Astronomy Club

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Astronomy Club TV Poster Image
Weird, funny, fresh comedy skewers life and race.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Stereotypes, sexism, and race are subverted in witty comedy sketches that may make viewers think twice about some of their preconceptions. The cast shows courage and teamwork in taking on difficult subjects. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sketches emanate from a humanistic and inclusive point of view, with humor leveled at foibles, not people. The vibe is absurd, not mean-spirited, and it punches up instead of down. 

Violence

Violence is played for laughs: A talking clove of garlic shoots a vampire with an animated gun; young children destroy a gingerbread house, killing the living cookies inside. 

Sex

Sexuality is sometimes a subject of jokes, like a skit in which a woman is described as "the thiccest" and defeats some villains with her "distracting derriere." Said villains follow her to their doom, saying happily "That's a powerful posterior." 

Language

Language is frequent and includes "f--k," "motherf----rs," "s--t," "a--hole," "bulls--t," "goddamn," "hell," "damn." Language can be insulting, like when a group of men call a woman an "old-ass ho" or one man calling others "punk-ass bitches." The "N" word is also heard. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs play a part in some skits, like one in which a group of superheroes take a "chronic break" to smoke joints. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Astronomy Club is a sketch show starring eight entertainers of color, most of whom are graduates of NYC's improv school Upright Citizens Brigade. Humor can tend toward the mature: for example, a skit in which a "thicc" superhero distracts villains with her "powerful posterior" (which ends with a group of superheroes all smoking joints together), or one about a group of slave ship "passengers" who find erotic inspiration in their close quarters. Violence is comedic, like a scene in which a group of talking gingerbread people have their home destroyed by a child celebrating the holidays. There's plenty of strong language, including "f--k," "motherf----rs," "s--t," "a--hole," "goddamn," "hell," "damn," and the "N" word. In general, the comedy punches up and makes fun of ideas, not people, and the troupe shows courage and teamwork in taking on cultural standards and sacred cows. 

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What's the story?

After getting together to mount a black history-themed show for New York City's Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, eight entertainers began calling themselves THE ASTRONOMY CLUB, the same name of this sketch comedy show. In short takes on culture, class, and the absurdity of being a human being in general, James III, Jonathan Braylock, Shawtane Bowen, Ray Cardova, Caroline Martin, Jerah Milligan, Monique Moses, and Keisha Zollar take Hollywood and the rest of the world to task. 

Is it any good?

Whip-smart and absolutely hilarious, this skit show nails every topic it takes on, with an absurdity and wit that rival classic sketch comedies like Saturday Night Live, Key & Peele, and The Kids in the Hall. As you might expect from a show in which three of the eight performers -- Jonathan Braylock, Jerah Milligan, and James III -- host a podcast about representation in entertainment (Black Men Can't Jump in Hollywood), many of the targets for Astronomy Club's gimlet comic eye circle around race: an ER for Black women's hair, an excited group of actors auditioning for a show with a Black writing staff, a support group for cinematic "magical negroes" ("Repeat after me," exhorts the group's leader: "I am the lead character of my own story ... I am more than the advice I give White people").

These sketches feel enchantingly knowing and lived-in, and they're hysterical and fresh, frequently upending viewer expectations. In one inspired sketch, a Black homeowner makes Robin Hood feel guilty for not dropping some of his redistributed wealth on Black people -- and then is discomfited by Little John, who wonders why the nouveau riche homeowner "had" to move away from Sherwood's south side. Other sketches in Astronomy Club aren't making any particular point, they're just weird, and delightful.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Astronomy Club airs on Netflix, not network television. Why? What types of audiences do streaming services seek to reach, and how are they different from network audiences? Does this type of comedy need the freedom of streaming to focus on mature content and subjects? Would the show still be funny without this type of mature content? 

  • Did any of the sketches on this series make you reconsider a point of view you held, or see something in a different light? Do you think these sketches are intended to? Can humor create social change? How? 

  • How does the comedy of Astronomy Club demonstrate courage and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths

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