Friday, May 7, 2010

Comic 736: The Joke Is Dead

Hello, everyone. It is Harrison week, but I, your faithful guide Rob, wanted to note that Carl is an inferior human who had POOR POOR HARRISON sending his emails to the wrong email address. That is why this is later than usual. Without further ado:

Sup, bitches? I'm Harrison, and I'll be your guide for the next few days on our fantastic tour of all the different ways in which xkcd is a terrible, terrible comic, and Randall Munroe is history's greatest monster (yes, worse than Jimmy Carter).

First let me wish you all a happy Cinco de Mayo. In honor of the Mexican battle or whatever today commemorates, I will write the remainder of this post entirely in Spanish.

comic

Eso comico es horrible. Primero, no estoy loco. Donde esta la biblioteca? Somos extremos, como la television. Claro que si?

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, para bailar la bamba. Besame mucho. Soy un perdedor.

...Fine, I can't write the post in Spanish. But I totally would if I remembered anything at all from high school, because that's the kind of crazy bastard I am. But this blog isn't about me, it's about the comics, so let's move on to that.

This comic... actually, this comic isn't that terrible. My biggest beef with Randall has always been his inability to stick to a basic setup-punchline structure -- see e.g. his repeated use of PPD and propensity for telegraphing the joke. And to his credit, there's none of that here. The title doesn't describe anything that's not made clear in the panel, and the punchline is safely tucked away underneath, with no extraneous crap afterward. If Randall's stealing from SMBC, it at least seems like he's learning something in the process.

However, like many previous editions of xkcd, and also many cakes, this comic may be amusing and/or delicious-looking at first sight. But if you start to pick at it, it crumbles, and any attempt to repair it causes further crumbling until the comic is no longer funny, and the cake is ruined. (And I'll never have that recipe again....) So let's start picking, 'cause that's what we do.

I'll start with the most obvious flaw: sweet zombie Jesus but how is the subject not up there with airplane food or toilet seats in the pantheon of Cliche Comedy? Over 3000 Google hits for one specific phrasing. (Okay, 3000's not that big, but I gave up a good ten minutes for you trying to find a better search term. That's ten minutes of my life I'll never get back, so shut the fuck up already). Point is, "haha headsets make you look crazy/socially deviant" is not exactly the cutting edge of comedy. Even Randall's done it before, and while I'm not convinced the first time was "good," it at least had the throwaway line "Shit. Does Bernanke own a crossbow?" which is pretty much comedy platinum.

But there's even more wrong in this delicious crumbly cake of suckiness. For instance: Why the hell would using a serifed versus a sans-serif typeface ever be so important? I can only think of one obvious scenario where anyone would care about such trivialities, and am thus forced to conclude that Stick Guy is now playing the part of Don Draper. (Yes, I get that Randall made the conversation about something stupid to add an extra layer of wacky frosting. But it just comes across as forced.) That's not even the only distracting incongruity; in the background, stage left, we see a family reacting in shock and horror to Stick Guy's apparent conversation with the dead. But stage right there's another person, much closer to Stick Guy, who isn't reacting at all. Why isn't he shocked? Did he, too, once kill a man for using Times New Roman over Helvetica? Or does he just see the headset while the family can't? Either way, why the fuck is he in the comic in the first place? His only purpose seems to be to distract the eye and annoy me. Whatever. Fuck that shit. Let's talk art.

I never feel good about criticizing xkcd's art, since I'm pretty sure I would in fact be worse at it than Randall is. So I was happy to see that the art here is pretty adequate. But does the kid in the background have a Sarah Connor moustache? Or is he just pulling his forehead skin over his eyes in shame?

48 comments:

  1. mom-in-the-background is covering kid-in-the-background's eyes or ears

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  2. As a typography nerd, I am offended.

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  3. Anon 2:27, that actually makes sense, but I'm not sure how Randall didn't see that that level of detail with his art style is, you know, confusing, and remove it. So it's still a strike against him in my book.

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  4. What bugs me is that apparently he's just standing in one place while talking on his headset which completely defeats the purpose of a headset. That's what really bugs me about this comic, it's not BAD, but it is completely humorless (in my opinion) because the situation isn't realistic at all.

    Also, does the new comic look different to anyone else? Is Randall adopting a new style?

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  5. The dad has a mustache just like Sarah Connor's.

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  6. Something I'd like to point out is that the joke is about the headset making you look crazy, but what if he didn't have the headset? He'd be arguing loudly on a cellphone while wandering through a cemetery, which STILL makes you look crazy, or just makes you a primo asshole.

    In fact, the cemetery is a bad place to wander around arguing loudly no matter what, whether a cellphone is involved or not.

    So the joke isn't "haha, I'm doing something normal but the headset makes me look crazy" so much as "haha, I'm doing something sociopathic but the headset makes me look more sociopathic."

    May as well make the punchline "I've discovered the worst place to wander while naked from the waist down."

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  7. Isn't loitering around cemeteries a bit rude in the first place? I mean, people have parents and spouses they've lost lying there, and you're treating it like a recreational space.

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  8. @Ayn Rand: look just because you have an unreasonable attachment to what is after all just a collection of carbon-based molecules lying in a wooden box doesn't mean you have to impose your 'social mores' and 'tact' on me and my SCEINCEPALS.

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  9. gb2andromeda, rockfag

    We don't need your silicon-chauvinist kind around here!

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  10. No, cemeteries are fascinating places to visit recreationally and I don't mean that in an emo or goth way. The writing on the headstones bear historical interest and the design of the headstones along with the layout of the cemetary as a whole has artistic appeal.

    But there do tend to be people mourning or in a pensive mood, so yammering obnoxiously into a phone while you're there is definitely rude.

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  11. "No, cemeteries are fascinating places to visit recreationally and I don't mean that in an emo or goth way. The writing on the headstones bear historical interest and the design of the headstones along with the layout of the cemetary as a whole has artistic appeal."

    God, you must be a hit at parties.

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  12. Sure Anon. I agree, I love walking around cemeteries for that exact reason myself. But I don't think it applies to absent-mindedly wandering into one while talking on the phone.

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  13. The caption implies that other headset conversations would work to produce a joke in this situation. I doubt this intensely.

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  14. That kid is really bothering me. Why is his left arm longer than his right arm and both of his mother's arms? Why is it coming out of his neck? Why is his mother covering his eyes and not his ears? Does she think that if he can't see he'll forget he's in a cemetery and the conversation will seem normal? Why is his right "hand" on his mother's "hand" on his face? Nothing about that interaction makes sense.

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  15. The only reason I wander in cemetaries is usually because I was there paying respects to a relative and now I'm wandering around. I usually find myself looking at all the soldier graves and trying to find out what branch they were part of based on the symbol on the stones.

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  16. I liked this one.

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  17. All of y'all that wander around cemeteries for fun are seriously freaking me out, here.

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  18. harrison, as a matter of fact, I did wander about cemeteries(two of them, to be more exact), not for fun, but because the tombs look good, they're usually in high places with awesome views, and also very quiet and a nice place to relax if you're in the mood for a very unusual place to relax.

    That said, PROTIP: if you're hanging out in a cemetery, avoid receiving and/or making phone calls, especially in loud voices. It's obvious people will be annoyed, be the conversation "humorously" mistakeable for a dialogue with the dead or not.

    Newest comic is bad bad bad. But I'm going to comment on it further later. Quick pointers, though: joke is stupid, art is shoddy, and third panel is a waste. Not only unnecessary, actually a disaster.

    Finally... did the post actually end? It looks as if it was going to expand more on the art and reach a conclusion and was accidentally cut off.

    Mole out(with a British accent)

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  19. Right, the whole font joke could be seen as the guy describing the ordering of a headstone, or something of that nature. Though I got the joke, and found it mildly amusing, it was not great.

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  20. I like the analogy with cakes, because this comic keeps crumbling further and further the more I see it. Hell, if the guy is "WANDERING" around the cemetery talking on the headset, why does the comic visually imply that he's STANDING before the tombstone and apparently talking to it? The visual gag and the textual gag defeat each other; it's a pretty dishonest way of making humour, because just a little tiny bit of fridge logic makes it fall apart miserably.

    Latest comic: what the fuck is that? Is there some obscure subtext I failed to see, or is Randall just really running around going "oh, lol, you know, like, what's really funny? Expiration dates! Because they're, like, um, like, you know, pretty funny, like", trying to conceive a joke out of that and failing all the way to Hell and back?

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  21. Mole,

    Nah, that's the end of the post, I sorta ran out of steam I guess?

    Fernie, I'm pretty sure there's no obscure subtext, it really is the comic equivalent of the Challenger explosion. (Only hopefully there will be fewer deaths.) I do think I might know where the idea for the comic comes from, though, and there's a good story there, which you'll all get to read when I finish my post.

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  22. The new comic...what?! The guys flip flop completely on their sides of the expiration date argument. The guy who is at first obviously appalled by the state of the yogurt tries to argue for keeping it at the end. And the other guy is swayed from "it's fine" to "okay, throw it out" by this infinitively persuasive dialogue:

    "I'm not sure. When it was packaged, was civilization using the Gregorian or Julian calendar?"

    BAM! fucking ZING! Wait, no, definitely no.

    Not to mention he draws a stickman with an arm attached to his cheek, which is the only explanation I can give for the stickman's horrible disfigurement as a result of Randall going out of his way to make sure his stick figure is decapitated, since actually connecting that arm to its shoulder would destroy the gruesome separation. Oh, and DAMN. That is some LONG stickman legs.

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  23. I actually really liked the new yogurt one. Randall is trying for a pretty radical new style, and for once he serves up some original, laugh-out-loud humor which is pretty refreshing to see on XKCD

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  24. Why is the yogurt-holder asking about the calendar used at the time of packaging when the setup revolves around the fact that they don't know when it was packaged (other than the month which can be written off as useless)?

    Man 1: Look, I found this knife with my metal detector, but I've no idea when it was made.
    Man 2: Cool.
    Man 1: When it was made, did women have the vote?
    Man 2: What the fuck? I don't know. You just said you don't know either. Get the fuck out of my house you weirdo!

    Is he being sarcastic in an attempt to point out how ancient the yogurt is? If so, why then do a complete 180 seconds later and declare that it could still be edible?

    And the fact that the comic stinks enough to make the yogurt-holder exclaim "Oh my god how old is this LOL?" writes off the possibility of it being good in the very first line of the comic. If the yoghurt looked and smelled normal but had no concrete expiration date there would be more of a 'mystery' as to whether or not it was edible and make the nerd-like arguing justified.

    Are they meant to be autistic? Does the fact that the yoghurt may not necessarily have expired date-wise despite physical evidence of its expiration lead them to believe there is still a chance it doesn't taste like ass-cheese? Are nerds supposed to be proud of this type of pedantry?

    This one is incomprehensible at best.

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  25. Thanks. You just ruined an otherwise funny comic for me. God, I hate you.

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  26. This post reminded me of the Sarah Connor moustache, and for that, I thank you.

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  27. I also thought that it should have been something more everyday to make it funnier (not some computer nerd bullshit). Like "This is your own damn fault. I told you to bring milk from the store."

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  28. Were people using the Gregorian or Julian calendar when jokes about talking on bluetooth headsets ceased to be funny or original?

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  29. you mixed up stage left and stage right

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  30. I'm honestly not sure why people are getting confused by the "It might be good" line. It's clearly sarcastic.

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  31. If it's clearly sarcastic then the comic clearly contains no joke whatsoever.

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  32. and it's also very much not xkcd. not that randall didn't intend that, but it just isn't what he's done every time before.

    i also kind of prefer thinking it as genuine because the sarcastic response is incredibly boring and not witty at all

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  33. "I'm honestly not sure why people are getting confused by the "It might be good" line. It's clearly sarcastic. "

    Read the alt-text. It's not sarcastic, at least not "clearly" so.

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  34. If its supposed to be sarcastic then that is a total writing failure on randy's part.

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  35. I read it as sarcastic without a second thought -- the alt-text is also pretty obviously tongue-in-cheek. Why would that guy change his position for no raisin? (Unless the yogurt isn't there at ALL, and he's just playing devil's advocate! MINDS ARE BLOWN i tell ya.)

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  36. "If its supposed to be sarcastic then that is a total writing failure on randy's part."

    Or a total reading failure on your part.

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  37. and total reading failure on a lot of other people's parts, apparently.

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  38. Yeah, my first read was that in the last panel, the guy who didn't want to throw it out was being tetchy and the guy who did want to throw it out was being sarcastic. It's the most straightforward way to read an argument between two douchebags over something inconsequential, I think.

    Not that it makes the comic any funnier.

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  39. I detected the sarcasm in the last yogurt panel but it is still poorly conveyed. Part of the problem is that he didn't do a good job with the italics in "Okay, I'll throw it out." so it reads less like "Fine, I'll get rid of it! Sheesh!" and more like "That statement has convinced me."

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  40. http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1861#comic

    SBMC is stealing from randall too, i think.

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  41. Wow, this really exists? Can we say... get a life? You either like the comic or you don't. Move on.

    But I suppose the saying does go... haters want to hate.

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  42. What? No, this doesn't exist. What are you talking about? why would you even ask that?
    and also, come on, "you either like the comic or you don't"? what kind of false choice is that? What if you like it a little bit, or hate it a huge amount?

    and try replacing "the comic" with something you actually care about:
    "Can we say...get a life? You either like the fact that Firefly was canceled, or you don't. Move on."

    THE TABLES HAVE TURNED, MS. JACKSON!

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  43. I figured out my problem with this one: it's entirely dependent on Randall's faceless characters. If the headset guy were drawn with a face, he'd either have to be seen looking at the grave, which would give the visual indicator that yes, he IS yelling at it, or looking another direction (perhaps up and right), indicating that his mind is clearly on the conversation at hand. Randall's faceless characters, however, make it so that both interpretations are possible, which is the only way the joke can work.

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  44. You are a fucking retarted idiot. Get a life.

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  45. So, why pick at the cake? Oh right, it's because your "brains turn on", when you see the cake, and it makes you want to pick at it.

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  46. The other guy is reacting. He's looking at him like wtf.
    -juliecranford

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