Sunday, May 2, 2010

Comic 734: Spreading the Virus

Outbreak yarrrr
It's not bad enough that zombies are played out as hell. Because they are. I'm not saying that you can't have funny stuff about zombies (who out there is going to tell me that they didn't like Shaun of the Dead?) I'm just saying, if you want to make zombie jokes, they're going to have to be damn good to stand out from the crowd.

Is this joke good enough? I don't think so. Maybe you do, but come on. It's a pretty boring, somewhat obvious subversion of a genre. You could just as easily have gone for Frankenstein (the monster) getting the normal brain instead of the messed-up one, and being an ordinary person. Or a radioactive spider who is released into the world, but is then crushed by someone's foot before he can bite anyone. I feel like I've heard these jokes in tons of different places. [update: Apparently I was getting Frankenstein confused with the Mel Brooks' parody Young Frankenstein, which, while it means that I've referred to two generations of Brookses in this post, also is a dumb mistake. so here's a new example: Man gets turned into werewolf, but it's always really cloudy out and so he can't tell if the moon is out or not.]

One such place, as Tomical pointed out in the comments, is a recent Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (recent here meaning last 6 months), which has the exact same joke (zombie movie is really romantic comedy). This is hardly the first time xkcd has copied SMBC, and I'm sure it's hardly the first time that some xkcd defenders will try to explain how it is a totally different joke (xkcd is left to right, smbc was top down!) and hopefully we can all yell at them. STOP COPYING OTHER PEOPLE'S JOKES, IT IS EXTREMELY LAME.


ps. it has been more than two months since the xkcd blog was updated, just sayin'. ok, let's all admit that i am fucking psychic.

83 comments:

  1. i thought this was an above average xkcd. certainly the best one in the last couple weeks

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  2. this was an idea i've had for about fifteen years, that occurred to me literally two minutes after someone told me what a zombie was.

    minus the creepy romance part.

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  3. Once again, by any standard by which this is the same joke as that SMBC, that joke is just restating the basic premise of Shaun of the Dead.

    Also, that plot element is only in Young Frankenstein... a parody. In both the film and the book, he gets a perfectly ordinary brain, but he's corrupted by imperfect man trying to imitate a perfect God, hubris of scientific innovation, blah blah blah, Mary Shelley was a damn Luddite.

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  4. I didn't like Shaun of the Dead but I loved Hot Fuzz. I also didn't like Zombieland so am I just weird or what?

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  5. Rob/Carl minced: "Oh grapes, thou art sour"



    Veneer BUSTED!

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  6. Well, I'm not gonna lie. Monday's comic was pretty good. And then I read the alt text. I mean, I know it's funny to laugh at the misfortune of others, but it's really not a good joke. It's just... I thought there was so much there for the comic. And then BOOM. Terrible alt text ruins it for me.

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  7. @Cam: Zombieland was the point for me when zombies completely jumped the shark. It was just another "michael cera impersonator has an awkward relationship with a girl who should by all rights be out of his league" except OMG ZOMBIES! HEY NERDS EAT THIS SHIT UP!

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  8. Mary Shelley wasn't a Luddite. She was your classic late Romantic arguing the folly of strict rationalism and the issues that can come from scientific advancement without propriety.

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  9. Monday's reminds me of a common SMBC technique:


    Show something over-the-top completely ridiculous and then have text underneath that explains it in a much more mild way.

    SMBC examples:
    example1: woman threatens to burn her husband and kids and is shocked by her actions because...... (text) she has become her mother.

    example2: woman is shown drowning her husband and telling him to drown in his lies because...... (text) she's so happy about some surprise of his that she cannot believe it!


    xkcd's example: people are shown blowing up parts of a house, hosing down the carpet, calling for helicopters because...... they are little kids pretending the floor is lava.

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  10. Jimbobbowilly (Max W. Gore)May 3, 2010 at 1:11 AM

    If they really thought it was lava, they'd just leave the area as the convection would kill them. I suppose this is probably pedantic.

    What's definitely NOT pedantic is being annoyed at a cheap topical joke in the alt text. Wait, it's not even a joke. Just a reference.

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  11. Rox:
    I can actually see that being an above-average xkcd comic.


    Of course, I can also see Randall screwing it up somehow.

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  12. I am superior to you because when I was a kid I used to treat pretend lava in a much more scientific manner than you did. Also, I read the news and am thus aware about volcanic ash clouds.

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  13. You really think Randall actually behaved that way as a child, Anonymous? I guarantee that he didn't and isn't trying to convince anybody that he did any more than Bill Watterson was trying to claim that he was Calvin as a child. The pronoun is just a convenience to the writing.

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  14. I was being somewhat facetious in that I don't think he is pretending to have actually acted in that manner, but I can't shake the feeling that there is an implied thread of intellectual superiority running through the comic, as though Randall is nudging the audience of nerds (or pseudo-nerds) and saying "we could have acted like this because we knew how to trench lava and solidify the surface layer, didn't we?"

    Notice how the kids (at what age do you stop pretending the floor is lava - nine, ten?) speak at a level far above their own age group.

    It isn't so much 'kids taking game of pretend too far' (which can easily be funny in its own right) as 'kids taking game of pretend too far while being insanely clever about the whole thing'.

    Why do the characters have to be geniuses? Why couldn't the comic work without the scientific wankery?

    Of course I am likely in the minority on this one. The early indications are that this is a funny comic. Perhaps I am just projecting my own feelings of inferiority onto Randall's motives. Maybe a genuinely funny XKCD comic will pass me by because this blog has clouded my judgement and rendered any enjoyment of the webcomic difficult or even impossible.

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  15. Actually, as pointed out in the Echo chamber, Randall's comic is much better is you invert the whole thing. Also Frankenstein has a perfectly normal brain, but like any human he goes insane when ostracized, attacked, brought into a miserable existence, etc.

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  16. I actually thought this one was pretty funny. Not laugh out loud funny, but clever enought to appreciate.

    >> You could just as easily have gone for Frankenstein (the monster) getting the normal brain instead of the messed-up one, and being an ordinary person.

    As multiple people have pointed out, this is not the plot of the book. Even if it was, I don't think this is really a parallel to the comic.

    > Or a radioactive spider who is released into the world, but is then crushed by someone's foot before he can bite anyone.

    This IS a parallel to the comic. AND, I think it's pretty funny. But does it make the original joke UNfunny just because there is another way to tell it?

    > I feel like I've heard these jokes in tons of different places.

    You FEEL like you've heard it before? Where? Can you link to an example? A good joke is often about showing you something that is both familiar and original. The fact that you FEEL like you've heard it does not make it less funny. Unless you've ACTUALLY heard the same joke before. Riffing off a common topic is what humorists do.

    Also, I don't think that the SMBC zombie joke is the same thing. It's actually the oppisite concept. (Zombies turns out to be normal guys vs. zombies are easily eliminated.) Once again, just because two cartoonists both made jokes about zombies doesn't mean they are copying each other.

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  17. 734 only works in the scenario where Zombies are created by science-gone-wrong, and assumes it all starts with one victim. This RARELY happens. The situation never really presents itself, so the comic strip isn't quite as clever as Randy thinks.

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  18. total rip off of the SMBC comic, anyone who denies it is lying. The fact that the SMBC version is relatively recent means that Randy didn't even dig back in the archives.

    the fact that a lot of people thought this comic was ok shows that Randy is smart to steal from a superior comic rather than going with his own stupid ideas.

    that said, today's comic (lava) isn't bad. I kind of enjoyed it.

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  19. Again, it's not Megan. Please be grateful for small mercies.

    Today's isn't bad, not haha funny, but (as far as I know) pretty original.

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  20. "Mary Shelley was a damn Luddite."

    Yeah, no. Frankensetein was not about the evils of technology and science. Any science present in the book was just to further the actual meaning, re: Humans are dicks/child abuse is bad.

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  21. Oh, shit, I forgot to comment on that... okay, let me summarize it.

    First, this reminds me of that Narnia comic. That one where Lucy sends a probe to explore Narnia instead of, you know, just getting inside that damn wardrobe. But worse.

    I don't think this is the same as SMBC, though. That one plays out the scenario well until suddenly turning into a romantic comedy(it'd be like tricking someone to watch Twilight telling them it's a vampire movie... which it was, but you get me, right?), I don't think this is the point of this xkcd.

    Rather, this xkcd is yet another "what if" scenario that might make a nice game of "shorten this movie to less than 5 minutes" game with your friends at a bar, but doesn't make a funny joke on itself. In that sense the "a radioactive spider who is released into the world, but is then crushed by someone's foot before he can bite anyone" is the one that fills the template well, and it's just equally unfunny.

    And that was the summary. Phew.

    Now, let's read the newest xkcd...

    Taupe sorti.

    PS.: Apparently Randall finally got over Megan. How many Lauras will we see around xkcd now, I wonder?

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  22. BLANDCorporatioMay 3, 2010 at 6:31 AM

    irt. Rox:

    You could even say that, by making the "Monster" a tragic (but not exactly evil) figure, Mary Shelley was way beyond her time.

    irt. Anonymous 6:11:

    My guess is that some fear of (and fascination with) science and technological progress did inform Mary Shelley's writing.

    However yeah, the Monster is not a Monster because it just is so by virtue of being a technological product.

    Did not stop most people to skip all this and pigeon-hole Frankenstein into "science is hubris" fiction.

    irt. Zom-KCD:

    I kinda liked the zombie one; then again I'm not following SMBC.

    I liked it not just because it's a subversion, it also seems so eminently practical and easier to do than running around with the Idiot Ball, like that one video "How Lord of the Rings should have ended" ...

    ... wait a minute, how many people can one joke rip-off?

    But seriously, it wasn't that bad.

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  23. Huh, what do you know, newest one is quite decent!

    The art is cool(invisible necks non-withstanding), the joke is only revealed on the caption-punchline... and the joke is funny! He didn't even telegraph the punchline on the title as he does so many times, this IS, indeed, a good xkcd.

    (And I know Randall will poop in my party by uploading some shitty hurried up shit on Wednesday... but let's not get depressed in anticipation, eh?)

    A few pointers, though.

    First, the problem with stick figures. How do you know if these are three different kids or just one kid being shown in several different times on a same place, like a comic without panel divisions across a big backdrop? You don't, until the caption says it's a real "we", not a make-believe "we". And don't go all "Angular Circles" on me, I've noticed already the head shapes change from panel to panel, damn it, they aren't intentional!

    Second, the alt-text. Not bad, but read it, and you'll notice the motivation for this comic: that damn icelandic volcano which name I'll not type nor google just to copy and paste here. The comic isn't any worse for this, but Randall's thirst for hype is saddening...

    Hreysivislan út.

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  24. You know, it took me a while to realize that these are supposed to be kids and not adults recreating their childhood play. Since, you know, "adults recreating childhood" is a big recurring thing in xkcd. And because they're unrecognizable as children.

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  25. I always read Frankenstein as being less about science and more about bad parenting, but that might just be me.

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  26. Anon @ 3:02 AM -

    It doesn't matter whether he's intentionally trying to make people think all of the things he calls his hobbies are actually his hobbies. The facts are these:

    + Randall consistently tells this type of comic in first person

    + Randall does not draw characters who can be obviously differentiated from one another

    If he had characters that looked different, the "I" could be assumed to be whichever one is the main character in that comic on that day. If he used other names ("Wendell's hobby:" etc.) with undifferentiated stickmen, it would be obvious that they were not the same stickmen every day. As it is, the reader ends up knowing Randall cannot possibly think anyone will believe he does these things, but without being given any other possibility as to what to think he's trying to say.

    Kind of like Rayne Summers and Ryan Sohmer. (Who I also dislike.)

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  27. Imagine, for a moment, that any other webcomic on the internet had put out this exact same comic, line for line and word for word.

    You lot would all be pointing to it and saying, "See, THIS is a good stick figure comic! Why can't xkcd be as funny as this?"

    But as Sherlock Holmes said, "People tend to twist facts to suit theories, rather than theories to suit facts." So, since it's xkcd, you twist the comic to suit your predetermined opinions (and don't give me that "I'm open-minded! If the comic was good, I would like it!" tripe; when you're this determined to hate something, no amount of quality can get in the way).

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  28. Except Carl does admit to liking xkcd occasionally so unless you're saying there's some jokes he'll like regardless and some he won't like of they're from xkcd you're pretty much talking out your ass.

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  29. Look, I think we're all missing the point here, point being that there is a pun in the alt-text.
    'cuz, y'know, kids get GROUNDED when they do bad things, but people on those flights also got GROUNDED.
    Eh? Eh?
    I feel like it was unintentional though :(

    Unrelatedly, the kid on the left of the panel is standing in the lava! He's gonna get melted!
    Oh nooooooo.

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  30. Man, the comic would work better if they just were adults playing the game, which is not uncommon. Now it's just weird.

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  31. angry_geologistMay 3, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    If they really thought it was lava, they'd just leave the area as the convection would kill them.

    What the hell? Convection doesn't kill people. This just makes no sense. Convection is just a method of heat transport. The main killing mechanism of lava is that it is hot, not that it has density-driven heat transport within the lava (and I'm not sure about the Rayleigh number of typical lava, so lava might not even be convecting significantly).

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  32. The DEATH CLOUD reference in the alt text feels really shoe-horned and desperate, as if Randall feels like if he doesn't remind us that yes, he does know about the volcano erupting in Iceland he'll lose his nerd-cred.

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  33. @angry_geologist

    We're all impressed that you took Geology for your science credit in college and was the only one stupid enough to think it was important.
    Fuck off you pedantic little sophist.

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  34. I think it's QUITE a stretch to say that 734 is a copy of that SMBC comic; the similarity pretty much begins and ends with the "zombie" motif. If the xkcd comic featured, say, a werewolf instead (no association with Twilight intended), I doubt anyone would notice that "similarity".

    It's not a bad comic. It's just not terribly good, and the "date" ending just spoils things.

    EDIT: oh, shit, just NOW I noticed the "the remaining 90 minutes will be a romantic comedy" caption. Shit shit shit. I stand corrected.

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  35. Sylocat: "Imagine, for a moment, that any other webcomic on the internet had put out this exact same comic, line for line and word for word.

    You lot would all be pointing to it and saying, "See, THIS is a good stick figure comic! Why can't xkcd be as funny as this?""


    But see, there was another comic that put out this exact same joke, it was called SMBC! And we did like it! That's part of the problem.

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  36. I do have a slight nagging feeling of "this is how NERDS play 'floor is lava' games: PROPERLY, not like you NORMAL plebs" a la Anon 2.47, 3.43 from the latest one, but that's just because of what xkcd has been before: it's actually a pretty good comic. It's quite a funny idea, I guess, and we have punchlines left to the punchline and everything. Slight nitpick: it'd be good if the kids looked more like kids rather than Generic Adult Number 7, but still.

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  37. I guess we are allowed to feed trolls if they're exotic enough, right? And how many geology trolls are there anyways?

    So without further ado-

    irt. angry_geologist:

    People referred to convection in air, not in lava. As in, standing close to (and above) a dense molten mass of rock will get you rather crispy. Empirical testing of this is possible with something as simple as an electric oven.

    (To be precise, both convection -in air or whatever medium- and radiation help in transferring heat).

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  38. angry_personwithdecentreadingcomprehensionskillsMay 3, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    ...

    ...



    AIR CONVECTION.

    God.

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  39. If some other stick figure comic did the joke the legions of XKCD fans probably wouldn't think it was funny.

    There, argument reversed and its still just as stupid.

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  40. Zombie comic: Was this joke in one of those abortions that Friedberg and Seltzer call movies? (Or, I guess, call "X Movies?") I feel like it was, in which case, fuck you, Randall.

    Monday's comic: I liked it, kind of; it worked like an actual humorous comic is supposed to. It'd be nice if the joke was funnier, but, eh, I'd rather have "Randall's family was so precocious!" than "Randall's family was so precocious!...Sexually."

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  41. Worth noting - Sylocat actually makes his comment on a day during which most of the comments talking about the most recent comic are praise; Universe implodes from critical stupidity.

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  42. lol harrison. very nice.

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  43. Any work can be made to look silly if you're willing to ignore most of its features. This parody of 734 demonstrates the technique.

    To be more specific, the situation Randall describes (someone goes to get a gun and shoot the monster) could easily happen in a real zombie movie. What do you think would happen in such a movie when Randall's idiot character opens the door?

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  44. Way to shamelessly self-advertise, JK.

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  45. eh. I didn't think it was "pretty boring," because the girl shoots a zombie. That usually doesn't happen in xkcd. I was tired of the stupid relationship problems so this one was delightfully new.

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  46. I was actually watching Shaun of the Dead when I saw this one, so, being in a zombie mood, I actually chuckled. It also helps that I was already laughing thanks to that movie, stuff's always more funny when already laughing. Now, looking at it again, is it that great? Nah. But I still think it's kinda funny. You can pick at any joke and make it lose its funny, but I think this one's alright by recent xkcd standards. And better than 631!

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  47. good lord we're not all going to start doing the goomhr thing are we?

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  48. Lava comic: Randy, it's not hard to draw stick kids. Just draw shorter limbs and bigger heads. Bingo.

    Because needless confusion = bad.

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  49. Megan: "Get out of my bed Randall!"

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  50. But as Sherlock Holmes said, "People tend to twist facts to suit theories, rather than theories to suit facts." So, since it's xkcd, you twist the comic to suit your predetermined opinions (and don't give me that "I'm open-minded! If the comic was good, I would like it!" tripe; when you're this determined to hate something, no amount of quality can get in the way).

    That's interesting. Hang on:

    (and don't give me that "I'm open-minded! If the comic was good, I would like it!" tripe; when you're this determined to hate something, no amount of quality can get in the way)

    What's that about twisting facts to suit theories, now?

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  51. Frankly I'm just relieved her name wasn't Megan.

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  52. @Comic JK:
    Your Kraken comic is wrong. The line in the beginning movie is "Let loose the Kraken."
    Fix it.

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  53. I for one quite liked Monday's comic. Certainly it's better than the contrived piece of shit that "My Hobby" has lately become.

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  54. Today's strip actually made me laugh, and not just chuckle. Randy had better keep this up.

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  55. Really. It could have been "the remaining ninety minutes will be a legal procedural," and it would be the exact same joke. You could have replaced the zombie with a nuclear something-or-other at the beginning, or any other problem with a quick solution - even a Jodi Picoult parody - and it would have been the same basic joke. The joke is, familiar film plot set up, film plot quickly derailed by Randall's oh-so-clever twist, so they need a new one.

    The SMBC comic is not the same basic joke. The SMBC comic is specifically making fun of horror nerds. You might have been able to go with a different kind of movie nerd (action buff, sports geek, scifi nerd), but it's very much a joke about movie nerds, and you'd have to have gone with some anathema in the second half, rather than just something "different."

    Let's just strip out the trappings of specific detail for a second:

    XKCD: Plot comically resolved quickly, new film needed, audience reaction unimportant.
    SMBC: Plot comically constructed to annoy audience, sense of turning point rather than resolution.

    There is a single thing they have in common, and that is that a zombie film becomes a romantic comedy. And by that logic, they've both ripped off Shaun of the Dead.

    These "XKCD is ripping off..." are always grasping at straws, but this one's a new low.

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  56. it's really late for me to reply but the reason why I didn't like Zombieland wasn't because of the Michael Cera wannabe twat. It was because I was promised a funny zombie movie (I will admit Shaun of the Dead was funny at times, but I guess I just thought it would be as good as Hot Fuzz and it sure wasn't) with Woody Harrelson decapitating zombies with banjos and blowing their brains out with shotguns. Instead what I got was some neurotic spaz whining, not enough zombie killing, more retardedness when they never raided a gun store to go on a zombie massacre and that a good 2/3 of the movie was trying to make it a romantic comedy.

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  57. hahahaha anon 9:20, I love that you're so butthurt over this.

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  58. And, Randall updated his blog today, which probably makes Carl psychic.

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  59. ... Michael Cera wasn't in Zombieland? Crikey.

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  60. anon 9:20 explains right there why the SMBC is funny and the XKCD is not. Some actual human element (the audience reaction).

    Nice work 9:20!

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  61. @Anonymous 10:52:
    Probably Randall reads this site daily. He read Carl's message on not updating the blog for 2 months, hit himself in the head (hopefully hard), and went off to write something...

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  62. It's not the most original thing ever, but I'm going to vote with the camp that doesn't think it's really the same as the SMBC comic just because they contain two things. I would say it's more like the XKCD guy is repeating himself, like the one where they send a probe through the Narnia wardrobe. "What if instead of doing what they always do in this sort of movie, they did something else instead? Wackiness."

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  63. "@Comic JK:
    Your Kraken comic is wrong. The line in the beginning movie is "Let loose the Kraken."
    Fix it."

    Corrected:

    "@Comic JK:
    Your comic is wrong.
    Fix it."

    kthxbai

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  64. actually, when Randall e-mailed me a long time ago i reminded him to update his blog because he hadn't in forever and i made him feel all guilty about it, so your theory is probably correct.

    I found the post really interesting, and I may use it to point out, once again, that a blog is the best way for Randall to express his ideas to the world.

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  65. Yeah the colour survey is what xkcd should aim for in my opinion. Nerdiness directed not at computers or teh internet but just weird unusual subjects. And not hunting for a punch-line laugh either, but playful and interesting and only accidentally humourous.

    Picto-blog request #334.

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  66. Things that have nothing to do with the original post Iteration XIVMII: There really needs to be some sort of ridiculously obvious link to some sort of forum topic where people can discuss how bad the present comic. The result: comments here can actually relate to the post they're attached to. Great idea? Possibly. Super fantastic idea? I like to think so.

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  67. Right. The punch line is the same so the jokes must be the same, right? By this rule, no knock-knock, chicken/road or bar joke has ever been funny. And God help you if you tell the aristocrats.

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  68. Have to admit, that blog post was awesome.

    Also, while Hot Fuzz was hilarious, Shaun of the Dead was better.

    735: I like the idea, but starting with the dynamite did throw me. Like was suggested on the forum, reversing it would've helped. Or maybe making the floor actually lava and the characters adults with a caption along the lines of, "As a child, I knew this day would come." But, really, it wasn't bad. Wouldn't be my favorite comic, but wouldn't stand out as something bad.

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  69. Anon 2.02: erm, most... most knock-knock jokes have different punchlines.

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  70. The RGB map thing is one of things out of the XKCD store I might actually buy (this is assuming that it will make it into the store; anyone want to run odds for me?), the other one being the "I'm going to try science" shirt which still entertains me no end, for some inexplicable reason. Also, some of the answers given at the bottom were genuinely funny.

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  71. also, did you just cite knock-knock jokes, chicken/road jokes, and The Aristocrats as "things that everyone thinks are funny?"

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  72. I thought the Aristocrats wasn't supposed to be funny. Or at least it was originally, but most people who tell it now don't actually get the joke and just tell it for shock value.

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  73. From Randall's blog post: "I weep for my gender."

    Yes, we know. We read your comic

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  74. hahaha, oh snap. Randy's self-conscious "do you have a Y chromosome? I NEED TO KNOW YOUR SEX" backfires when he decides that the gender of everyone with a Y chromosome is male. NICELY DONE, RANDY

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  75. "As a child, I knew this day would come."

    Yeah, THAT would have been hilarious. Randall's floor-is-lava strip looks a lot more boring in comparison.

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  76. Sylocat, you said:

    "But as Sherlock Holmes said, 'People tend to twist facts to suit theories, rather than theories to suit facts.'"

    Actually, Holmes was replying to Watson claiming that the case could have a "supernatural explanation":

    "Never theorize before you have data. Invariably, you end up twisting facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." (taken from imdb's quote page)

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  77. God, what a world we live in. I enjoyed the Downey Jr. flick quite a bit, but even so, when someone quotes Sherlock Holmes your first thought is that they're quoting the MOVIE?

    The original quote is from "A Scandal In Bohemia." If you're going to correct someone at least do it right. Jesus christ.

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  78. Jimbobbowilly (Max William Gore)May 4, 2010 at 10:30 PM

    New comic and I have to wait until Carl's next post.

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  79. i can't even tell if the new comic makes sense or not, blurgh

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  80. Ha, I was quoted in the survey blog

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  81. Damn, another case where xkcdexplained already has a post up less than an hour after midnight.

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  82. Wheeeeee... i has a computer and an opinion.... wheeeeee

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  83. I think 734 isn't really the same joke as the SMBC. I think its much more like the inverse of the beginning of http://theoatmeal.com/comics/zombie_how not that its any better that he's taking ideas from a different comic. I didn't think the romantic comedy thing was even part of the relevant punchline.

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