The Old Negro Space Program

Putting the “Mock” in Mock-u-mentary, The Old Negro Space Program was a bit of snark created in 2003 by comedy writer Andy Bobrow, who has worked on television shows like Hype, Malcolm in the Middle and Community. Parodying documentaries from Ken Burns’ Civil War  and Baseball to Henry Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize, the short allegedly tells the little known tale of the Negro American Space Society of Astronauts (NASSA). Cleverly done, the video uses humor to satirize the now formulaic style of documentariy making–complete with a straight-faced white African-American studies professor, readings from diaries of “afro-nauts” and even the requisite “Negro spirituals,” that no documentary featuring black people before 1960 seems able to do without. At the same time, through laughter, TONSP addresses issues ranging from institutional racism to white co-option of black achievement. (Of course some deconstruction of the short’s very un-PC tone could delve into possible undercurrents of mocking real issues of black oppression and rendering them as entertainment, thus diluting their importance . . . but it’s Friday and this is funny, so I’m going to let it slide). Shown at the HBO Comedy Festival back in 2004, Bobrow calls TONSP one of the first video shorts to “go viral.” In 2006 it was even nominated for a Nebula, but was disqualified because of the date of its release. Years later, it remains a “classic” because everyone knows, “goddamned, space is one cold m*thaf*cka.”

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