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Fred Armisen & John C. Reilly Find Space For Comedy In “Moonbase 8”


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John C. Reilly as Cap, Tim Heidecker as Rook and Fred Armisen as Skip in "Moonbase 8." Photo: Showtime

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Before astronauts travel to places like the moon or Mars, they train for the isolation and exploration here on Earth. They’re called mission analogues and are important for understanding how humans will live for extended periods of time off-planet.

A moon analogue is also the scene for a new comedy show from Showtime. Moonbase 8 chronicles a trio of astronauts working to prove to NASA they’re worthy of a mission to the moon.

90.7’s Brendan Byrne spoke with co-creators and stars of the new show, John C. Reilley and Fred Armisen about the inspiration and research behind the series.

JOHN C. REILLY: I remember having this idea for a movie. I thought it would make a good horror movie about this Antarctica based on this article I read about it in National Geographic about how they spend 80 nights of darkness. What they described in the National Geographic article was how things get really crazy on the base when you spend that much time alone with a group of people that weird things happen. And I thought the initial idea was that would make a great horror movie. But then I pitched it to these guys. And they were like ‘no, that would be a brilliant comedy concept.’

We realized when we once we started doing research there are many of these real programs out there in Utah, Hawaii and elsewhere. So we thought, ‘wow, perfect.’ We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we can just mimic these bases that already exist and then inject our brand of comedy within it.

BRENDAN BYRNE: Would you call yourselves space nerds before this process?

REILLY: Absolutely. Speaking for myself, I’ve always loved space movies, space television shows and the real space program itself. I find  it an incredibly inspiring and noble and ambitious. Science and knowledge based rather than kind of like our team wins (even though the 60s that was a big part of the space program, beating the Russians). But now at this point the idea of bettering humanity by understanding the universe is something I think we can all get behind.

FRED ARMISEN: And also it’s also the aesthetics of it are just great. Going back to any time, it always looks cool. Any of those control rooms, the space suits the ships, it’s always always great. It’s has that timeless look to it.

BYRNE: You kind of took a risk, because I mean, I’ve been covering space for  six years now — and space isn’t very funny.

REILLY: You’re right space isn’t especially funny because if you make a mistake in space things get so dangerous, so fast. But what we had going for us in this case was it’s a simulation of space. They’re actually not on the moon, they’re pretending to be on the moon, which has a kind of a childlike, playful quality already. You’re pretending you’re out in the desert, picking up rocks and pretending that they’re moon rocks. There’s already something kind of funny about that, even though it’s necessary. And  it’s science based. And it’s what we have to do in order to go to these places. There was something funny about grown men acting like they’re on the moon together.

BYRNE: How much of the real world research did you put into the show?

REILLY: What we did to kind of research was we visited SpaceX in Hawthorne, California and we visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. What struck us was they’re both very vital places on the cutting edge of space, space travel and space technology. But I couldn’t have imagined two different more different vibes. When we went to JPL, it’s very deliberate, academic and a quiet place. Then we went to SpaceX and it was like the scene at the end of the first Star Wars were the scrambling the X-Wing fighters. There’s all these young people just racing around this place literally building spaceships in front of you. It was it was pretty funny to us, actually, the different energy between the two places.

Transcript was edited slightly for clarity. 

And you can listen to more of the conversation on this week’s episode of Are We There Yet?, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on WMFE and wherever you get your podcasts.


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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. He also helps produce WMFE's public affairs show "Intersection," working with host ... Read Full Bio »

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