Sunday, September 27, 2009

Comic 641: Laughter Free

FIRST OF ALL, which marketers are doing this? Sure, you'll see some foods that clearly should not have fat in them being marketed as fat-free, but that's because some foods do have fat. I recognize that using asbestos is clearly just an exaggeration, but I don't quite know what he's making fun of. This isn't some massive sudden trend in marketing, and to the extent that products say they are ___-free, they are usually things that one could reasonably expect to be there, some of the time.

The punchline is also poorly executed, and here's how you know: What is the punchline? Is it "asbestos-free"? If so, the text at the bottom is needless, and given that it has no humor content of its own. It just felt like wanted a caption for the sake of having a caption, and couldn't think of anything good. Maybe he should have combined it with the alt-text joke: Have one of the boxes labeled "Asbestos Free!" one labeled "Swine Flu Free!" and one with, I dunno, "Rat Brain Free!" and then the caption could be something about how it's just so hard to pick cereals these days, they all have so many advantages.

The fact that the cereal names themselves are as bland as their contents just shows how far we've come since Randall made up funny cereal name parodies [incidentally, of those six, I like the three on the right, because they are actually clever puns on existing cereals]. That is, I assume there are no jokes in the names - if I'm missing something do let me know.

OH HEY then there's another problem: SMBC did this joke way better. Two years ago. Here's
the link. Notice how it's better? How it uses the far funnier "skin from a dead hobo's mouth"? Yeah. SMBC is way better, in general. Why does Zach Weiner like xkcd so much? This is one of those eternal puzzles.


ALRIGHT. I'm taking off regular blogging for a week. Person #1, the editor of the xkcdsucks book, will take two days. I've instructed him to post the pdf of the book for you all to enjoy (It's been posted around before, but let's get it up in a post). Then Kirk will do the last day. Fun times! I will still be around, and I hope to write a post about all the new (non-book) stuff in the xkcd store.


  1. Hey y'all! Funny story-my old elementary school has asbestos everywhere. Nostalgic indeed.

  2. When I first read the comic, I assumed that they were all named to show a company's need to gain the upper-foot among it's look-alikes.

    Similar to the SMBC comic, without the labels, you'd have no idea which one to pick, as they're all copies of each other.

    Overall, it's a witty statement as opposed to a joke. A lot of XKCD seems to be that, so I think we should look upon this change with our heads held high with pride! After all, change is growth, and growth is good :).

    Sorry for the flimsy excuse of an XKCD defence. I'll try to do better in the future.

  3. Regarding Monday's comic: all that worry and neurosis will soon give way to futile maturity.

  4. I thought this was one pretty solid, but Carl's version is indeed better

  5. haven't read the post yet but could you do a compilation of the xkcd comics that rip off smbc comics? or does such a compilation already exist

  6. In addition to SMBC's better version, Mr. Show also did this type of joke great justice:

  7. Randall's is a competently executed version of an old, only borderline-amusing observation. To say that the SMBC is better is a bit of a stretch, really. It suffers some of the same problems (a caption needlessly explaining what the joke is, for instance) and the art, while colourful, is deficient in different ways to Xkcd. Those jars of jellies sure look strangely empty. 'Asbestos-free' certainly isn't tremendously amusing, but at least it's vaguely related, I guess, to real social fears. SMBC's hobo skin is of course completely unrealistic but I would challenge that it's really much funnier than asbestos -- 'dead hobo' is pretty juvenile, it's not very clever or sophisticated, that's for sure.

    It's also off the mark to accuse, either expressly or implicitly, Xkcd of 'ripping off' SMBC. It's not a novel observation at all. The Mad Men pilot, for example, which aired not long before the SMBC strip, highlighted this very same marketing tactic.

    So, in summary, this strip suffers not really because of its execution (the caption though is a big negative, but on the upside the title-text is OK), but because the subject matter just isn't very funny. Carl's suggestion, though, is certainly superior to both the Xkcd and Smbc versions.

  8. "Which marketers are doing this?" There are sugar packages saying "Sugar contains no fat!" Also, there is toothpaste saying "all the fluoride is 100% in ionic form" which is a good thing, because otherwise it would be a poisonous gas.

  9. Don't really know what to think about the new one. My gut tells me it's bad, but I can't quite pinpoint what's actually wrong with it. Looking forward to P#1's take on it.

  10. SMBC did it (at least) twice, actually

    Just throwing that out there

  11. I suggest replacing the link to xkcd in the image to an edit of the image which doesn't include the subtitle

    About Creepy:
    304 is what would really happen
    The lesson is that you're wrong about how all is going to go wrong, but it'll still probably go wrong

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Guys, the newest comic.

    Urgh, GOD, the newest comic.

    Ok, man, I just ceased being an agnostic because of the newest comic.

    Shit. Guys, where are my barf bags?

    Randall, get a life. Get out of the Internet. That starry-eyed naïve idealism is old and ANNOYING. Give it up, it won't happen. You're sinking as low as the writers of Mary Sue fanfiction on the Harry Potter section of, maybe even lower.

    Go to hell, will ya?

  14. The thing that pisses me off most about the newest xkcd is that the girl would rather bitch on her blog about how the guy isn't talking to her than, you know, take some fucking initiative and start a conversation herself.

    It's like the xkcd definition of a romantic is someone supposed to just sit and sigh longingly and hope someone will happen to them. The only people I've seen in xkcd who are actually depicted as being assertive in terms of starting relationships are Black Hat Guy and his girlfriend, who are maniacal (but lovable!) sociopaths.

  15. 641, 639, 638, 634, 630.

    Randall's really into his single-panel comics now huh?

  16. No, see, aloria, because everyone in XKCD is an autistic flower, and thus they are incapable of expressing emotion or empathy or starting a conversation.

  17. orite

    Having aspergers or social anxiety disorder means I never have to make any effort to socialize, EVER!

    (I actually have social anxiety disorder, so this comes as a great relief)

  18. You know, Fernie creeps me out. Annoyingly dismissing every bit of criticism someone throws at a comic one day and being one of the comic's harshes critics the next is weird. People are able to change their mind, of course, but someone who does such a 180 within a few days is either lying or a psychopath. Or Fernie, I guess.

    Anyway, newest comic sucks.

  19. Exactly, aloria. Obviously you would automatically fail at any social interaction--therefore you're exempt from the responsibility to try!


    It's possible that Randall is actually writing against this view. He certainly isn't portraying this sort of frightened non-flirting as how people ought to behave. But the sheer fact that nobody in his comics can interact sociably is a bit bizarre. (Mr. Hat, while proactive, is still a loathsome sociopath. He's gone from Colonel Jew Hunter to Shoshana Dreyfus.)

    Of course, the reason Randall is never able to portray convincing proactive character interaction might just be that Randall is incapable of portraying two distinct characters.

  20. Is Randall secretly referencing his source (SMBC) by using cereals as his examples? *gasp*

  21. Randal's idea of flirting is calling someone's computer cute. I think this may explain some of his relationship problems.

  22. I think he may be referring to the massive surge of companies calling their products "Trans Fat FREE!!1!" once it was determined that trans fat is bad for you. And that did happen, at least where I'm located.
    So, meh. This joke has been done before, but I probably would have laughed if he had executed it better.
    Regarding #642: I actually liked it in a way. Not really funny, but amusing...

  23. "Randal's idea of flirting is calling someone's computer cute. I think this may explain some of his relationship problems."

    Yeah, that too. It almost sounds like Randall is saying "hai guys i dun get it i called her netbook cute y is dat creepy???!?!?!??!???!??!", as if he REALLY doesn't get it. If I were a girl and some unknown guy did that to me, I'd have nightmares for weeks.

    And if some webcomic author did that to my lady, I'd shove his volume 0 book up his ass.

  24. Carl...sometimes your criticisms leave much to be desired.

    By the way guys, I sure am glad that you don't actually hate xkcd enough to stop reading it. Looks like you find it entertaining for an entirely different reason. So it serves another purpose, haha.

    Apparently, even the people who hate it enjoy it.

  25. I'm still trying to pinpoint when 'talking to other humans' became creepy.

  26. I don't think saying "cute netbook" is that bad. If someone came up to me with that, and I wasn't interested in him, it would be pretty easy to brush him off by saying "thanks" and going back to what I was doing. If he kept talking, then I'd start to get annoyed, but it's pretty easy to blow somebody off saying "sorry, dude, I'm REALLY trying to get something done before a deadline."

    The fact that the dude is stressing out THAT much over saying something as innocent as "cute netbook" is really sad. Netbooks are pretty new technology; it isn't unlikely that someone who saw one being used would want to ask about it. Hell, when I brought my EeePC into work, where everyone is a geek, lots of people wanted to play with it and ask questions.

  27. The current one has been done before; by coupling (only much better). Expect a review after I ate.

  28. "It's possible that Randall is actually writing against this view. He certainly isn't portraying this sort of frightened non-flirting as how people ought to behave."

    I don't think it's a great comic, but this is obviously the message. I don't think this one was that bad. For a preachy Randall Explains It All comic, it was decently executed.

    "It's like the xkcd definition of a romantic is someone supposed to just sit and sigh longingly and hope someone will happen to them."

    I don't think you are interpreting the message correctly. I think Randall is exhorting shy people to take the chance by showing them that chances are the person will not bite their head off.

    I don't really like the comic a whole lot, but I'm pretty sure you guys are off the mark on this one.

  29. Hey guys, I helped you by commenting on the newest comic.

  30. You misspelled Tarantino. (unless this was intentional?)

  31. - Remake but more cluttered and worse? - Anyone?

  32. I like the newest one with the netbook thing, but I think the last bit of dialogue could've been worded much better (the stuff she types on blog).

  33. math mage... oh math mage...

    come out to plaaayyyyyyyy

    and respond to my actual arguments you lurking fuck

  34. He can't, he cast Polymorph on himself and now he's bruce

  35. Math wizards...
    Come out to play-yay!!!

  36. couldnt get my old email to work so i made a new one fuckers!!!
    im the REAL deal!!!
    you betta believe it fyi send all lady porn my way plz

  37. fucking faggot stop impostering
    fucking im the real bruce bitches
    all you haters suck my balls

  38. Alright. Where are they?

  39. "The fact that the dude is stressing out THAT much over saying something as innocent as "cute netbook" is really sad."

    Okay, maybe it has to do with the fact that I live in a country like Brazil, but if you're a girl in a subway and a complete stranger sits next to you, looks down at you and says "hey, cute netbook", there's only one possible way you can interpret that: RUN.

    Hell, come on, there must be at least a thousand better ways to approach a stranger in a subway other than addressing her with the word "cute". If you think that's innocent, perhaps it's because you're surrounded by the nicest people in the world, but not everyone is that lucky, you know... Besides, a cute NETBOOK? What makes a "cute" netbook? It wears ribbons, or something? I can understand a technology geek being quite impressed with one of those, but then, calling it "cute"? What comes next? "I have a netbook at home. I call her Sara. We do... things... together"?

    Oh, and did I talk about the worst yet? How does the girl reply? "What." She says "WHAT." WHO THE HELL says that outside the Internet? Really, if THAT is how girls speak in his thoughts, the girl better stay the HELL away from him.

    God, the more I look into it, the more disgusted I get. Randall, get out. Just out.

  40. Regarding the cereals:

    I forget what product it was, but I remember seeing a label on a food item saying something like "No X!", then in small print "The FDA has banned the use of X in any food product."

  41. Well, I live in NYC, where people are generally dicks and evil and such, but if someone said "cute netbook," I'd assume it was because it was small (and small things are cute,) not read anything sketchy into it.

  42. sje46: The thing is that a persona is still you
    asher1: are you shittign me
    sje46: Not at all
    asher1: so you think whoever is WMH is actually WMH
    asher1: and believes what WMH believes
    aloria: what asher said
    aloria: really?
    sje46: to a certain extent, yes
    sje46: he has to

  43. so i've been banned from the irc channel, sean is faggot and a fascist

    that is all

  44. There's another problem with the "cute netbook" line: what kind of weirdo guy actually talks like that :O

  45. eh I don't think it stretches disbelief.

  46. "what kind of weirdo guy actually talks like that"


    "I'm still trying to pinpoint when 'talking to other humans' became creepy."

    Ah, idealists... so naïve... and so wrong.

  47. Fernie I am not an idealist I just happen to think that humans are social creatures and 'talking to them' is not a creepy thing. Especially on public transit, where everyone is bored and a little conversation can make the trip a little more interesting.

    Some of the best, and certainly the most memorable, conversations I've had have been with random street people, or at least people I didn't know at all. I've had evenings that would otherwise have been really mundane broken up by people who decided to strike up a conversation.

    Is it idealistic to believe that when you choose to live in a city, somewhere with millions of people, that you might have to interact with some of them sometimes? That when you are in a public space, riding public transit, you might have to interact with the public?

    And this is public transit, after all. You don't have to spend any time with these people. At the very most you might have ten minutes with them, and it's really easy to brush someone off if you don't want to talk.

    And he's talking about a netbook. Even if you have a conversation, it doesn't need to go anywhere. I mean, I've had this conversation. It goes something like this:

    "So, can you actually make real documents on this tiny machine?" "Yeah, it works pretty good. It takes a little getting used to the keyboard, but you can use it for most things." If you really want to engage them you can give a demonstration. If you don't think they'll grab and run you can even let them play around with it for a bit.

    This is if you are feeling social and don't want to just say "Thanks," and repel anything further with "I'm kind of busy" or with unreceptive monosyllabic responses. And did I mention you are probably never going to see this person again? There is no commitment to these random conversations. All you are doing is deciding not to be misanthropic and actually having a real human conversation.

  48. Is it idealistic to believe that when you choose to live in a city, somewhere with millions of people, that you might have to interact with some of them sometimes?


  49. Your ideas of idealism are fucked up.

  50. I find idealism to be too idealistic for my tastes.

  51. It's a sad, sad world out there.

    (I don't find the "cute notebook" thing the least bit sketchy, and I think Fernie's massively overreacting. But I grew up in a town of 5,000 people, so what do I know)

  52. *netbook, whatever

  53. For what it's worth:

  54. I just noticed I forgot to comment on this comic. Which is a pity, cause I like this one, despite Randall not even trying to draw a straight cereal box...

    Mole out!

    CAPTCHA: culard. I just wanted to add this comment box keeps on sucking...

  55. Sorry, this one was really funny.
    Punch line is that the "asbestos-free" cereal is the same as all the other cereals in the world, since all of them are asbestos-free.
    Marketing the obvious is annoying yet effective.

  56. no, no it wasn't that funny. We know what the punchline was, we just thought it was dumb. Being "annoying yet effective" as you put it is not a recipe for good comedy.

  57. joe bob, we got it

    i actually thought it was silly, but the similarity to the smbc comic made me like it a lot less

    anyway, you don't need to apologize when you find something funny

  58. ... The fact you guys are complaining about a WEBCOMIC is pathetic...

  59. Maybe you can say that on a more recent post so people can see you complaining about a BLOG and how it's pathetic.

  60. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal SUCKS!!

    I mean yeah, a few strips are funny, but only when they're not rehashing animal cruelty jokes with different animals, and going on and on about the same point about creationism.