The world’s richest human wants to build a city on Mars: Fifty years ago, Elon Musk’s vision of our future on the Red Planet might have sounded like science fiction — but today, Musk is actually serious about the idea of using billions of dollars from ventures like SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network to finance the move to Mars.

“In looking in the long term, and saying what’s needed to create a city on Mars, well, one thing’s for sure: a lot of money,” Musk said back in 2015. “So we need things that will generate a lot of money.”

What kind of city would Musk want to see on Mars? His vision calls for a place that offers “everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to nightclubs” while getting rid of “special interests and coercion of politicians.” But what if cities on Mars turn out to be like cities on Earth, complete with wealth disparity, racism — and ambitious billionaires?

That’s the premise for “Maurice on Mars,” a darkly funny series of animated shorts created and written by comedian and TV writer Tim Barnes for Comedy Central’s Animated YouTube channel.

“I truly think that people often jump to that aspirational part of living on Mars,” Barnes says in the latest episode of Fiction Science, a podcast focusing on the intersection of science and fiction. “But the practical thing is that you’re going to need people to build stuff once you get there. So the working class, the underclass, I believe will be the first people on Mars to actually build the White House there.”

Barnes himself voices the main character in “Maurice on Mars”: a struggling artist and barista who hops onto a shuttle heading for Mars, only to become a struggling artist working in a Martian coffee shop.

Maurice “realizes that this utopic society is actually just putting a new face on the same old Earth problems,” Barnes says.

In the first episode, Maurice runs into a group of college students who have been brainwashed to believe that Earth was always free of conflict, thanks to a Fact Inhibitor Chip.

Maurice somehow missed being implanted with the chip, and when he takes issue with what the students are saying, the drone police are summoned. “He’s teaching radical Earth theory!” one student says. Fortunately, Maurice’s robot boss comes to the rescue.

“The second episode is about sports on Mars. And the third episode is an episode in which Maurice accidentally causes the first recession on Mars,” Barnes says. “There’s just something wonderful about saying something and then [adding] ‘on Mars’ at the end.”

Space billionaires come in for some jabs. “There is this ominous figure throughout these three episodes of ‘Maurice on Mars’ named Braxton Tusk, who is a combination of Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — a billionaire who basically runs this whole ‘utopic’ operation on Mars,” Barnes says.

Barnes drew upon multiple streams of experience to put together the Comedy Central project. One stream has to do with his decade’s worth of work as a writer and performer for shows ranging from “Explosion Bus” in 2013 (where he voiced Talent Scout #2) to “The Tonight Show” (where he riffed on his role as a Black writer in a one-on-one bit with host Jimmy Fallon in 2020).

Along the way, Barnes got to know a host of other writers, actors and comedians — some of whom do the voices for characters in “Maurice on Mars.” For example, Lori Beth Denberg (of “All That” fame) plays Maurice’s robot boss, and Clare O’Kane (a writer for “Saturday Night Live”) plays a co-worker who may or may not be an alien.

Another stream of experience comes from his early days as a struggling comedian. “One of the first jobs I got was a very miserable one, where I was working at a Dunkin’ Donuts,” he recalls. “I always got the night shift, which didn’t allow me to pursue my actual goal of going out to open mics every night, because I was too busy selling doughnuts.”

Tim Barnes is a Brooklyn-based comedian and TVwriter. (Anthony McBrien Photo)

Barnes also draws upon his perspective as a Black sci-fi fan: He’s the co-host of a podcast called Yub Nub, which is aimed at “Star Wars fans who actually like Star Wars.” The Yub Nub clan recently addressed the controversy over racist comments about the casting of Black actress Moses Ingram as Inquisitor Reva in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” on Disney+.

Barnes notes that the Star
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