Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Outrageous Okona” (part 3 of 6)
When we return from commercial, Okona’s ship is still being towed behind the Enterprise. Riker goes to Engineering and asks Geordi about the state of repairs, obviously wanting the cretin off his ship before he screws every woman in sight and gets to Counselor Troi just by default.
Wesley, who is now obviously in desperate, hopeless love with Okona, asks Riker what he thinks of the guy. Riker calls him an “interesting man”. Then he says, “Oh, wait, you asked about Okona?” No, just kidding. Actually, he then says, “We’ve seen how he handles his ship. Apparently, he knows how to handle people as well!” Meaning? He knows how to ride them hard and wear down their zelebium contacts?
Wesley asks why Okona works alone. Riker, suddenly the expert on Okona for no apparent reason, says, “He’s a man who lives his life by his own rules! He does what he does by choice. His choice! Someday, you’ll make yours!” Wesley announces, “I already have!” I’m going to marry Okona when I grow up!
Over in the Ten Forward Lounge, we find Data talking to the Enterprise’s new bartender/hostess/group events planner/whatever, namely Whoopi Goldberg in the role of Guinan.
Inspired by the overnight sensation that is Okona the Rogue and his roguish sense of humor, the two discuss Data’s inability to laugh or find things funny. Yes, Data has come to Whoopi Goldberg, of all people, to learn about humor. Maybe this didn’t seem like a bad idea in 1988, but have you seen that sitcom of hers? Needless to say, I ain’t buying it.
Guinan asks Data if he knows what a joke is. Data goes to repeat his “bon mot” definition, but Guinan stops him, explaining that “you’re a droid, and I’m annoyed.” Actually, I’m almost positive she says that she’s “a Noid”, like the old Domino’s Pizza mascot, but that sure doesn’t make any sense.
Clueless, Data asks what he did to annoy her, and Guinan repeats the stupid line. Finally, Data gets it. “Humanoid!” Is that what the joke was about? As in, “noid” being short for “humanoid”? Or is she annoyed? Or is she trying to stop pizza from being delivered in thirty minutes or less? I really don’t get the joke, and I suspect it’s not a very funny one even if you do.
Data says, “I am not laughing!” Yeah, join the club, Data. In fact, the line into that club wraps all the way around the block. Data offers, “Perhaps the joke was not funny!” Here’s your Understatement of the Year Award, Commander.
Guinan insists the joke was funny. “It’s just you, Data!” Ah, yes, because all of the greatest stand-up comics in history have always said, “The joke was funny! It’s you that sucks!” Well, Data is bullied into believing that there’s something wrong with him for not finding her dumb joke funny. So, he asks her for guidance. Or in this case, for guinan-adance. Yeah. That’s right. That joke was funny. You suck!
Guinan tells him to “seek a higher power”, or in his case, “a smarter computer”. Smarter than the one used to generate this script? Let’s hope.
So Data heads on down to the Holodeck and tells the computer he wants a simulation that will help him learn about what makes humans laugh. The computer says there’s a lot of information on the subject, so Data narrows it down to a simulation of a humanoid, because he wants someone he can interact with. The computer asks if he wants someone specialized in “physical humor, cerebral, or general raconteur?” At this point, I’m seriously hoping Data will punch up Sam Kinison so he can scream “AHHH! AHHHH! AHHHHHHH!” for an hour as an approximation of what it feels like to sit through this episode.
Data asks who the funniest comic in history is, and it turns out to be “Stano Riga”, a 23rd Century comic who “specialized in jokes about quantum mathematics.” Oh, shit, I’m laughing already. That guy must have killed! Data calls this “too esoteric”, and asks for a “more generic” comic.
Names flash past and Data picks one. Dialogue indicates it’s a 20th Century comic, but we never actually learn his name. However, the display says “Ronald D. Moore”, the name of a member of TNG‘s writing staff at the time. But it’s in really tiny print, so it’s obviously an inside joke that no one would have ever caught back when this show was being broadcast by fuzzy UHF stations and people were watching it on 12-inch screens. (Similarly, people have since figured out the name of Teri Hatcher’s character from the tiny print on her cabin door. And… shudder… written fanfic about her character.)
Anyway, the Holodeck doors swoosh open to reveal a bland comedy club, complete with small tables and zebra striped chairs. On the stage, to my utter dismay, is none other than… Joe Piscopo [!!!]. Yes, out of all the comic minds in thousands of years of recorded human history, Data asks to see Joe Piscopo. Not Aristophanes. Not Shakespeare. Not Noël Coward. Not even Groucho Marx, for God’s sake. Joe Piscopo. What, was Arsenio Hall busy? Data asked for someone “more generic”, and well, I think he got it. Apparently, all records about who’s “funny” between 1982 and the 24th Century will be completely wiped out at some point.
Data steps inside and Joe Piscopo comes to life. Well, relatively speaking. Joe makes a dumb joke about wanting to take the audience home with him, then he spots Data and thanks him for bringing him here. And you can take that as a meta-statement from Mr. Piscopo himself if you like. Let’s just say the movie offers weren’t rolling in after Dead Heat.
“Mr. Comic,” Data says. “I wish to know what is funny!” For examples of what’s “funny”, here’s what Joe Piscopo offers (and keep in mind, this is probably why you don’t see much of Mr. Piscopo these days): “Tip O’Neill in a dress”, “words that end with a K”, and “a briefcase that looks like a fish” are what Joe finds particularly “hysterical”.
Data accesses his Head DB to get information on Tip O’Neill, discovering he’s a “20th Century politician, male, overweight, wearing female clothing! Carrying a valise that looks like a fish!”
“So,” Data says, “the juxtaposition of gender and an amphibian briefcase is funny!” No, what’s funny is that a fish is really not an amphibian. Stupid sloppy script. Joe tells him that whatever makes him laugh is funny, but Data points out nothing makes him laugh. Data informs him they have “unlimited” time here, and Joe says they’ll need it because Data is a “tough room”. Data accesses his Head DB definition of this, then insists he’ll try to be “an easy room”. How easy, Data? Madonna in an NBA locker room easy?
So, given another shot when asked what’s funny, Joe Piscopo says, “Jerry Lewis!” He gets up on stage and suddenly has thick glasses on, and fake teeth in his mouth. He then does his Jerry Lewis impression, presumably drawn from Jerry’s “coked out of his mind” phase. I’ve seen worse, but I wouldn’t exactly call it all that funny. Now, Joe’s impression of Frank Sinatra? That’s funny. Truth be told, Joe was probably SNL‘s best Sinatra, with Phil Hartman a close second.
Joe gives Data fake teeth and has him come up on stage. Piscopo leads Data in the Jerry Lewis impression, and after a moment, the two are just making guttural ape noises at each other and stomping around. Afterwards, Data asks if that was funny. Piscopo says it “brought down the house at Teaneck!” Data notes that this is a word that ends with a K.
“So,” Data says, “If you put funny teeth in your mouth, and jump around like an idiot, that is considered funny!” Yes, Data. But not in the intentional sense. Piscopo is put off by this, and suggests Data take up juggling or “weird birdcalls”. Data insists he wants to join in the laughter, so Piscopo says they should “put the physical stuff aside for a while”, which is probably for the best anyway with Joe, because the man is already sweating profusely. Something tells me this hologram of Joe was drawn from his “coked out of his mind” phase. If holograms had hearts, his would be about ten times normal size right now.
He says they ought to try some jokes. “You see,” Piscopo says, “That’s not my forte, but I think that would work good for you!” See, Joe is one of those stand-up comedians who’s not particularly good at telling jokes. Maybe he should be on a double bill with Carrot Top.
Data sits down while Piscopo tries some jokes, saying he wants to “start with the classics!” He begins to tell a joke about a traveling salesman. Thankfully, Data spares us the ordeal by telling the computer to speed up Joe’s presentation. Soon, all we’re left watching is Piscopo footage all sped up (hey, just like he’s on coke!) and his voice is at a high chipmunk pitch. Data, I assume, is absorbing all this info, so I guess he’s got a high transfer rate on stupid humor.
Cut to Data back in Ten Forward. He’s holding a cigar and doing the whole Henny Youngman/George Burns/Groucho Marx routine for Guinan. Since his first joke involves a guy going into a doctor’s office and asking for “a second opinion”, I doubt I even need to repeat it. Data finishes up with a “buh doom boom!” and Guinan just stares at him, stone-faced. And when you get this reaction from the star of Sister Act, you know you’re not funny.
Guinan tells a disappointed Data that maybe his timing is off. Data replies, “My timing is digital!” And it’s this comment that Guinan finally finds funny. She’s unable to explain why, but she asks Data to tell another joke. Data picks up his cigar and says, “A monk, a clone, and a Ferengi decided to go bowling together…” I know this is a bummer, but Data’s joke gets interrupted when Picard calls him to the bridge. Our dumb luck, huh?
Data says he’ll be back and Guinan calls after him, “Bring new jokes!” Yes, by all means. If Ms. Goldberg were still the Center Square, I would now be yelling, “I agree!”