Penny 4 MINKA: “Standup Stinker” review

I’m of the opinion that one of the most important endeavors of modern civilization is the exploration of space. The expansion of our civilization from this tiny little marble, to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. And it depresses me that this is a minority opinion.

This is the next giant step for mankind, and on the issue-priority list, it’s below the quest to build bigger guns, and whether or not a delusional shitkicker from Nevada gets to graze his cattle on someone else’s property for free.

This is pathetic! And I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the rush? Space isn’t going anywhere!” Well, yes, but we might. With all the ecological damage being done to the planet, who knows how long it’ll last before saying, “fuck it,’ and just eating us! Not only that, there’s an old rule in science: If you start an experiment, it better be finished before you die. This is why they’ve only recently tried to send rockets to Pluto; because it’s only recently that we’ve built rockets fast enough to make the trip within a century.

I have, maybe, 70 years left on this planet, minimum. Twice that if I have anything to say about it. It may seem incredibly selfish; but dammit, I wanna see cities on Mars before I die, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! When I was a kid, I was promised a Mars mission in 2020. Now, 2020 is apparently the year NASA’s planning to go to space again. It’ll be their comeback tour, they’re gonna orbit the moon, play their greatest hits. Maybe as an encore they’ll blow up an oxygen tank and nearly run out of water. Yes, I am bitter. How’d you know?

And yes, I’m still angered by the fact that Constellation, the big, far-reaching plan for future space exploration, was cancelled because of reasons! Thanks, Obama!

No, literally, it’s his fault.

And if the James Webb Space Telescope isn’t launched by the end of 2018, and is instead blocked because of some political horseshit… Well, there’s not much I can do is there!? Since you won’t let me leave this fucking planet, no matter how much I’d want to at that point! It actually feels like I’m being held captive here!

Yes! I, personally, want to go to Mars, and I’m absolutely positive I’m not the only one. Yeah, there are risks; one can die; but that’s life! Out of every single person that’s been in space, only 3% never came back down. And yes, that sucks. But you don’t stay in the cave just because a dragon might be waiting outside! A trip to Mars is full of risks, and I’m willing to take them! In fact, if any Martian colonization project pops up, I’m declaring now: I’m the first to volunteer. No question.

It’s not simply because this planet and everyone on it is annoying the crap out of me more and more as each day goes by. It’s because it would be something no one’s ever done before. It’ll be the next step for mankind. It’ll be the frontier. It’ll push our society forward, rather than allow it to stagnate. Which is something we’ve always done. Humanity has always tried to push forward, to evolve, to advance, to have each generation do better, and live longer, than the one before. It’s part of what makes us human, and truly separates us from the animals.

… Well… most animals. Because it just so happens one little monkey feels the exact same way.

That’s right, Minka wants to go to Mars. Apparently unaware that it’s not an easy task. The resources and technology required to get there in a timely manner is way beyond what is available to Russell, our designated genius whom she contracts the job to.

But why does she want to go to Mars? Well, because her great-great-granddad was the first monkey in space, and she wants to be a pioneer, just like him.

Not the best reason, I must say. In fact, the opening scene, where she announces this endeavour, feels a bit awkward to say the least. Sunil expressed disbelief at Minka’s heritage, then Minka gets defensive, then depressed, then she starts acting like me lamenting the fact that she’s never done anything great with her life. Then Pepper mentions that no one’s ever been to Mars, so she decides to do that.

Not that it’s a terrible scene, but Sunil mentioning that Minka’s done great things herself does not actually explain his surprise. So it pretty much comes out of nowhere.

So, regardless, Russell tries to build a rocket ship. And eventually designs a prototype.

It’s the Too-much-sugar I, built by Butterscotch-Russell Aeronautics. And In case you can’t tell, it’s powered by whipped cream cans.

So, it’s time for the first test launch, which ends with the ship barely moving an inch, and everyone getting covered with whipped cream.

But Minka tells him not to give up. And the second prototype?

Not much better. And when the others express dejection at their repeated failures, Russell gives an impassioned speech to motivate his crew. Then Minka leaves, and we learn he’s not delusional.

Yeah, Russell’s given up, finally realizing that he’d need a fuel source slightly more efficient than whipped cream cans to pull it off. I mean, we’re looking at a journey of 56 million kilometres at least! Not an easy task. Also, you’d have to account for structural integrity, atmospheric containment, radiation shielding, all of which they seem to be ignoring. So I guess it’s a good thing they’ve given up. Because even if they built a ship that can get to Mars, Minka’d probably die en route.

So is it over? Not a chance. Because Russell has a new idea: Fake it! Because that worked out so well for Fluttershy and Rarity.

Meanwhile, we have another character trying to live her dreams!

You see, it just so happens that Blythe’s school is holding a student comedy show, and one of the judges just happens to be late afternoon talk show host, Bob Flemingheimer.

So, he’s got Conan’s hair, Letterman’s Teeth, and Leno’s chin. I also detect a bit of Kimmel’s voice in there. They just went nuts didn’t they? Should’ve made him Scottish as well. Hit all the notes.

Naturally, Pepper looks up to this comic legend (I assume), but feels dejected, since only humans can enter in the show. But inspired by Minka’s attitudes toward space travel, she decides that one way or another, she’s gonna impress Flemingheimer. So she asks Blythe to build a human costume for her. I assume this would require some form of robotic engineering to pull off, which Blythe doesn’t have. And regardless, only Blythe can understand her.

So Pepper comes up with a Plan B: Have Blythe tell Pepper’s jokes.

Unfortunately, Blythe isn’t fully on board. But after an entire commercial break of nagging (which is a great gag, by the way), she caves.

So Pepper teaches Blythe all the jokes, and then, it’s time for a proper rehearsal before a real audience.

And we learn that while Blythe remembered the jokes, or the general idea of them, she forgot how to deliver them, what order to present the various elements, and what actually made them funny.

Then again, I forgot what made them funny, since they’re all just bad puns.

Basically, she ends up giving the punchline first, which ruins the whole thing. You see, here’s how these jokes are supposed to be structured: you start with a reasonable set-up that makes the audience interested and drags them along, then hit them with an absurd punchline that throws their expectations for a loop. If you give the absurd punchline first, they just end up confused, and continue to be so for the entire joke. With confusion, they can’t create an expectation that can be subverted. This is basic Intro to Comedy, people!

Roger tries to let her down easy, by saying she should enter a fashion contest instead.

… You know, if she wasn’t actually a fashion designer, that would be astronomically condescending… and sexist as well.

So, time for a new plan: Pepper offers to join her on stage, and feed her jokes in real-time. Perfect! They certainly won’t be found out!

But what about our other case of fraud?

Minka arrives on the launch pad (which you’d think they’d place outside), in slow motion for some reason. I’m guessing it’s a reference to either The Right Stuff, or Armageddon.

So Russell closes Minka’s visor, which Blythe apparently forgot to make transparent.

Which is good, because it makes faking the whole thing a lot easier. But Russell explains that she needs to keep the visor down to protect her from gamma gramma rays. What are gramma rays? “They smell like fabric softener and make you feel guilty for not calling.”

And we’ve found the best joke of the season! I commend you, Russell!

So they load her into the spaceship (see: dumb-waiter), and after a few minutes, she lands on mars (see: Blythe’s room)!

So, how long before she figures out this scam? Well, longer than I thought, because it’s not immediately.

And shortly after her arrival, things go horribly wrong!

Okay, I think this might be overkill. Especially since they start acting hostile, and claim they’re gonna kill everyone on earth unless Minka gives them all of earth’s pet food. What’s the point of that!? To keep her from wandering too far? Why not just tell her to leave!? Why raise the stakes like that? It just ends up making things worse, since Minka ends up fighting for the doomsday hairdryer, and in the ensuing struggle, finds a stash of art supplies.

Oh no! Evidence of their duplicity! However, since Minka’s thick, she doesn’t make the connection, and instead teaches the aliens how to paint.

She heads back to earth (see: pet shop), having saved the planet from the three-headed aliens, and declares that it was stupid to want to go to space, and she should just be happy being a great artist. Um… no it wasn’t, and you can do both. Case in point:

That’s Canadian Astronaut, and former ISS Commander, Chris Hadfield on guitar. I also remember hearing he recorded an album up there. You gotta keep busy. So I don’t see why Minka couldn’t bring paint and canvas up there… as long as she didn’t make a mess…

Meanwhile, at the school, it’s the comedy stylings of Stinky and Baxter.

Pepper tells all the jokes, Blythe recites them word-for-word, and they pull it off without a hitch. That is until Pepper notices Flemingheimer in the audience, laughing his ass off, and she becomes filled with pride… or eroticism.

Whatever happened to Captain Cuddles? You should be crushing on him!

So because of this, her mind goes blank, and she forgets all her material.

Well, Blythe, it seems you only have one option: fake a stroke.

No, instead she tries to tell jokes, and it goes worse than can be expected.

After the show, Flemingheimer shows up, and tells Blythe just how terrible she is at delivery. But that her jokes, on their own, were gold. So he offers to buy them.

Well, I’d call that a win. Except that Blythe is taking credit for Pepper’s work, but there’s not much one can do about that. However, I hope Pepper gets to keep the money. She can spend it on more props!

And so, we close with a non-joke, and the credits roll.

Overall, I really liked this episode. And I think the thing I like the most is how the two plots tie together.

As I mentioned, Minka and Pepper both want nothing more than to fulfill their dreams of space travel and comedy stardom, respectively. Neither of which is an easy task for them. So it has to be faked. Blythe has to fake being a comedian, so people can hear Pepper’s material. And Russell has to fake a martian landscape, so Minka can think she’s a pioneer.

And I like this, because nine times out of ten, the A and B plots on this show are connected merely by the fact that they happen at the same time, and one or two scenes where they cross over. What’s the point?

The only other episode I remember having thematically connected plots was… well, the previous episode. Now that’s a strange coincidence.

All in all this was a really good episode. And given Russell’s repeated failures, it even managed to be scientifically accurate! I mean, ignoring the whole talking-to-animals part. After all, if they actually went to space, that’d just be stupid. Though again, why were they trying to launch it inside the shop? There’s a whole back alley they could’ve used!

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