The history of Netflix’s forthcoming sketch comedy show, Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show, actually dates back to 2014 when the New York-based improv troupe of the same name was first formed. Its founder, James III, wanted to put together a group that could audition for a spot at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. They would go on to become UCB’s first all-Black house team.
While their initial purpose was clear, co-head writer and player Jonathan Braylock admits to The A.V. Club that the group’s name—which was originally supposed to be a temporary placeholder—is a bit more complex. “We like to say the name means different things to all of us,” Braylock said, “so depending on who you ask, the meaning has a different answer. Kind of like the Joker’s origin story in The Dark Knight.”
And come December 6 that name will stream across the screens of sketch comedy fans, courtesy of Netflix. Produced by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show aims to harness the same charisma that attracted a loyal following through live performances and a Comedy Central digital series. The series’ official trailer, which drops later this morning after this exclusive peek, shows off the group’s penchant for humorously blending the topical with the absurd, the cultural with the slightly chaotic. Braylock noted that one of the sketches briefly featured in the reel, “Shade Off,” was one of the moments that made the Netflix writers room laugh the hardest during its inception.
Earlier in the month, Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show previewed its “Magical Negro Rehab” sketch through Netflix’s comedy social channels. The short, which took on one of the oldest tropes in entertainment, garnered favorable attention for its unabashedly cultural tone. Braylock hopes the show will encourage up and coming creators to tap into their lived experiences and find humor worth sharing, similarly to what Black Lady Sketch Show, Key & Peele, In Living Color, and many others have done for decades: “I hope that Black creatives continue to use comedy as a lens to satirize and poke fun of society, culture and ourselves. But to be real, Black people have always done that. We are very good at turning pain or oppression into art and comedy. I hope we can be inspiration for others behind us, the same way so many before us were the inspiration for Astronomy Club.” Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show also stars Shawtane Bowen, Ray Cordova, James III, Caroline Martin, Jerah Milligan, Monique Moses, and co-head writer Keisha Zollar.