Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Comic 491: If you know both "Twitter" and "Burma Shave Ads" Raise Your hand

poem!I have never had a more complicated set of thoughts about an xkcd comic before, and they were mostly positive. I guess I should lay this out in terms of the various layers I thought about in the order they occurred to me and you can get a glimpse into the mad world of my mind comprehending this comic:

1. LAME we already know you love memes. Maybe old memes are brought up again because you keep bringing them up in your stupid comics.

2. Wait what the fuck ""burma shave" ? What is that, some stupid viral video from 2002? Ugh, if I don't get the joke no one will.

3. Off to wikipedia it is!

4. Huh. So...not really an internet meme, a kind of way-the-heck-long-time ago pre-internet meme. No way in hell most of his readers know that one.

5. So he's taken the Burma Shave meter and rhyme, and used it to talk about putting old memes on twitter, and in so doing has put an old meme on twitter. or did he just blow my mind

6. Wait a second. Twitter is probably full of burma shave jokes. That's basically the point of twitter for some people - come up with a meme (Sarah Palin facts!) and then spew out thousands and thousands of variations on it. So...he's basically just taking a meme on twitter and meta-ing it. Like rickrolling rick astley or, I dunno, having cats make lolhumans or something.


8. Forumites still suck, and they can't write poems for shit.

Anyway, while my head is still spinning, I still think this is a way above average comic...but maybe it's too circular and some of you hate it. You all?

update: Ok, what the hell - The Onion: McCain Blasts Obama As Out Of Touch In Burma-Shave-Style Billboard Campaign. This is dated October 22, so two days later than the xkcd comic - so either those ads are way better known than I realized, The Onion doesn't think we'll notice, or it's a hell of a crazy coincidence. I have no idea. For what it's worth I think, unsurprisingly, that The Onion's joke is way better. In part because there are just more jokes, but also that it makes a political point about John McCain being old and out of touch.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm in my mid-twenties and I know about Burma Shave (of course, I grew up in drive-through country, so those types of ads are still popular for some farmers and stores). Anyone who is an avid puzzle solver will probably know about it, too - there was a brief fad in the 90s for puzzle books to have a "Burma Shave" puzzle or two.

  3. this comic reminded me a lot of the more recent episodes of family guy - namely the episode where peter plays for the new england patriots. he scores a touchdown and then leads the rest of the field in a four minute singing of a song from 1957.

    get it? it's old and fairly obscure! you wouldn't get the reference! hahaha it's so damn funny!



  4. Burma Shave and Wall Drugs billboards have moved from the physical to the cultural landscape. Too bad the product isn't still marketed under the same name, or it the ad campaign would still be selling shaving cream!

    I think that's part of the point of the comic: everything old is new again, or there's nothing new under the sun.

    The comic made me smile, but not laugh. Your comment that it must be some internet thing from 2002 did make me laugh, and improved the comic for me because I then realized how many people were going to learn from this comic about how annoying memes predate the internet.

  5. I didn't like it. It was just another meme comic, about eighty months behind the times--and reinforced my belief that Friday's comic should have been a tweet, not a comic.


  6. Sarah - Ok, I guess some people know more about these things than me...still, I bet most xkcd don't. Not that it really matters, I don't hold using a very old (relatively) refernce against him.

    Greg - I hope it goes without saying that Family Guy, too, is overrated (at least the newer round of seasons). Not as bad as xkcd but not as good as people think.

    Aviatrix - I basically agree. Everything old is new again, and to say so, the comic uses a new medium to parody an old meme. Still makes my head hurt.

    Rob - Agreed that it would have worked just as well as a tweet, though at least he drew some pictures this time (though panels 1 and 3, now that I look at it, look copy/pasted). It would have been a better tweet than the last comic would have been a quote.

  7. Yeah, this one went way over my head.

  8. I took it as a reference to the fact that since Twitter has a character limit, people have to post stuff in separate posts, and that's how they have to post memes, and it was like those Burma Shave ads where they split up the message over several billboards.

    It's obscure, but no more so than all those math and science comics.

  9. I'm grateful to this comic for introducing me to the Burma-shave adverts. Somehow old adverts often make me laugh.
    How about this one:

    Though his comic
    isn't funny,
    posters make him
    lots of money.

    Randall Munroe.

  10. Ouch, Vlad. I can feel Randall's cries of anguish from here (because he is not very far away).

  11. Mike - this is interesting. By my count though, the total poem is only 78 characters long, only about half of Twitter's 140 character limit (thanks, wikipedia!) so it doesn't quite work, but it is of course true that twitter makes you split stuff up so maybe reading twitter feeds is a similar feeling to reading the burma shave ads, so it's correct in the spirit of the thing at least. That's a good point, and just another layer of ideas to try to comprehend.

    Vlad - NICE. very, very nice.

  12. Carl, prove to us that you are not Randall Munroe or an associate thereof and that this isn't an enormously elaborate prank or focus group for "your" comic.

  13. On the LJ feed, the "getting it" rate was about 40%. I'm more familiar with the Burma Shave ads than I am with Twitter (what is the point of Twitter?).

  14. thomas has a good point. You make some pretty shitty arguements about why xkcd's "shit" ;). All it's doing is drawing attention to potential readers who would find it funny; people who don't like xkcd wouldn't read it in the first place.

    Besides, haven't you anything better to do than whine & obsess about something that's not even offensive? Wow.

    (btw, I'm not some xkcd zeolot, I very rarely read it; although now you've reminded me of it I might go check it out.)

  15. Thomas, that's really weird that you say that, because I just got an e-mail from someone with the same theory. Alas, I cannot think of a good way to prove that I am not Randall Munroe besides just saying it, and pointing out that if I were Randall I would probably work a little harder at advertising this site (it gets about 200 views a day, give or take 50, about). If you can think of a way for me to prove it I'll try it.

    Philly - I don't really mind drawing attention to xkcd (at the very least I could stop having the comics on here be links to the site) because I think it helps my argument to see it.

    I do occasionally have better things to do than blog about xkcd, it is what I do with the rest of my time. And I do consider bad comedy offensive. If you don't understand where I'm coming from on that one I don't think you'll enjoy this blog very much.

    Which arguments do you think are shit?

  16. Philly - I don't think we're on the same page. I just have a theory that Randall could potentially be behind this blog in order to court his own haters and sample the negative reactions to his comic. You know, beat the REAL Carls to the punch.

    Either way, I enjoy this blog and hope that, as Carl's said, it exists for as long as it's fun. I'm having fun. Why aren't you?

  17. Your criticism of this particular strip complements and enhances its humor and cleverness. I've actually laughed, as oppossed to the too often half-smile xkcd usually induces.

    Thank you.

  18. Randomly popping in to add that Neil Gaiman's novel 'American Gods,' features Burma-Shave signs as well as a strange but true place called the House on the Rock, and I learned about both in that book. The book is fairly popular among geeks and blogfans, since its author is a well-known blogger as well.

  19. Thanks, cow 2001.

    Kassi, I guess it's just a better known meme than I realized. Oh well. House on the Rock still doesn't beat Canada's Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump.

  20. Just think of the first part of Run-DMC's "It's Tricky"

  21. Late to the party, but I have to say: my favorite Burma shave joke is this one, for reasons I do not quite understand.

  22. what the HELL is going on there, kirk?

  23. I have no idea, it is a dada-nonsensical comic where each character speaks a different language. (including a gal who talks in calculus equations)

    I think I enjoy the comic because I have long since stopped trying to make sense of it, and therefore take it as the product of some drug-addled dream.