XKCD Isn't Funny - #1762 - Moving Boxes & #1763 - Catcalling

Is this even a joke? Like, it's funnier than a blank white square, but it's still less funny than actual formed comedy. Every box might as well just have been labeled "I'm quirky".

Not all jokes make sense broken down into a setup/punchline equation, but let's just go with this for a second.
Setup: Randy forgot to label his boxes when moving.
Okay, that's fine. It's not the most interesting setup, but not all setups have to be interesting. Maybe someone helping him move will unintentionally open his sex toy box instead of his blanket box.
Punchline: Randy labels the boxes with words that do not represent what is inside the boxes.
Like, what even is that? That's not funny! That's not a joke! If this was Questionable Content or whatever and it was just in the background, it'd be kinda cute as a character thing, but this is the entire comic, this is all we're given!

Literally everyone who has heard the word "catcalling" as thought of a variation on this joke.

Also, missed opportunity: Not having it turn out that the definition of 'catcalling' was somehow integral to the structure of the universe.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1759 - British Map & #1761 - Blame

This is probably the weakest a comic can be without getting a thumbs-down. The joke boils down to 'certain words sound British', which is obvious to anyone that knows anything about history. We speak English, which was developed (mostly) by the English, who also live in Britain....

That said, it is kind of amusing in a vague way to imagine towns named after Pokemon, and "BBC Channel 4" is actually a clever pun that could only have arisen though this specific joke. Plus, I asked Jon (Levi), with whom I do a podcast, for his thoughts about this comic, and he said it pissed him off! That's how you know a comic's good, when it pisses off the British. 

I think most people will find at least one funny bit in this comic, even if as a whole it might leave them cold. It's still better than 'time is passing (again)' or 'im very smart with science' or...

This is set up like a parody of people, but no one in the history of ever has had this thought process. Even in a longform way that this comic just sums up. This comic parodies something that doesn't exist, which would give it a nifty dada quality if it was intentional. 

And I'm not just being dumb! Explainxkcd has (at time of writing) like five different theories on what this comic could mean. 

Also, who uses Facebook anymore? That exact question was asked two years ago on this very blog, the last time XKCD mentioned it. 

Fuck yo shit, I can't even believe this shit. Have you seen this shit? Fuck, I just watched this shit. Fuck Jessie Heisenberg, man.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1755 - Old Days & #1756 - I'm With Her

I've long since given up on my (incorrect) stance that XKCD should stick to one level of comedy, but if we're going to make jokes about old school coding, do they have to be so impenetrable? I'm not wrong, right? Enjoyment of this comic is 90% predicated on knowing what it was actually like in 'old days'. The humor comes from the total historical inaccuracy of what Notbald is saying.

And yeah, you can kinda understand that she's not being serious even if you don't actually know much about computing history, sure. HOWEVER, the humor is still devalued by a lack of understanding on behalf of the reader vis a vis where the falsehoods begin exactly.

Dara O Briain has a really good bit early on in his second stand up DVD where he talks about why he doesn't do jokes about Muslims. It's better in context and I do recommend you watch the full thing, but for the purposes of this review the relevant quote is "I could research and write the greatest Muslim-based material you've ever heard [...] and you'd all be there going 'Is that a thing? I've never heard of that, is that a thing?'"

Of course comedians should never limit themselves just because we're all ignorant and all artists should strive to challenge their audience in some way, but y'know, there's making difficult music and there's making twenty minute compositions for wind machines.

Speaking of wind machines, politicians! Get it?

You really have to wonder what Randy was thinking when he made this comic. He just doodled stick figures doing random shit on top of the Hillary Clinton logo. And like, that'd be fine, except he also has some on chairs and flying kites? Is that supposed to be funny? Cute? Ironic? It makes the comic look less serious, like he's trying to distance himself from any kind of serious endorsement.

I'm not going to get political here, since the system is rigged so that any form of meaningful choice is taken from the people and it doesn't matter what you believe, but this comic is just a bad idea. It's fine to show support, but this is such a vacuous message that it should have just been a note under the header like he's done before. Instead he made it into a comic with no substance that became dated in less than a day.

I'd be less critical of this comic if there was some persuasion or explanation attached, something to say "I'm with her because [X]." But even that wouldn't have meant much since this comic went up on election day, and most people have made up their minds by then.

Basically what I'm asking is who is this comic for? It's not convincing, it's not funny or cute, it's basically worthless now that the election's over, and it went up so late that the information that could be useful probably won't get to most people that would see it.

Also why is the list of links labeled "How to help"? It's a really pretentious way of saying "Here's some stuff to help you out if you're having trouble voting". Sure, voting is helping, but in a really abstract way, it's not like volunteering or demonstrating on behalf of a candidate, or -even more importantly- arguing with strangers on the Internet.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1753 - Thumb War & #1754 - Tornado Safety Tips

My biggest issue with this one is that the meter gets messed up in the last line. I know Black Hat is a kid in this comic, but I was a kid once and I knew how to stick to a rhythm. Back in second grade, me and both my friends would make up tons of new lines for that dumb 'I hate you, you hate me' song and we knew how to count syllables, dammit! It's an easy fix too, just add "the" in front of "thumb" or switch "won't" out for "will not".

I really like the idea of seeing Black Hat learning to be menacing, and I hope we get to see a good comic about it someday. OHHH! Did you see what I did there?

I know that the lack of actual menace is explained by Black Hat being a kid so I can't complain about it, but I'm going to anyway. It's not menacing! That 'I hate you, you hate me' song is more menacing than this! That had explicit mentions of various types of weapons and their usages, this is vague and doesn't even paint an abstractly ominous picture.

The thing that made Black Hat work in the past was a kind of catharsis factor mixed with Rule Of Cool. Don't we all kinda want to smash in the windows of jackasses with vanity licence plates? Isn't it just fun for someone to steal a nuclear submarine just to get a hat back? But no one wants to be this guy, anyone can be this guy, and it's not cool to be this guy. It's not chaotic evil, it's boring evil.

All that said, if there's a sequel where someone comes along and teaches him to actually be wacky mayhem guy and then we see him using an electric toy car to short circuit the P.A. system, this comic is retroactively made better.

Also not menacing! It's just unhelpful! I will say that it's kinda funny because it is all technically true but useless, but the inclusion of Black Hat just throws things off. It doesn't even need a character to pin it down, but if it did, Beret would be the way to go, since he's the weird guy.

Actually, this comic could be made pretty good if it was established that this was inside some kind of "In case of Tornado" emergency kit. Imagine, people look inside the box desperate for help and then they just find this flyer? Morbid, yeah, but funny!


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1751 - Movie Folder & #1752 - Interplanetary Experience

Somewhere along the line, Black Hat and Beret swapped some of their characterizations. In the beginning, Beret was the weird one and Black Hat was the menacing one. But then suddenly Beret developed supernatural powers and Black Hat stopped trying so now its just anyone with a hat is abnormal in some way.

Here is my totally evidenceless idea: Originally, it was Bald and Beret, with Bald just listing the titles and Beret interjecting with lines like "Love that one!" or "A classic.". But then Randy realized that the comic sucked and he had Beret actually interject with jokes, but the lines read too sardonically so R swapped B out for BH. It's a good thing the end result is funny, but then that's what you get when you do rewrites.

Black Hat's interjections make this comic. Without them it would be boring, even though the fake movie titles are kinda clever. Titanic having multiple sequels is a funny concept, but it's just a concept until our dark-helmeted friend describes plot elements.

That said, the comic does kinda leave me waiting at the end. There are some good jokes in it, but the comic doesn't really 'move' from start to finish. It's the same kind of joke four times, and we don't even end on a high note, we just get 'Michael Bay CGI' which has been done more times than your mom

's gardening since she's a nice lady and people want to help her with her yardwork.

This comic, on the other hand, is all premise with no point.

Unless it's not supposed to be a joke, but it can't be intended as an informational thing. For one, don't most people know this, roughly? Mercury is really hot because it's close to the sun, Pluto is really cold because it's far away, all the gas giants are gas giants so they're gas and no land, and so on. I'll give credit for Titan, though, that was a new one on me.

Plus, obviously, none of the things can be done by regular people, so readers can't even have fun going through the list. If he actually wanted to let people do hands on things, he should have said to like - this is for Pluto - cover themselves in ice and lie on the beach at night, something like that.

And furthermore, I was once on Jupiter, and

Hey, wait a minute! He already kinda covered this in that one What If?, this is an outrage!

Oh, by the way, Blogger changed so that I don't get notified when someone comments, so apologies if I've missed any cool things anyone's said.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1749 - Mushrooms & #1750 - Life Goals

It's called "Mushrooms" because you'd need to be on mushrooms to find it funny! Haha!

I kid, I kid. It's still not funny tho. I can see how the idea could be funny, but the execution is more "cute" than anything to actually laugh at.

It's a subtle difference, but imagine that the guy reaches down to pet the mushroom in the final panel instead of the first one, and instead of growling, the mushroom purrs. It'd be more consistent, 'plot'-wise, and it would be a logical extension of the preceding action.

Now I'm aware that this IS nitpicking and I do still consider this a good comic, but I think with that change, it would move from being just cute to being cute and maybe chuckle-worthy.

The first time I read this comic, I got steadily more annoyed until the punchline, and full props to Randy, I did actually chuckle at this one. All that annoyance just released right out of me, which is a good feeling.

Points are deducted for the text-only presentation, but I'm willing to forgive it for being as long as it is, it wouldn't fit on Twitter. It would also be difficult to illustrate some of the things on the list, so I can forgive him (to an extent) for not doing so.

If this were a lesser XKCD, the joke would just be the weird life goals, but that final one gives the rest of the list a point. The comic has a reason to exist, it takes an idea and jumps off of it to make something.

That's not to say that this comic is amazing, but it does get my coveted "Good Comic" tag. To self-plagiarize for a moment: if all XKCDs were at least this level, this blog wouldn't exist.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1747 - Spider Paleontology & #1748 - Future Archaeology

I think this is the first time we've gotten two continuous comics that were also consecutive, without being part of a week-long storyline (of which there have only been four or five, all more than six years ago). And that's not particularly new for webcomics, especially with all those qualifiers in there, but still.

So, first thing: why is the future populated by floating energy sphere things. That seems like a weird thing to gloss over. The characters don't even react! I don't have an issue with the time travel element, that's fine, that's part of the joke, that's okay, but then Randy piled a further thing on top of it for no reason. Did he just not want to fit a third stick figure in the panel?

The joke itself is more of an idea than anything else, but it's a neat idea! This is also a comic where it makes sense not to show the dinosaurs oozing goo or something (as opposed to all other comics, where we SHOULD see dinosaurs oozing goo). The point is to make us imagine, it'd totally ruin things to give us something to narrow down how we'd imagine things.

Over all I give the first comic a pass. The second however, is meh.

This comic was released on October 17th, which means that the election reference in the first panel became dated in less than a month. And while it's slightly salvaged by the lack of any specific mention of candidate names or dates, it's still a really awkward thing to put in. He could have just had them say "So what advances have you made in the future?", or, even better "So, why are you a weird energy orb thing?".

And then we get to the punchline. The idea that Randy's trying to convey is that incomplete archaeology can give us false images of the past, just like incomplete paleontology. Which is true, and a neat thing to think about. However, he chose to illustrate this idea with "That's How I Beat Shaq". I may not be the most 'with it' person, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who didn't get the reference. Randy should have gone with something either more popular today, like Rick Roll, or something more memorable from the past, like Space Jam.

These comics made me think a little bit, which I appreciate, but I'd have preferred to have some more context to the weird orb thing angle, and I'd really have preferred not having to listen to an Aaron Carter song as part of this post's research.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1745 - Record Scratch & #1746 - Making Friends

Do people actually wonder what a record scratch sound was? I don't even mean "Do people not know what records are?", I mean that by now a record scratch doesn't really mean 'the needle slipped on the record player', it's just the sound effect for a freeze frame. It's like when someone falls off a cliff in a cartoon and a slide whistle plays. It is, as TV Tropes would say, a Stock Sound Effect

This comic doesn't indicate it, but it was directly inspired by a twitter meme. That's why the comic is set up so weird: it's set up like a tweet: caption then image. 

What the comic SHOULD have done is have at least one panel of the guy being approached by the mob, and then a record scratch (with the sound effect in between the panels). Imagine it in your head, isn't that so much better? The way Randy did it, it feels out of order, it's a little bit confusing. 

Also, nitpick: music is still recorded on vinyl discs by hipsters some people, and vinyl sales are still a sizable part of the market. It's not a completely archaic technology as the caption kinda implies. 

So if they're having this conversation, they're friends, right? It doesn't seem to me like a conversation that two people would have as just acquaintances. So wouldn't that mean that Ponytail has already experienced Bald's attempts at friend-making? I don't think this is me being pedantic, I think this is a logical question to ask given the series of events we're presented with.

The fix for the weird paradox isn't even hard, just call attention to it and make that part of the joke. Cyanide & Happiness's "Sad Ending" short gives a good example of how to do it. If a work points out one of its flaws, that flaw is not a flaw that can be held against that work. (The way that the work points out the flaw can be, but let's not get into that now) It's like how you can't criticize Harry Potter for having magic, since that's the premise. They say "In a world where magic is real..." I don't say "Ha! Magic isn't real, your series sucks!", I have to say "Several scenes lose tension due to the lack of clearly defined rules for how magic works, etc."

THAT SAID, I do actually kinda enjoy the described scenario here, even if it is a little silly. It's cute! Just think about people slowly creeping towards a guy with a broken leg, when suddenly - "No one is sure why Uranus has a sideways rotation!" And all the predators halt for a second, and go "Hmm. This guy isn't so bad after all."

If only we had that visually presented to us. Oh well.

[page break]

Yo I'm writing this after watching Love Actually so forgive me if this is a bit sappy, but I wanted to say Happy Holidays to everyone reading this. Your comments honestly do perk me up and I sincerely hope that my Christmas gift to all of you will be a balancing out of my work and my college and my podcast and my music and this blog so I can give you regular updates across the board. 

Also, to the first reader of this post - your present is an iTunes gift card! The code is XVHV685WN9KV7JXP. (Hopefully this time it'll be usable in all countries)

I love you all.

- Greg


XKCD Isn't Funny #1742 - Will It Work? & #1743 - Coffee

I'm gonna have to trust this chart since the farthest I've ever gone down it is the package manager. I am a simple man, and I stick to what I know.

Yo, by the way (real quick) I don't know if this is a well known thing, but I remembered myself figuring it out in fifth grade and being really proud of myself and then my teacher fuckin SHIT on it! So like, the difference between 2^2 and 1^2 is three, (3^2)-(2^2)=5, and 4²-3²=7, and the difference between a square and the next highest square keeps increasing by two. And people get a lot of money when they discover new primes, right? Therefore I can use my thing to keep discovering new squares and become crazy rich, right? Someone hook me up with the email of whoever's in charge of giving out money to maths peoples.

Speaking of math! Back in my science class, I learned how to do graphs and this ain't no good. You gotta have little dashes that show where you are on the scale, even if you're not doing number specific things.

It also feels pretentious to say "code" instead of "program". (It is possible that I am just misunderstanding a difference in terminology) It's like those pretentious guys I've been told exist that say "film" instead of "movie" or "lobster" instead of "instant ramen". Some of us weren't born with a silver screensaver in our mouth, Randy!

There's probably a good joke somewhere in the idea of this comic, but a narrative structure would probably bring it out best. Maybe a guy's scrolling through snapchat or whatever the young kids are into these days, and he sees a code that only needs minimal tweaks, and then he's frustrated when those minimal tweaks turn out to take up years of his life. And that would even be kinda relatable; plenty of people have spent way too long working on something meaningless. The way this comic is presented, it's only relatable to coder people.

I haven't yet experienced this phenomenon, but I've been told (read: heard on a podcast) that there are these people you run into that really make a big deal out of not being able to cook. Like "Oh yeah, I burn water, I can't make cereal", like it's something to be proud of. The "I don't know how to adult" joke has kinda worn thin by this point. I'm all for understanding that we're all fallible humans and we're all just trying our best and all that, I'm less for celebrating not knowing stuff and wallowing in ignorance.

That's me reading too much into the context and whatnot, though. How does the joke stand up outside me whining about what the kids are doing these days? As it turns out, not too bad! Total is usually worth a chuckle,  and it is kinda neat in a gross-out way to see the chick horribly misinterpret the concepts involved in making coffee.

However, there are two huge Missed Opportunities in this comic. For one, it'd be way better if we saw them reading from a wikihow article or a cookbook or something. "Step 1: Poor the coffee grounds" and they just poor it out on to the floor. Ha!

The second M.O. (Mike Oldfield) is that we don't see the guests. This whole comic gains an extra dimension of sitcom hilarity if we have their guests are just in the other room, hearing these not-coffee-making sounds. Extra bonus points if we get to see the coffee actually being served, which makes the concept that people are going to drink this stuff more real and therefore more horrible and therefore more funny.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1740 - Rosetta & #1741 - Work

So the chick is all incredulous right in front of him, and he still believes her when she goes with it? It's also not clear that the other chick is whispering to her in the last panel, so it looks like he's just being willfully delusional.

Also, I am 100% not sold on this being a space center. I've never been in one, but I've been in a government type place once, and that shit had three television screens, on top of twenty-something computers. This isn't a dorm room, with a pair of laptops and a pair of desks, it's like NASA or some shit.

I like this comic, but I think it's kinda funny that the scene from his life he chose to show was just "plain drawer-less table with single lamp and cup of water". It might have come off a bit better if there had just been close-ups on individual objects. Or he could have gone the other way, and had a more zoomed-out shot of a room, with one caption per item.

This comic does retread #277 a bit, but it's okay because 1) it's been like eight years c'mon and 2) it's a notable improvement, no preachy author-inserts to be found. And it's just a cool thing to note, y'know? Isn't that the beauty of humanity, our ability to put passion into the corporate, to create meaning from meaninglessness, to argue emotionally about tiny, insignificant things?

I'd also like to point out that this comic also reflects the process that brings you this blog. Every individual word must be agreed upon and triple-proofread by me and all five of my consultnats.