William Shatner Once Did Stand Up Comedy As Captain Kirk And Bombed

Star Trek star William Shatner has revealed that he once bombed a comedy performance while portraying his iconic Captain Kirk character.

Star Trek is one of the biggest franchises in science fiction and across genres, with content in every conceivable medium spanning over half a century and a fanbase across generations. Before the massive and sparling continuity and soft reboots of recent times, the franchise started with Star Trek: The Original Series, which centered on the USS Enterprise and its crew headed by Captain James T. Kirk. This series helped cement Shatner’s career and led to several more appearances. His version of Captain Kirk is one of the few Star Trek characters to appear in both the Original Series and The Next Generation.

During his recent keynote interview at South by Southwest, Shatner fielded several questions about his iconic role and revealed trivia about it. Describing what he insisted was probably the worst thing that ever happened to him, Shatner admitted that he once attempted to give a stand-up comedy performance as Captain Kirk. The initial idea was that Shatner would tell lame jokes and pretend he did not understand that he wasn’t being funny, but the bit didn’t resonate with the audience, bombing insanely. The entire incident brings the infamous Gorn Fight to mind, a piece of Star Trek history that Shatner recreated for a Star Trek trailer promotion.

Another interesting question was the query as to how Shatner, who has admitted to having never actually watched Star Trek, landed the role in the first place. After simply answering “Talent” to a round of applause, the star relayed the full story. “So they went around looking for a new captain,” Shatner said. “I was in New York doing some work. They called me and said, ‘Would you come and see the pilot?’ With the idea of me being the captain. And I watched the pilot [and thought], ‘Oh my God, that’s really good. Why didn’t they buy it?’ Yet [the actors] were a little ponderous. Like, [soberly] ‘Helmsman, turn to the Starboard.’ You’ve been out five years in the middle of space, wouldn’t you say, [casually] ‘Hey, George, turn left’? ‘There’s a meteor coming!’… ‘Well, get out of the way!’ So I added a little lightness. Then it sold. And that’s the answer.”

Shatner has been and will always be an iconic presence in the Star Trek conversation, making it easy to forget that he’s had his fair share of controversy. His famously bad relationship with former castmates comes to mind, most notably his many spats with George Takei, who had some harsh words for his Star Trek co-star Shatner the last time the two interacted. While the extent to which the accusations and detractions leveled against him will affect his monumental legacy, in the long run, remains to be seen, Shatner has a permanent place in the Star Trek annals.

Star Trek: The Original Series is available for streaming on Paramount Plus.

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