by words like “rape,” “torture,” and “torment.”

Although humor is complex and dependent on elements like syntax and delivery, the study's researchers say that breaking comedy down to single-word units could demystify its essence.

“The research initially came about as a result of our curiosity,” said Tomas Engelthaler, the study’s lead author, in a press release. “We were wondering if certain words are perceived as funnier, even when read on their own. It turns out that indeed is the case. Humor is an everyday aspects of our lives and we hope this publicly available dataset allows future researchers to better understand its foundations.”

[h/t Smithsonian]

Original image
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images
arrow
fun
Watch the Original Spinal Tap Short Film
Original image
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images

Spinal Tap formed in 1979, five years before the classic film This is Spinal Tap premiered. They performed on TV and began developing their personas as idiotic heavy metal monsters.

When the band, along with director Rob Reiner, went to pitch their mockumentary to production companies, nobody "got it." It wasn't clear what an unscripted comedy pseudo-documentary would feel like. So Reiner asked for the screenplay fee—$60,000—to be paid up front as a budget for a short proof-of-concept film.

That skimpy budget went a very long way, allowing the group to produce The Last Tour, a 20-minute Spinal Tap film exploring some of the plot (and many of the songs) that appeared in the later film This is Spinal Tap. There's a surprising amount of concert footage, as various bits that were repeated in Tap (some interview clips were even used in Tap unaltered).

The Last Tour is delightful because it shows a well-developed idea being implemented on the cheap. The wigs are terrible, the sound is spotty, but the vision is spot-on. The characters and the core story of the group (including a string of dead drummers) is already in place, and we get to see the guys improvise together. Tune in (and be aware there's plenty of salty language here):

(Note: Around 4:38 in the clip above, we see Ed Begley, Jr. as original drummer John "Stumpy" Pepys in the "Gimme Some Money" video. Stumpy died in a gardening accident, of course.)

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios