William Shatner may be a big joke to some, but in Brooklyn, we’re laughing with him.
The Canadian’s career has spanned 50-plus years, light years from when he got his big break as Captain Kirk on “Star Trek,” but it always comes back to that iconic role.
“William Shatner’s always doing the same thing, but it’s always amazing,” said comedian Michael Austin.
For the past three years, Austin, along with Jerm Pollet, has been hosting a tribute to Captain Kirk, a tongue-in-cheek “birthday party” for the only true captain of the Starship Enterprise. But, as the name implies, it’s really a tribute to the man behind the gold tunic.
The ball is back on June 16 at the Bell House in Gowanus, and fans can revel in clips devoted to Shatner’s escapades over the years — from being an atrocious competitor on game shows to his stint as a monster-fearing plane passenger on “The Twilight Zone” to his legendary scene on “Boston Legal” where he shot a robber in the foot — twice.
It’s just par for the course for Shatner, who reinvented himself after “Star Trek” turned him from a hunk of manhood to a hunk of kitsch. No, we’re not talking about “T.J. Hooker” (aka “T.J. Hairpiece,” which maintained Shatner’s pompous bravado).
In 1986, Shatner appeared in the now-legendary “Saturday Night Live” sketch, in which he shows up at a “Star Trek” convention and replaces his usual camera-hogging with an admonition that the conventioneers, “Get a life.”
It was the start of something big. From that moment on, Shatner embraced — and then perpetuated — his joke of a career, winking at the camera in almost every role since, from lawyer Denny Crane to his stint as the “Priceline negotiator.” Fans noticed immediately, and the mainstream press eventually caught on, with Andrew Corsello in GQ paying Shatner the ultimate complement: he is the embodiment of the rise and fall of America herself.
“Shatner completely self-originating, yet also our creation, a living, breathing expression, in exaggerated form, of the country’s underlying anxiety about its own greatness — whether it’s spent, and perhaps whether it ever was.”
So for one night, at least, there’s no question about his greatness.
The “Shat Ball’s” main highlights come courtesy of its “Star Trek” spin-offs, and include live Trek-themed comedy acts, costume contests (the more DIY, the better), Star Trek trivia, Captain Kirk and Spock impersonation competitions, and, on the food and beverage front, cookies in the shape of the Starfleet insignia and such drink specials as Romulan ale (last year, it was Stella Artois with green food coloring) and Klingon blood-wine (also known as red wine).
“Star Trek just works really well for motifs you can count on,” said Pollet. “It’s the perfect recipe for a really good party.”
Under the moniker Secret Formula, Austin and Pollet have created a growing empire of TV and movie parties with cult followings. Before the Shat Ball, they’re coming off of packed screenings of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Twin Peaks” at the Bell House. The secret formula here isn’t so hard to understand.
“It’s a great way to bring like-minded people together,” said Pollet. “There’s a very warm feeling in the room. Everyone is all excited to be together to celebrate their favorite thing.”
The Shat Ball 3 at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], June 16 at 8 pm. Tickets $8. For info, visit www.thebel