Thursday, April 30, 2009

Comic 575: Forced Humor

Tag Shitination
Oh my god this comic violates so many standards of what makes decent comedy that I just want to throw up all over it.

The most fundamental flaw is that while something like this may be amusing if it was a real life challenge, in comic form, we all know that Randy just thought up some song title combinations. If he couldn't think of a good combination for lesbian voyeurism, he would have come up with something else for Girl to say, after being prompted by some other challenge from Guy. These things are funny when they happen in real life precisely because they are improvised, and so seeing it in comic form will never be funny, no matter how clever it is.

But that is not the only problem! We have the glaringly stilted exposition of "SO I HEAR YOU CAN COMBINE SONG TITLES TO MEET ANY CRAZY DEMAND, EH?" first line. Might as well start The Hound of the Baskervilles with "SO YOU'RE SCARED OF A BIG OLD DOG THAT'S ON YOUR PROPERTY?" it just thrusts the reader into this horribly contrived scenario that doesn't make any sense or have any resemblance to real life - and the terribly awkward phrasing of that sentence is an effect of this.

Obviously this comic fits all the usual xkcd problems of creepy (take normal songs and make them lesbian for me! and have me WATCHING.) but on the second one, hell, it's not even lesbian. You don't know what gender the narrator is. Sure the girl is female, but then any love song to a girl would become lesbian. You only have one and a half examples, here, randy!

Look: We all know what happened. You thought of this one only mildly amusing mash-up and constructed a comic to use it as a punchline. And forced yourself to think of a second title, and failed to make it fit the category. Good job! you do not understand comics.

In other news, hey! Randall posted something funny on his blog! ha ha, but it was just because it was a quote from Joey Comeau.


heads up by the way that next week i will be off to Mysterious Lands yet again, and everyone's best friend Commenter Jay will be taking over posting. I don't think he's posted yet so play nice everyone.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A friendly message from

Just got this in the old inbox:


Your blog at: has been identified as a potential spam blog. To correct this, please request a review by filling out the form at ...

Your blog will be deleted in 20 days if it isn't reviewed, and your readers will see a warning page during this time...


The Blogger Team

P.S. Just one more reminder: Unless you request a review, your blog will be deleted in 20 days

Now, they did say I wouldn't be able to post, and apparently I can, so who knows. I smell....shenanigans!

Anyway, long story short: People think I am secretly randall munroe but finally I have proven otherwise: I am really a robot! Specifically, the DoucheBagger9000

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Comic 574: The Pig Disease

swine crap, yum
So yes, what you are all thinking is correct, this comic is just a poor shadow of the youtube one. The difference being that youtube is actually full of the dumbest people you will ever see, and twitter has that but also has smart people. When it comes to diseases and stuff, this new superfast communication can actually have some really interesting effects- as I recall, Google was able to track the spread of a more common flu a few months ago by seeing where people were searching for certain symptoms, and that actually traced the illness faster than the CDC could do it. ANYWAY that's what I thought this comic would be about, in the grand "i am xkcd and I have discovered something NEW to show you!" tradition, but I was wrong.

What we have, of course, is just "Hur hurrr, inter-net peepol R dum peepel", exactly like we had in YouTube Comic. And this was done on purpose! That is to say, Randy knew he was referencing it, because he included user "crackmonkey74" on both.

And that is actually where it gets weird: In addition to just putting dumb internet quotes out there, he made a lot of the users...other webcomic people. I didn't recognize them all, but from what I can tell, apparently Jeffrey Rowland is suggesting that Joey Comeau has been up to some type of pig fuckin' antics.

I'm not sure what the point of those references is - is he actually trying to say that those people are writing those things? I suspect not. Is he just trying to reference them so they link to him? Mission accomplished, I'm afraid. Is he just trying to make his readers who recognize the names think that this is the greatest comic ever? Probably. Does he end up making a much more confused joke than he intended? Yes!

long story short: References can be funny, but they have to mean something. Also be accurate, Jeffrey Rowland does not talk like that. He is much angrier and spells things wrong and makes up words. Here is a hint: if you can just replace the name of the person ("wigu") with any other name and have it still make sense, congratulations! you are being too vague in your reference!

And as long as we are discussing Overcompensating, I am happy to say that I am within 10 months of catching up to the present in the overcompensating archives! Guys: I have never been happier. this is a great comic. just beware: whenever he mentions his spider bite, do not click the link! his spider bite is so gross!

Oh also randy: if jeffrey rowland really loved you, your shirts would be on sale at his store, like all the good webcomics.

update: Jay, if you don't e-mail me, I can't tell you the secret for how to be a guest poster! Then Rob will have to guest post and we all know that no one wants that to happen.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Comic 573: Fucking with people

shit tons of shit
This comic is dumb in about five ways and I have written a whole bunch of different opening lines to this post but none can sufficiently contain the dumb glare this comic inspired in me. So consider these the ravings of a half-insane me, in no particular order:

-Really? We're supposed to assume that this girl has never been upset once before? That she hasn't noticed her horrible speech problem ever in her life?

-Also, I don't get it - if she doesn't believe her dad, why is she upset at all?

-Fucking up someone's vocal chords doesn't count as "trolling," it falls into the related category of "violent physical abuse"

-I am so fucking tired of rickrolling. Stop it. ok?

-Rickrolling does not, and never will, represent our generation to the next one, no matter how hard you try. Our pranks are awesome: We troll people by invading their countries and destroying everything, so beat that, future kids.

-Ha ha, the idea of messing with young children so you can control them later in life is so funny! I laughed almost as hard as when you did this the first time!

-I guess the crazy hair is supposed to be because it is The Future? That and the fact that we have apparently invented chairs that people merely float above! Oh, the future will be an exciting time - oh no wait, Randall always draws floaty people. Well, that 70s Ikea chair can be the indication that we are in The Future. Also the hugely specific label declaring this to be "The Future."

There's a truly terrible trope, among lousy comedians, that this comic has perfectly: I can't quite describe it, but it's where you loudly refer to some crazy and unlikely occurrence, only to have that thing happen right then. When done poorly, as here, it just feels very staged and terribly unrealistic. "We made it so your vocal chords are messed up!" "No you didn blargh hareghasdg." For the perfect example of this, read the alt text to Comic 533. Doesn't that feel so very contrived? Doesn't that make you feel all gross?

I'm not sure this post captures my rage as well as I'd like, but just so it's clear: I hate this comic.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Comic 572: Keep Looking

find me a comic that doesn't suck
I feel a little conflicted on this one. I do appreciate the "ha ha, fuck YOU" element of the guy's whole life being for such a trivial thing as a scavenger hunt, but still: must everything end up with a destroyed romance?

The whole thing - this sort of lifelong charade of friendship, suddenly tossed away at the end - reminded me far too much of that recent PFSC that I loved so much. I know the Randall-Defenders will say that they are completely different, but I just mean the feel: Life progressing quickly and then suddenly being brought back to where we started. No? I think so.

Speaking of which, did anyone else think the most recent Penny Arcade seemed awful damn close to a recent Amazing Super Powers? Oh, well then read the title of PA and the alt-text of ASP again, and you will. COME ON, penny arcade, you are better than this. Thanks to secret agent PR for pointing that one out.

I don't usually write about art stuff because it's something I just don't care about as much, but I'm finding something starting to bug me about the shot of the front door with the stairs leading down from it, seen in panel 6. But also seen in this panel 1, these panels 7 and 8, and this whole comic. Also: the shrivled old people heads creep me out. Also: Why is the cane floating in panel 8. Also: do you think the other two old people in panles 7 and 8 are supposed to be the same as the people in the background of panel 1? I suppose it makes a little more sense.

Um so: today is this blog's 1 year anniversary. I was going to write something long about it but then decided that would be boring. Goodness, April 2008, what a long time ago. Thanks to all of you readers, thanks for commenting if you did, unless you were stupid in which case go to hell, thanks to people who e-mailed me, thanks to guest writers as well. Thanks to Jonathan Harford, the first person to really comment on the blog, which was terribly encouraging.

Guys: let's keep making our little corner of the internet a less sucky place, for however many years it takes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comic 571: Putting me to sleep

i rate this comic a -32786 out of 10
looks like it's back to the good old days of programming jokes for programming nerds! In today's comic, Our Hero is counting sheep to try to fall asleep. But he counts too high! His brain is acting like a computer, and it has an integer overflow, and he starts again from the lowest possible number! You see, he will keep counting forever.

Amazingly, that is all there is to this joke. Instead of counting normally, he gets an overflow thing. But - that's it. He is making a mistake an old computer or simple program might make. But he is human! Does that strike anyone else as an ungodly pathetic joke? It's even worse than most other comics in the "blurring the line between man and machine" category.

I'm going to say this again, because the comic is so petty and simple that I can hardly believe it: The joke is that instead of counting like a human, he is counting like a computer. That is all.

Here's a theory I have: It is not possible to come up with a joke told entirely in numbers. Not counting if the numbers stand for letters or words or something, just with numbers as numbers, you will never get anything funny. Eh?

Monday, April 20, 2009


Surely you have all by now heard the news which is taking the internet by storm: xkcd, a web-comic, has decided to venture forth into the terrifying world of printing things on paper, and selling them, for money! The New York Times has the shocking details.

I'm not totally sure why the New York Times decided to write about this - unless I'm much mistaken, they didn't write about The Great Outdoor Fight or Your Whole Family Is Made Out Of Meat, which are the two webcomic books on my shelf now, or The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack, of which I read a friend's copy recently. Yet the Times manages to write a full article about this particular webcomic book. No matter. That's not what I'm here to say.

Anyway, this should be interesting. According to the article, the book will have 150-200 xkcd comics, and that seems like a very smart move to me. I think a book with the 150 best comics so far could be pretty high quality. It's once you try to find the top 300 or 400 comics that you have to delve into the newer ones and will inevitably find lousy comics.

I'm very curious to see which ones they choose - if it's mostly older (#100-#300 range) then it'll be good, but it will also sort of subtly imply that the newer ones aren't good enough to warrant inclusion.

I'm also curious which kinds of people will want this: mostly fans, who just want to support the strip and show it off to their friends, or people who like the concept of xkcd but aren't into the whole online thing? A print run of 10,000 seems to imply the former to me.

My last concern is how much new content there is in it: the new PBF book, for example, is 40% white space and 48% just the comics that are online. A few old sketches and an interview were added, but I wouldn't pay much for those. The Great Outdoor Fight, on the other hand, has a lot of stuff not seen online (not to mention that it's a story that works better all in a book together, whereas PBF is about the same experience either way).

Lastly, does anyone know how I might go about getting a review copy of the book? I am easily one of the top 15 xkcd critics, and I swear I will give it a fair reading and recommend it if it so deserves.

Also lastly: Randy's joke at the very very end of the article is pretty good, but gah, putting "he/she" into a quote like that is just so damn awkward!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Comic 570: Internet Scam

old and lame, a winning combination
This comic suffers from both of the fatal flaws of comedy: Poor choice of material and terrible execution.

Perhaps the execution angle would be simpler. The joke is taking the idea of annoying banner ads and pretending they are real, the idea being no one will know they are real. OK. But the problem is this: The punchline should be concise. The idea of "a genuine banner ad" should hit you all at once, preferably in the final panel. Because that's the only source of humor (which is fine, most comics have one joke) it should be made as powerful as possible. But it's not here: The second panel makes you think of banner ads, the third panel tells you no one clicked on it, and the fourth panel...well the fourth panel just says the ad was flashing, which is either implied in "annoying banner ad" or irrelevant.

This comic could stand to be condensed to 3 or even 2 panels. "What's the car for?" "We bought it for the Xth visitor to the site but apparently he missed the notice telling him he'd won." Done. The end. As it is, the last panel could be made into the alt-text and it would work better.

Of course, the comic would still suck. Because the idea of scams being real is old. The Dreaded Forums were brimming with examples, such as this Least I Could Do or this skit from Mitchell and Webb, which just so everyone knows, is broadcast in america. My own thoughts immediately went to the Leon Sumbitches Achewood story, which is 8 strips long so make sure to keep clicking "next." All are executed differently, but there is nothing in the xkcd that isn't present in all of those as well.

I know Randy reads achewood. He has it linked from his page, and I'd hate to think that he links to comics he doesn't read just because other people like them. So I'm not going to say randy is copying other people's ideas (again), just that these ideas are pretty common and xkcd is taking the lowest of the low hanging comedy fruit. But if you think he copied the joke...well, I won't stop you.

late update: IT'S A GOOD THING I'M GOING THROUGH THE OVERCOMPENSATING ARCHIVES! because I just found this, which entirely has the joke of xkcd's alt-text contained within it. But with rhymes, colors, and recurring characters. On an unrelated note: you should read the overcompensating archives.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comic 569: Worst Game Ever

here's some stuff
Welcome to How To Make A Joke 101. Today's lesson is called, "Make people think one thing is happening, then reveal to them that the situation is different." It is a simple procedure and it will guarantee laffs-a-plenty for hours to come.

For example, look at today's xkcd. You thought he was talking about a kingdom, didn't you? I mean, sure it was confusing, because he talked about people overthrowing the government but then he also got into some stuff about borders and other people being in the kingdom and "our" flag on "their" building or something.

Anyway the point is REALLY HE WAS JUST PLAYING A GAME! ha ha, a game that is usually about violence and shooting crap, he made it about peace and stuff! AND YOU DIDN'T KNOW, UNTIL HE TOLD YOU.

So that is how you make a comic! just follow the formula for some ORIGINALITY

So yeah, that's the feel with this comic. Just formulaic. You know there's going to be a twist, you wait for it, and yeah, there it is. I guess I should give him points for not naming the comic "Worst Server" or "Crappy Capture the Flag Game" and giving away the joke, it's the kind of thing he has done too much before.

On another note, I can't figure out why I love this recent Pictures for Sad Children comic but I do. So read it.

update: Ok this is a weird thing to write, but after a day and a half of thought, I think this is a kind of crappy post. I don't think it's wrong to use a standard comic formula, I think what I meant to write (or at least, what I should have meant to have written?) is that for me, this comic just made me wonder while reading the whole thing what the twist punchline would be. That combined with my lack of capture-the-flag-in-games playing meant that I didn't like the comic much.

But I see that other people liked it more, so I officially declare this one of those comics that for the right people (admittedly a small group, even of xkcd-readers) this was a good comic, and I am not really in a place to judge it so badly.

However: "New Car" does in fact suck, of this I am sure. So all these weird being nice feelings i am expressing here will go away when I post on that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Comic 568: Well what do we have here...

well well well...
Well it's two weeks later and we are back at the awkwardly named "The Uncomfortable Truths Well." It's interesting that this was the idea Randy decided to go back to - I guess he thought of some more ironic truths and a better joke, and figured he should just go back.

It's certainly an example of a recurring theme which I have recently demanded, so I certainly should praise that. I could see this being a fairly good running joke - provided he thinks of some funnier uncomfortable truths than "you'll never find a programming language that lets you express yourself right." And today's comic is better than the first one - this has an ok joke, where the last one was just trying to make you feel sad. Honestly what this feels most like is an edited version of the last Well comic.

(And as long as I'm linking to the new xkcd: could be better! message board, let me encourage you to head on over there and see how things are going. It's the continuation of the xkcd: could be better! blog, because a message board is a smarter way to organize that sort of thing. it's fun, people!)

Lastly, Randy, you have got to change it to the "Well of Uncomfortable Truths". It just sounds so much more natural, plus you can avoid all the ugliness of the design you currently have on the sign, as pointed out by commentor the_cuddlefish on the last post (go to the comments and search for "seattle").

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Comic 567: if I could go back in time keep randall at NASA...

ha ha im ironic
It's another one of those situations where I'm not an electrical engineer (dammit I'm never an electrical engineer!) so I really can't appreciate this comic I don't think. I mean, I see what he's going for, obviously, apparently Ben Franklin set some convention that was HOLY CRAP WRONG and so the Time Machine Man decided to go tell him to change it rather than stop something terrible from happening! good one, time machine man!

But yeah, having never had to work with this sort of thing, I can't fully grasp if this comic is exactly as petty and annoying as it seems, or if it actually has some merit. It seems like it's just saying "ha ha, I'm not an electrical engineer but I totally know about the problems you sometimes face!" but hey! maybe I'm wrong. Anyone get any value out of this?

What I do know is this: The alt text is terrible. Where the comic joke is "ha ha, instead of stopping something terrible we're stopping something annoying", the alt-text says, "ha ha, instead of stopping something terrible we're stopping something annoying." lame.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why I Pick On Randall

One of the more legitimate questions that gets shouted at me is why I hate Randall Munroe so goddamn much. xkcd is far from the worst comic online, and lots of people have had success with less (see: your newspaper's comics section).

Here's why I think Randy deserves more criticism: Given the "requirements", as I'll call them, of his comic, he should be doing much much better.

Think about this: Most newspaper comics have to think of stuff to write 7 days a week. Randy's schedule just gives him 3. Even most of the popular webcomics tend to be daily, if only on weekdays (C&H, Qwantz, Overcompensating, the Natalie Dee and Drew comics, Chainsawsuit, SMBC). That's still more per week than xkcd.

True, some comics publish only once a week - but these (Subnormality, Truck Bearing Kibble when it existed, PBF when it existed) tended to feature pretty complicated art - so at least the artist had to do a lot more work, per week, and you got a much more visually appealing end result. xkcd: not so much.

Even the updates-when-possible comics (Achewood, Kate Beaton) are much longer and have more interesting visuals than xkcd.

But the bigger issue isn't the timing. It's that thematically, Randall has no limits. He has exactly two recurring characters, and they don't even recur that often. He has no particular amount of space he must fill - they can range from tiny to huge. He has no limitation on what he can or can't represent (unlike newspaper comics which probably can't, for example, use the phrase "gosh-darned cunt" or show stick figures having sex and get away with it). Sure, xkcd claims to be about math, romance, sarcasm, and language, but there are tons of examples that have none of those.

For example: If Ryan North, sometime around his 1400th comic, made a crappy comic, I can forgive him. His limitations - self-imposed, but an integral part of his comic - are tough: six panels, only three on-screen characters, a fixed amount of space. Same with Achewood: He's got some well developed characters, but he has to use them. Kate Beaton: She always draws historical stuff in her own completely charming way.

Randy...has none of this. So given that he can write anything he damn wants, I expect a little more. Achewood can't have a long buildup to a painful pun. Moe can't just comment on Final Fantasy VII. Cyanide and Happiness never has subtlety. But xkcd can have all this, and basically anything else. He has no limitations - so it's especially lame when he can't think of anything funny.

Of course, Oscar Wilde might say that this explains xkcd's problems - he wrote that "the absence of limitation is the enemy of art," meaning that by giving yourself totally free reign, you take away the meaning or interest of anything you might produce. Perhaps one way Randall could try to improve would be to limit himself in one of the ways I've mentioned.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Comic 566: should have taken the blue pill...

matrix was cooloh hey it's four different comics that look like the same comic! Let's quickly dismiss each of them:

1-bonus points to whichever of you pointed out that Trinity never looks like that (her hair, for example), it's just that Randy can't draw women except for their hair. Anyway, this just felt like another "Hey, what if movie characters were sarcastic all the time??" comic, like the Princess Bride one or the Episode V one. funny? I guess, if you like imagining what a Randall Munroe screenplay would read like.

2-Hey, you figured out how to make Lawrence Fishburne look black! now go back and do it in all the other panels!

3-ha ha, penis!

4- Ok, I'll admit it, this last one was not bad. Not that the "I hate the second two matrix movies" is a clever premise, but it was still done well. Of course, the fact that alt-text says he enjoyed the movies when they came out is a serious problem, but is valuable evidence for those of us trying to figure out why Randall has such bad taste.
that was FUN

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Comic 565: Insecurities

lord dumbleton of suckstowne-upon-avonHa ha, the security question was really from the police, who are trying to find dead bodies! Ha ha. It's funny because the man killed people but almost gave away how! Luckily, the police will prove nothing, as the man is too clever for them. Komedy Gold!

Why would anyone think that was, for a second, anything other than a trick? "oh hey, a security question that only applies to murderers, accomplices, and gravediggers! That's most people!" This whole comic's paranoia tone seems a bit too much like comic 525, right down to the reaction shot of the startled spies, wearing headphones, and looking at oddly shining displays.

This is one of those comic whose idea is ok, but it could have been done better. We know nothing about the characters or the situation, which I think makes it worse. We're just sort of thrust into this scene and get a little comedy out of it, but not much. Hint randall: this is a situation where a recurring character could be nice!


Guys remember when someone got access to Sarah Palin's e-mail by just figuring out the answers to her security questions? Good times...


Now something interesting happened with strip, from an art point of view. Take a look at it again. Maybe you noticed it already; I didn't the first few times. See it yet? Look at the chair. No, it's not the trademark hovering! Yes, the man's head is hovering over his body, which in turn is hovering over the chair. Look at it closely. Look at how the whole fucking back of the chair disappears for a panel.

Come on, Randy! You are, at this point, essentially a professional artist. You make a very short comic, and only 3 times a week. Can you at least take a little time and make sure things don't disappear randomly? That's like, a basic trait of the physical world. You might want to portray it in your comics.

Anyway, he did go back and correct it, as you can see on the site now. If you look real close you can see also added a little more detail to the chair in panel one to make it match - that little knob that attached the back to the chair wasn't there originally (come to think of it, maybe that's why the back fell off?). Anyway, with xkcd's usual not-my-fault-ism, there is no mention of the mistake. Randy never admits a mistake.


(Fun story: so I linked to the xkcdsucks post about comic 525 above, and I was rereading it, and got to the part that says "I also push in all of the drink bubbles on fast food cups, but that's as a secret message to my family in case the place where I eat is ever gunned down to let them know I thought about being gunned down before it happened." And I thought, 'Wait a second, I don't do that. What the hell was I thinking?' And then I saw that it was Thomas's post, not mine. You'd think I would have noticed earlier.)


Commentor Napoleon in Rags, below, links us to this oddly familiar comic from Nedroid.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Comic 564: Shoot Me Now

dumb dumb dumb
This comic is terrible. Even the forumites are saying so. No one - none of you, no one - can give me an explanation for this comic that will make it even vaguely funny. I've heard that it's a super-obscure LHC reference, or a super-obscure pun on "boson" or a super-crappy non-sequitor, or just another fucking Noodle Incident. It may be a super-late april fools joke, or a super-clever parody of xkcd that someone has hacked the site and put up. But the point is: pile of crap. That is all.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Comic 563: Calculated Creepy

stop doing that
UGH randall why do you have to make everything creepy? I suppose someone could find this idea funny, but it's not like it's that bizarre an idea and once someone thought of it it's pretty easy to figure out the calculation, but I guess in some circles this passes as a brilliant idea that is just so damn funny. As it is, it's one of those comics that makes xkcd feel like Randall Munroe's Illustrated Picture-Blog With Odd Ideas. It's not funny, except perhaps in the sophmoric "oh my god he is talking about sex!!!" way. (incidentally, the fact that you had to add an example calculation link at the top also makes it less of a comic contained in itself and more of a presentation of an idea)

But then the second panel takes a lame idea and makes it just creepy as hell. Now, I'm not totally sure who the man by the board is talking to, as they are offscreen. But I think it's supposed to be a pair of people far away who are not having sex, but Randall is using his Math and his Probability to pretend that they are. Now, listen Randy: this part is for you:

Just because you can imagine some people having sex, this does not mean that you should tell them you are doing so. This is creepy.

Now I know you put some type of offscreen voice saying not to do this, but that doesn't help. "No statistical voyeurism!" sounds like a man telling you you are breaking the rules, like you aren't allowed to do that here. But next time, rather than be creepy, can you just leave the whole thing out? Please?

And lastly, Alt-Text: Holy crap, a your mom joke! that is so clever.