Sunday, September 12, 2010

Comic 791: Object Lesson In Failure

Leaving this one behind, that is for danged sure

[Alt: What'll I say -- "I was staring at some cat vomit when I got the news?"]

I think today's comic can serve as a useful template for a lesson called "Things not to do in comics." There are few mistakes he does not make here. So! Inspired by today's comic, I give you the XKCD Sucks List Of Things You Can Do To Make A Lousy Comic:

#1a: Choose a depressing topic! In this case, it's the loss of a loved one! What could be funnier?
#1b: If you are feeling particularly bitter, schedule your comic about the sudden loss of a loved one to run on September 11th. This is key.

#2. Put the funniest part of your comic at the very beginning, so people know from the top that it's going to be a wild ride! In this case, it's "cat vomit" and we're laughing already by the end of sentence one!

#3. Put one of the two main characters off screen. That way you don't have to draw him! Will people think it is weird? WHO CARES?

#4. Make your comic an old observation about one of life's tragedies, one which has already been made fun of in identical ways on the Simpsons, Arrested Development, and others!

#5. Have the "serious line" in your comic - in this case, the one he wants to use as his "meaningful" last words - be awkward and stilted. This is key.

There you have it! Just follow these five easy steps and two relatively simple substeps and you too will be comicking with the best of them!


  1. "#2. Put the funniest part of your comic at the very beginning, so people know from the top that it's going to be a wild ride! In this case, it's "cat vomit" and we're laughing already by the end of sentence one!"

    This is the second time you've missed the punchline this week, carl.

    maybe you should take a break from xkcd sucks. go see your wife and kids. you've earned it.

  2. #6. Show, don't tell. I realize this is hard for Randall, since he's a ridiculously poor artist, but he is having such a hard time using a pictoral medium by flooding it with words.

  3. @7:33

    What exactly is the punch line then?

  4. Andrew R: Your face.

    Seriously, though, I like the blanket "you're wrong" shots from the dark with zero sort of evidence and, more importantly, zero personal commitment. By "like" I mean "laugh and fail to take as a legitimate argument". Nonetheless, let's Break it down .

    I do believe this cuddlefish mistakenly thinks that Carl assumes "Cat vomit" in itself is a funny concept [I have cleaned that up and it is not], rather than Carl's actual [well, I give him this credit] shortening of the concept "Cat vomit being the last mentioned thing" (which, as we have read the comic, is indeed the concept on display here) to "Cat vomit." Basically, the cuddlefish cannot read outside of the box.

    In other words, "Why can't Cuddlfish pass basic literacy?"
    "What do you mean? They read the words, translated it into the written meaning and took the meaning as written! That is literacy!"
    ...And we stop there. Tune in tomorrow for more helpful translations of the illiterate!

  5. Capitalized ---> Proper Noun ---> any spelling you like. Yes, yes, yes.

  6. the punch is that it is revealed that the first sentence was the last words he'll ever say to the person. it makes us reinterpret the first sentence in a new way. that's the new information that completes the joke.

    of course, anon 7:33 thinks that the "funniest part" and the "punch line" of a comic are necessarily the same. silly anon.

    the problem here is that it seems like one of those "be sad instead of funny" comics except there is cat vomit in it. it would have worked just as well having the final line be something mundane. all you need is for it to not be something special and you get the idea that we live out every day of our lives like we have all the time in the world ahead of us but noooo we had to have something WACKY


  7. But it WASN'T the last thing he said... it would be funnier if it were the last thing he said, but instead he says "you are in my heart always" which apparently is from Robot Unicorn Attack which I have played a bazillion times in the last month and never heard that line. So... lame.

  8. oh fuck. then it is just the idea that it could be the last thing said unless you break social convention by acknowledging our fleeting mortality and creating an awkward situation. though of course it's possible to say someone is special without being a damned aspie, but this is beyond randall.

  9. So... Is he trying to capitalize on the "Harmony, Harmony" meme?

  10. Anyone else here think that this basket case (randall) runs around his shag-rug-carpeted house in a chocolate-brown turtleneck and a sock on his dick, singing showtunes and weeping uncontrollably?

    This pathetic pablum-puking piss-ant should go back to 3rd grade. At that time, he would get up & kids would laugh as he performed. Sad thing is that they were laughing at him, not with him.

    Randall, if you were 10x the software developer that you are the comic, I hope your software is in universal remotes & automatic cat feeders, and nothing more. XKCD sucks, and so do you.

    Peace out.

  11. 792: I was enjoying the set up, and he was keeping my interest right up near the end and then.... well, he didn't go anywhere with it. I feel like if he worked for another hour on this he could've gone somewhere more entertaining. As it is, I am going to pretend that I fell asleep in the middle of the tenth panel and don't know how it ends.

    Great half a joke Randall! Tell us when your busy schedule lets you rewrite that abominable non-ending. Or better yet, don't tell us and just update, refusing to acknowledge that there was ever anything else.

  12. So, um, nerds have decided google isn't evil now?

  13. Mostly correct points, but you are dead wrong on #5: Its supposed to be awkward and stiled. The guy doesn't know what to say. Its part of the humor.

    Anyway, I still liked the comic.

  14. Regardless of the quality of this comic as a whole, I must say I love the line " are in my heart always."

    Even though it wouldn't make sense without the rest of the comic.

  15. Hey! I've heard of Call of Duty 4: Modern warfare too!

    Get Out Of My Head from 2007 Randall!


    Since when do people hesitate when they're telling people they love them? You don't exactly forget that you were telling someone how much you care for them. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't even fit the situation.

    Also, what humour?

  16. But it WASN'T the last thing he said... it would be funnier if it were the last thing he said, but instead he says "you are in my heart always" which apparently is from Robot Unicorn Attack which I have played a bazillion times in the last month and never heard that line.

    He says "you are in my heart always" so that the cat vomit thing doesn't end up being the last thing he says to her. Not saying xkcd doesn't in fact suck a fair percentage of the time, but this site would be a lot more convincing if it weren't populated by so many people who are always so willfully (or not) obtuse.

  17. A) Quit arguing about what the punch line is. If it's not immediately obvious, or even able to be found after multiple readings, there may not BE a punchline.

    B) The "serious" line was supposed to be awkward and stilted (I hope)

  18. 792 was a really long set up for an unsatisfying punchline.

  19. To be fair, it ran on September 10th.

    Also, 792 would be a lot funnier with the last two panels removed. That way "It's the same problem Google has" would almost function as a punchline of sorts.

  20. Ravenzomg: if that's what you listen to on a regular basis, your taste in music utterly sucks.

  21. 792 felt like two distinct comics stitched together. Personally, I liked the last two panels better than the rest of it combined, and it seems like a lot of people on here feel the opposite.

  22. Here's a funnier way to present this comic.

    Character 1: Hey, while you're out can you pick up some cleaning spray that works on cat vomit?
    Character 2: Sure thing, bye!
    Character 1: Oh, fuck. You're in my heart, always!
    Character 2: Erm... okay. That's odd.
    Character 1: Well, it's just this neurotic compulsion that I have, causing me to over-dwell on the last thing that I say to people in case they die before I can say something worthwhile.
    Character 2: That is absolutely batshit crazy. See you later.


    Character 2: Oh God...

    I'm not usually a fan of subtext to a comic, and Randal does it all the fucking time. It doesn't work here and I'd much rather that the characters explain their actions instead of Randal doing it in his sad, pathetic, mildly neurotic way.

  23. I can kind of see a little happy face in the cat puke. For some reason, that just tilts the whole comic into absurdity for me.

  24. was he napping when google played Vichy to China's dictatorship or what

    also, the man in the hat is just someone you want to PUNCH SO MUCH

    like, everything he says would merit a punch from each person who hears it, and then what? he's dead. from punching.

  25. Um, it didn't run on September 11. I think you're stretching.

  26. What of it, 12:15? Stretching is an important part of avoiding serious injury.

  27. @Anon12:15,
    Well it does stay as the front page comic for September 11th. Considering it's a new comic every 2-3 days, that's close enough.

    792 is just... a whole bunch of references with no humour. Here's a list of them:

    1: Insecure sites can get your identity details.
    2: Money doesn't make you happy.
    3: Hat Man is evil.
    4: Something on March 1997.
    5: Google could be evil.
    6: Modern Warfare.

    But none of them are in any way funny or interesting. They're references and nothing more. It's... it's basically the very essence of what XKCD is!

  28. re: 792. I think the "March 1997" is a reference to the Heaven's Gate mass suicide, but I had to read the wikipedia article on 1997 to get it. Or is it the "Phoenix Lights" thing? Too much of a throw away comment. And Mr Hat not having an overall plan? Really? The guy who can trap a submarine? I expect more of the "evil genius" that is Mr Hat.

  29. His plan was to adopt a pseudonym and use it to create a nerdy comic with occasional insight and intelligence. Having achieved success, he would then drop all aspects resembling quality and just become a nerd pander comic of endless self-reference.

    Fucking diabolical.

  30. For those who didn't see it before, this is my edit. I think it actually creates a punchline, and doesn't come off as "omg srs here for a moment you guys" like the original.

    For one, it creates the premise at the beginning - that he worries about the last thing he says to someone - instead of having it as post-punchline dialog. The only reason you should have text after a comic is if the explanation actually makes it funny.

    For another, it subverts expectations by moving the cat vomit line to the end - after reading the intro, you expect the character to say something sappy, but instead he says something that is kind of weird (when you already know the premise). Normally, the cat vomit line itself wouldn't be funny, but knowing the premise, and having built up an expectation, it throws you off and is actually funny.

    I showed it to a friend who doesn't read XKCD and he laughed out loud; when I showed him the original afterward he went o_O. So I think it was successful.

  31. I think Randall got toward the end of the comic and realized he couldn't think of anything evil for Mr. Hat to do, so instead he just slapped on another comic he was planning on doing to the end.

  32. Dear xkcdsucksters I present to you,

    Randall's Tall Comics!

    (I spent way too much time on this)

  33. @Timofei: The expression at the very end is a far more powerful punchline than anything Randall has come up with in a long time.

  34. I was thinking that 792 would be best as a Dinosaur comic (and with a punchline). I was wrong: Timofei's version is superior.

  35. @ 3:04am Anonymous
    I also had to Wikipedia March '97, but none of those things on the front page seem likely...

    BUT on 3/9/97, Biggie died. i'm guessing that's the reference.

  36. Timofei's version only proves that Randal's writing cannot stand on its own (which is to say, his drawings don't constitute art) and that real comic art makes his comics passable.

    I do like it though. Actually having character reactions and subtext does a lot to turn Randal's shitfest into... something other than shit. I was going to say gold, but I may settle upon Tin.


  37. What the hell did I just link to? I just googled "Break it Down" and took the first link. I'm listening to this, and I want to slit my wrists and not in a good way. I thought "break me down" was a crappy 90s pop song related to basketball! How did this go so wrong? Well, it was related by two degrees to an XKCD comic. That is your answer.

    And I thought we'd all just come to the conclusion that "yes, Google is an evil corporation" but "Do we really care enough?"

    @Timofei: It's a good idea; faceless stickmen with a beat panel would even do better [since as we all know the equivalent of him posting that much emotion would be to have the Straightman ask, "Wow, you look overcome with [emotion]"]

  38. Andrew R: The original was about 190% funnier than yours. I don't get you people sometimes.

  39. It's not our fault you are a drooling sycophant who doesn't understand humor and just laughs at what everyone around you laughs at.

  40. "It'll be hilarious the first few times this happens."

    The alt-text sucks. What does "this" refer to?

    Company wide CoD4 tournaments? People setting up password harvesting schemes in real life? People with the means to be evil not finding any interesting evil to engage in? Something else?

    None of these seem like they would be hilarious.

  41. I said once and I'll say again: I don't think this comic has a punchline, period. It's not meant to be funny, which I guess gives Randall some credit, since at least this once the result matched the intention.

    But the alt-text bugs me. Lots. It appears as if it tries to be funny, but with the comic in question, it fails. Hard. It falls so flat that its volume is reduced to zero!

    And the comic layout makes no sense. Why is one panel so taller than the other, why do they panels overlap? What would be the difference if he just made it in his usual layout of one panel after another? Would anyone waste a few minutes of his time to make this test?

    Anyway, I don't think I want to see Monday's comic.

    So, Shalom!


  42. Carl--

    I think you turned on the sarcasm at a confusing time in this post. If the list the "XKCD Sucks List Of Things You Can Do To Make A Lousy Comic," then how can following it lead to "comicking with the best of them"? It switches from straight to sarcastic somewhere in the middle, and it makes it seem like you forgot what the list is for.

    I know this post would probably be better suited to "XKCD Sucks Sucks," but that site hasn't been updating regularly enough... which sucks. Attention XKCD Sucks Sucks Sucks!

  43. Wow, I was waiting for a truly evil Mr. Hat punchline; I thought the setup was really really clever! You know, instead of "Turns out I don't want to be evil, and by the way let's tie this back to how awesome Google is!"

  44. Guys, what happened on March 1997? Something to do with religeon? Golly I'm confused

  45. I might have laughed at 792 if he got rid of the Google bit and the black hat guy just directly blackmailed everyone in the world to play Call of Duty with him, or something like that.

    It fulfills everything:

    1. It's not a moneymaking scheme.
    2. It's messing with people, but not just for the sake of messing with people.
    3. It's not promoting a belief.
    4. Black Hat Guy might legitimately want this to happen.

  46. Anon 11:04L if your version is going: 'Guy mocks friend for having neurotic need to always say nice last words, neurotic friend dies suddenly, Guy realises his mocking were the last words he'd said to him', then kudos. Legitimately funny and dark. Cheers.

    Dammit Randy. See, one of the cuddlefish just showed you up!

  47. Am I the only one that didn't automatically assume that this was a fail at trying to be funny?

  48. Well you are the only one here who uses "fail" as a noun like that, so don't be surprised if no one takes your opinion seriously.

  49. @Anon 1:40: he got it from Randy. You don't remember the "epoch fail" xkcd?

  50. Nobody in particularSeptember 13, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    So....the joke is that hat guy has the possibility to make a lot of money or do some mischief.

    But he doesn't.

    And also. Google didn't.

    Anybody heard of Chekov's gun? Anybody? Because Randall hasn't.

  51. Oi, Ravenzomg. Break Me Down may not be one of RED's best songs, but they're still awesome. If you don't like symphonic rock, don't listen to it. Don't belittle those who do.

  52. No anon they are completely terrible.

  53. I just realized that 791 is perfect for (NSFW!!).

    Also, I don't think anything really happened on March 1994, Munroe's just messing with you.

  54. Anon524: Does "Ravenzomg" really sound like the username of someone who doesn't like emo music? Call it "Symphonic Rock" if you like, but I'm quite comfortable labelling a song which runs [second verse]:
    "I try to find myself/ I find the stranger trapped inside/ And I'll take one more step away/ From the face I used to recognize/ Familiar shadows closing in/ Suffocating fear descends/ It comes alive, uncovered eyes" emo. Emo ---> slit wrists (bad way).

    My anger was more justified at its not being a tacky 90s song I remembered which ran "Break it Down", but I cannot really hold that against it. Oh wait yes I can this is the internet. Anyways, back to my Swedish emo music and then we can return to the glorious 80s Progressive Rock movement. You're wondering who I aaaaam!

    XKCD positive feedback: His comic today is not a single panel, or two awkardly positioned panels with an even more awkwardly positioned caption.

  55. PS: I think that anon 11:04's reinterpretation could be one of the best I've ever seen. Genuinely caught me by surprise.

  56. I was so excited while reading today's xkcd. Long set-up, logical progression, the only legitimate character (Hat Guy) in control of the comic... and then the end made little enough sense to be dumb.


    captcha: splarveh. When larvae just spill everywhere.

  57. GOOMH, Elan! I just played SC2 as Zerg and Larvae kept going splarveh!

  58. UndercoverCuddlefishSeptember 13, 2010 at 10:43 PM

    this latest one is so creative randy

    i have certainly never thought about stealing login information from people on the internet before nor have i had discussions about such things over the internet with other people

    and nobody in the world has ever worried before about the same sorts of things with google having access to so much of their information

    nobody ever you creative fucking genius


  59. I wonder if Randall thinks Black Hat's (his) idea for obtaining passwords is a clever one. It's about as obvious as your standard credit card scam, yet he spends so long explaining it... and then there's the alt-text where he says it will be SO GREAT when somebody else is smart enough to come up with that brilliant idea...

  60. Hey, does anyone still read mspaint adventures? I stopped reading it a while back (a few months into Homestuck) and was wondering whether it's worth picking up again.

  61. It certainly is and you are a terrible person for abandoning it.

  62. I abandoned it 3 months ago because I found myself enjoying it way more when I could read 80 pages at once so I am using every ounce of will power to let it pile up.

    Does this still leave me a terrible person?

  63. Yup, replace the stick figures with dinosaur clipart and this would be indistinguishable from Dinosaur Comics.

  64. Todays QC: "Nice tits, can I take a shit on them?"

    COMEDY GOLD. You should take notes Randall.

  65. It's not supposed to be funny, that's actually what JefJax says to every girl he meets.

  66. Randall should still take notes. I'm sure he could find a willing MIT girl.

  67. 1997 must be a reference to human cloning or the "phoenix lights", this is Randall we're talking about here (and as Mr Hat too). Cloning fits the character, and it's the first entry for March (a guy too lazy to draw faces isn't likely to read the whole list :D).

    Come on Randy, "since [event] happened I haven't really believed in anything" would be so much less retarded. I know it's nitpicking considering the tacked on pointlessness at the end, but if you must use a date use one people will know! (Maybe I'm just not nerdy enough to know, never mind...)



  69. ^ :(

    this is all i shall say on the matter

  70. Wouldn't a "noodle incident" give one detail about March 1997 to make it tantalising? I think Randall just gave a random time and hoped fans would vandalise the Wiki page.

  71. The comic itself points out that Randall doesn't have the imagination required to create a "noodle incident".

  72. For most of the past two years, since I discovered XKCD, I jumped for joy with every new posting. But after many of the posts lately, especially this comic and the one released on the 13th....I now have to agree with this blog. XKCD sucks!

  73. I've just got to say... Andrew R's rewrite is very awesome. Not sure if I loled, but I definitely spluttered in an amused fashion. And Timofei's 'sad expression' at the end is 100% awesome. That is all.

  74. Welcome to the swarm, Tim L.

  75. Anon@2:05. Yep. There's been 35 edits to the 1997 Wikipedia page since September 13. Obviously, half of those are reverting the nonsense the fanboys add.

    My impression is that this is far worse than the usual xkcd related vandalism. Quine seemed obscure enough to get people visiting Wikipedia and then vandalising it. Frogger already has a pop culture section. Neither of these articles got hit. 738 (the one that mentions October 8, 2004) only produced one incidence of vandalism that I can find.

    Randall has to know that attempting to create a Noodle Incident is going to lead to vandalism. I wanted to give him the benefit of a doubt given that he seems opposed to adding stupid stuff to Wikipedia in 446. However, 738 seems pretty similar to 792 in terms of inviting vandalism. 738 failed in that respect, and so Randall followed it up with Malamanteau, by far his most successful incitement to vandalism. He wants this stuff to happen.

  76. 'Choose a depressing topic! In this case, it's the loss of a loved one! What could be funnier?'

    I don't think that makes a lousy comic. 'Cyanide and Happiness' has been doing that for ages. And with great success! In fact, it will not be too wrong to say that some of its best are also some of its most depressing.

  77. but cyanide and happiness is awful. I don't understand.