‘Futurama’ Fans Discover How A Tragedy Changed A Classic Joke — For the Better

In 2011, Comedy Central wisely changed an innocuous joke with newly improper implications
‘Futurama’ Fans Discover How A Tragedy Changed A Classic Joke — For the Better

There may be no notion in the Futurama fandom more cursed than, “Maybe the network censors were right.”

Futurama’s struggles with its own channel are a huge part of the show’s history. After overcoming two cancellations and jumping platforms as many times, there is a healthy amount of acrimony among Futurama fans toward Fox and Comedy Central for their roles in stalling the series and threatening the future of the future. Despite networks shooting Matt Groening and his team down repeatedly over the near-quarter century of the show’s existence, Futurama keeps finding a way to come back even stronger — except, maybe, for the most recent Hulu revival which feels more like a slowly paced victory lap than a new era of the series. 

So, when a fan in the Futurama subreddit found that a joke from the show’s second season had been changed in the subsequent reruns and streams, the initial reaction was outrage before some fans realized that, actually, the censored version of the joke works even better than the original. For over a decade, when Bender placed a severed arm under the career chip scanner at the cryogenics lab in “The Cryonic Woman,” his occupation read, “Prime Minister of Norway.” When Norway suffered a pair of deadly terrorist attacks by a far-right extremist in 2011, Comedy Central decided to make a change.


Gotta give the re-writers a hand for their creativity.

In “The Cryonic Woman,” Fry, Leela and Bender are all fired from Planet Express after Fry and Bender go on a disastrous joyride with the ship using keys swiped from an inattentive Leela. Leela suggests that she and Fry use the old career chips that designated their respective occupations before they joined Planet Express to get their old jobs back, bringing Leela back to Applied Cryogenics with Fry and Bender in tow for some reason. There, it’s revealed that Leela accidentally switched her and Fry’s palm implants and that Leela is the only one who won’t be working at the cryogenics lab, and Bender pulls out the critical limb at the center of a censorship incident.

It’s eminently understandable why, with coverage of the terror attacks that killed 77 people dominating TV news at the time, Comedy Central executives in 2011 decided that reruns of the Futurama episode didn’t need to include the implication of the Prime Minister of Norway’s dismemberment when the terrorist who perpetrated the attacks targeted the actual Prime Minister with a car bomb. And, many fans realized, changing the joke from a “lol so random” punchline to a bit that’s applicable to the situation actually improved the scene.

“given the severed arm, i think the new joke plays better than the original,” one commenter wrote of the change to “Chainsaw Juggler.” Others disagreed, pointing out that, after the change, the salute Fry and Bender’s new boss gives Bender doesn’t make sense — but, really, neither did Bender having a random politician’s severed arm in his chest compartment. And, at the end of the day, neither a prime minister nor a chainsaw juggler have any more business working at a cryogenics lab than someone with experience working at a cryogenics lab, so Bender landing the job over Leela is still equally nonsensical.

Basically, in a future where nothing makes sense, its better to be silly than it is to be unintentionally offensive. No need to be up in arms about it.


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