XKCD Isn't Funny - #1453 - FMRI


This is a good comic. It took me a second to get it once I'd read it but I think that was intentional and it works well.

I dislike how the poster/sheet/board is floating in place.

That's all I've got for this one.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1452 - JURASSIC WORLD

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody (who lives in America)! And before I get into the actual comic, let me just give you all some nice, [reference]-style asskissing and say that I'm thankful that I'm able to entertain you all with my insipid words.

The setup and punchline of this comic feel disconnected, like Randy was going to do something else and decided against it, or maybe the he thought of the punchline and setup separately, which would make sense considering that White Hat's namegiver disappears in the final panel (seriously, Randy, that's almost like a new level of lazy. It's one step over just ending the comic at two panels because you got bored drawing it).

Actually, why is White Hat here at all? White Hat's existence has pretty much always been as a strawman for Randy to stab, right? So why is he here in a faux-dramatic role?

This is a clear attempt at a bait and switch. What I would have done is used exact dialogue from the recently released trailer. I'd have also taken out Hair Girl to give the dialogue one tone. Because of her nitpicks on White Hat's monologue, the buildup/bait made weak and more comical, which takes away from the punchline being that all the dramatic buildup is to Green T-Rex.

Imagine a typical dubstep, you have the buildup and the drop*, just like a rollercoster. What makes it work is the difference between the softer beginning and the hard hitting middle. If the drop is almost the same level as the buildup, then it doesn't actually feel like a drop. If the faux-dramatic buildup is made fun of, the punchline doesn't feel like an unexpected left hook and the joke fails.

Also shouldn't Green T-Rex be in a cage or something else befitting a dangerous creature?

*Anyone preparing to correct me on what is or isn't "real" dubstep is encouraged to realize that I really just don't care that much.



I actually do something kinda similar to this: when I'm watching anything animated I notice all the little animation shortcuts they use, like when they loop a bit of animation or they only animate the mouth and nothing else. Also I tend to notice certain kinds of camerawork in live action stuff for some reason, like when the camera will get close to an object so they can cut the scene in half but make it look like it's one shot.

The graph being used to express the setup in a clear way while the actual punchline is drawn out was a really good choice, although I imagine it'd get visually boring if that format was reused too many times in a short time-span. If it was just the graph then it wouldn't be a joke, and if it was just the drawing then it'd seem formless, but together they cancel out each others' flaws, rather like me and Andrew (who is currently nowhere to be found).

However, I feel like there could be more done with the punchline, more to keep it from feeling like GOOMHR (is my audience solidified enough that I can keep it initialized?) -bait. An extra line or dialogue or two could probably be squeezed in if the panel was wider or taller, nothing would even need to be redrawn.

Floorsit could say something like "No. This is more important than any movie could ever be. I have found my calling.", something really over the top and dramatic, and Chairdude could go to lock their bank account again, since they're probably married by now. Also Chairdude could get a better haircut, that could also happen, but probably not.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1450 - AI-BOX EXPERIMENT

I was listening to Mike Oldfield the other day when I suddenly realized how few Mike Oldfield references my blog has. Shortly after that, I came up with this opening paragraph. And that's where babies come from.

There are two main issues I have with this comic: the setup and the punchline.
That reads harsher than I intended it to, but I stand by it.

The setup is appreciated, since one of XKCD's most consistent flaws is its failure to tell you what the hell it's talking about, but it really doesn't explain the AI-Box Experiment well (which probably has to be done considering how short the wikipedia page currently is). Like, I got the concept that the AI could convince anyone to let it out of the box, but I didn't get that the laptop was there to communicate with it. My logic was that the AI was completely isolated in the box, with no way of communicating with the outside world since it would be too dangerous being free.

Also "the AI-Box Experiment" isn't the correct answer to "What's in there?", it should be "an AI. That laptop is there so we can talk to it. But don't because..." etc.

Panel six looks pretty impressive, but it's ruined for me by Black Hat saying "AAA! OK!!!" which is completely out of character for him, even ignoring the slow blurring of character traits that's happened over time. This is the guy who stole a Russian submarine, he's not going to be frightened off by a light show and some vocal effects.

Which brings me, more-or-less, to what I believe to be the biggest issue with this comic: the AI is supposed to be able to convince people to do anything, but instead it just shouts, not even making a threat. That's not convincing, that's throwing a tantrum. It ruins the punchline by making the AI different from what it's set up to be.

I have a final thought, but it's something I need to put a sort of disclaimer on.

I have to consider things before I post them, or else the blog just goes to mud. I have to try and keep up some veneer of professionalism (that's probably what leads to the 'I'm so smart' vibe that some people get from reading this). But there are some things that just need to be said, despite the immaturity involved in saying them. So, with that, allow me to shed any dignity I might have left and just say it: the AI looks like a butthole.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1449 - RED ROVER

This comic actually points out a real strength of XKCD: It's flexible. A lot of webcomics restrict themselves to strict four-panel setups or a specific pixel count, but not XKCD. It's willing to do stuff like this, messing with the format. The lifting of limits is what created TIME (and also any of the all-text comics but we're giving out praise right now so the next line is surprising).

However, it'd probably be a much more useful strength if it consistently had the jokes to back them up.

What this comic really needs is a deeper sense of contrast. I think what's supposed to be funny is that a massive geological process is being reduced down to a children's game, but we only get to ssee three little motion lines to repressent that massive geological process.

If we got a drawing of the Himalayas forming, really showing the earth changing from the incredible pressure and time, we'd have a point of comparison. Also while I'm dreaming, the continents should be chibified, SATW-style, and we should see them actually playing the game.

This comic just comes off like a geological history lesson.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1448 - QUESTION

Sometimes I do legitimately wonder about things, almost childlike for a few moments. What kinds of people live on those islands north of Russia? Will I ever be happy again? What would the color red taste like? (these are mostly shower thoughts) And sitting here, I do have to wonder about Randy's thought process as he made this comic.

First of all, he must have come up with the joke, which is actually a reference to an Isaac Asimov short story that I've yet to read, so I thought "Isaac" was a reference to the famous one. Y'know, the lumberjack-looking guy in Mother 3? Or, if you're more 'INDIE (Including Not-Dumb Information Existence', that guy who got hit with an apple that one time, who happens to currently be the first autofill result for "isaa".

Second, our boy Randy decided to keep the reference in, which alienated people like me who hadn't even heard of it, but that could be that the only pop culture I ever consume is a certain webcomic (cough Questionable Content cough).

And lastly, we have the bizarre choice of presentation, a drawing of a sheet of paper being the only thing preventing the comic from being straight-up text. (new tag: "could be a tweet").

It's my old problems with presentation taken to their extreme, when there is none. When the joke is dumped on us like it would have taken a crapton of effort to draw a stick figure talking to a simple drawing of a computer. The joke is rendered pointless behind a total lack of attempt to sell it to the audience.

The alt text was pretty good though.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1447 - META-ANALYSIS

It's been a while since I've seen meta humor, but that might just be because XKCD is really the only webcomic I still bother keeping up with on the regular.

This was fine as an idea, but I really dislike how it's been presented. I understand that it's supposed to be a paper, but was it really that hard to translate this to a dialogue?

(quick rough example dialogue)
Kevin: (checks mail) "Aw, damn, my paper got rejected."
Sasha: "Which one?"
Kevin: "Y'know how people have made meta-meta-analyses on meta-analyses? I made a meta-meta-meta analyses on those meta-meta-analyses."
Sasha: "Well, at least you're the first person to get a paper rejected with the comment 'Too meta'."

Really the only thing that actually bothers me about this comic is the word "meta" is used too much. A lack of varied vocabulary creates a greater sense of repetition in a reading, which makes the sentences come off as stiffer. However, that was unavoidable in this instance without changing the joke, so I guess I can let it slide. Even I'm not demanding enough to ask Randy to scrap any idea that isn't perfect.

The other day I lost a reader because I was neutral on #gamergate, and (without getting into any debates here) that was incredibly weird to me. Not that someone wouldn't want to support someone that didn't condemn what they saw as dispicable, but that they considered me someone who was at one point worthy of supporting.

Like... I'm not any kind of spokesperson. My claims to fame amount to mildly harrassing a webcomic and getting retweeted by Dara O Briain that one time. Reading this blog isn't giving me power over the minds of millions, it's looking at reactionary hack writing done by a random guy who saw there was an audience and thought serving that audience was something worth doing.

(although if anyone does want to actually support me in any way for some reason, it would be totally hype of you to buy one of my albums over at my bandcamp)


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1446 - LANDING

Much like yesterday's episode, this comic is derivative of two better comics, but this time the scale's been stepped up. If you go to the off-site player (which for some reason doesn't seem to work on Internet Explorer), you'll see that this is none other than a mini-TIME, filtered through a #695 lens.

I'm not that great at HARDCORE ANALYSIS of big things, so forgive me if I don't get too in-depth here.

Now, TIME won a Hugo award and has a big thread and a religion, it's Randy's magnum opus, and with good reason. Also people who probably think lifetime movies are emotional and dramatic are still banging on about #695 from time to time. It really isn't suprising that Randy would attempt to follow up on his best work and that other one.

However, I feel, philosophically, that this is a step backwards. Like an underground artist that suddenly had a top forty hit, Randy was faced with two (main) choices: Continue to grow, expand, and be awesome, a la Chumbawamba and Semisonic; or do exactly the same thing over again and hope the same success comes along, a la a bunch of bands no one cares about because they kept doing the same thing over again and over again and over again (over and over and over and over again).

To quote my beloved Bomb the Music Industry: "There's nothing new about the old sound regardless of what you say. The world is looking on like 'Really, again? Okay, okay..'". And while there have been the inevitable gifs on tumblr and there is a sizable thousand replies currently on the thread post, this comic is missing some key factors that made TIME so big and new and cool. The image upload time was changed from a half hour to five minutes and the total story length was shortened from 3,099 pages to 142. It also, obviously, isn't the first time he's done this. TIME was really neat because it was something that had simply never been done before. Thus it was impossible for this comic to work up the suspense that TIME had that caused all the theorizing and stuff that (I am told) went on in the TIME thread.

The actual story? It's alright, I guess. Not much of an attempt at being funny other than that the comet lander talks like Beret Guy sometimes and there's a bit with the president that doesn't really work. I don't like the 'Worry' bits toward the end, just because it seems to me that people at NASA (kNown for lAunching Stuff into spAce) would have a pretty good idea of what they're doing. But then, Randy would know better than me on that one. ;)

That winky face was completely unnecessary and I apologize.

I'm probably being harsher than I should be on this, it had some interesting visuals and it obviously took some work, but I really can't help feeling like this is just Randy's best work... but smaller, less impressive, and not surprising anymore.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1445 - EFFICIENCY

Quick announcement: XKCD Isn't Funny is taking its own advice and getting an editor, Andrew Colanininero, whom I previously worked for on Cubified, the free game available through Desura. Posts will continue to be written in what I have been told repeatedly is first person, but they'll hopefully be, y'know, better.

However, since Andrew is a busy man working for Nintendo, Sega, and Microsoft at the same time, he may not be able to edit through all of my crap. Posts that we've both worked on will be tagged "Andrew and Greg" and posts with only one author will be tagged with "Greg" (or "Andrew" if he decides to fly solo for a bit).

Regardless! This comic sucks! Linkara! It takes two common XKCD bad habits and slams them together, like peanut butter and jelly only evil. This isn't just a graph joke, presenting a concept in it's blandest and therefore least funny form, this is also Get Out Of My Head Randy -bait. I looked through the forums to find examples of people saying how much they related to this comic so I could feel superior, but they're mostly debating other efficiency theories.

However, one astute poster helpfully pointed out that just #974 and #1205, which really just makes my job easier.

Since #1205 was already just an infographic version of #974, this is a distillation of a non joke version of a comic which already had issues. It's like if someone listened to Chumbawamba's cover of "Her Majesty" and decided to make a ten second version. There's a core good idea there, but it's been resculpted and then cut into forths, failing to live up to the original or the reinterpretation.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1444 - CLOUD


It's probably a little hypocritical to start this review off with a joke that maybe two people will get, but I'll make it up by including other stuff, like the actual review that people expect to see.

It seems like just yesterday that Randy was educating all over our eager, willing faces about how hard it is to make a computer identify what the subject of an image is. And now we're expected to believe that Google could make a program that instantly identifies what something looks like. I wonder how many XKCDs I could theoretically review just by replying with another XKCD.

Does that totally ruin the punchline? No, but the punchline wasn't that great to begin with anyway. It's essentially only a taking-something-literally joke. And there's an extra "keep trying, Google" just clinging on like I desperately cling to relevance.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1443 - LANGUAGE NERD

This is an alright joke. I can't really criticise it purely on the humor. It's not excellent, it's not bad, this is the first time I've seen the phrase "language nerd" but this comic doesn't need language nerdity to be a huge cultureal phenomenon to work. It's fine. It's not memorable, it's not terrible, it's fine.

Instead I'd like to point something out, look at the girl. She's talking, and the guy doesn't respond. So he's essentially there as a prop or decoration, to keep the comic from just being Girl talking directly to the audience. And Girl is really only there as a mouthpiece for Randy. This comic is basically a tweet.

Sometimes I wonder, vaguely, what XKCD would be like if it had started after Twitter and tumblr had got (gotten?) going. Like, What-if Randy had started a tumblr to put all his stuff in instead of starting his own website?


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1442 - CHEMISTRY

I'm not going to lie and say the idea isn't fairly clever, because it actually is, unless it turns out that Randy copied this from an old SMBC I've forgotten about.

However, what this comic has in original ideas, it completely loses in presentation and overal performance, much like Arcade Fire. (Runners up for datsik burn include Beyond: Two Souls, Ireland, and 'that one anime with the people and the magic')

To quote Brandon Sides' rather insightful comment on my review of #1400: "People don't like to read their comics in the form of bullet points, just like no one wants comedians explaining each of their jokes on a separate powerpoint slide.".

The comic's content wouldn't even have to be changed to give it that necessary context, just take the faux-lesson a step further. Instead of presenting the idea to the audience, have a teacher lecturing a classroom. Then just add some basic dialogue to give the comic some life, which could lead right into the "typographic chemistry" punchline.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1441 - TURNABOUT

Aww, damnit. The streak of XKCDs-That-Are-Good (XTAG) has come to an end. Once again, I must raise the ritual dagger and send the stillborn comic up to the great webpage in the sky.

When was the last time we had a multi-row comic? I feel like it's been a while, the only one I can recall off the top of my head is #1337. I really feel like this one would have been a lot stronger if the dramatic shootout had just been a bit more protracted.

The shootout definitely could have used more detail though, in the first panel the guy (let's tall him "Top") looks like he's being hit, a quick depth job would have fixed that right up. And in the fourth panel, it looks weird with the other guy (let's call him "Bottom") splayed out on the ground when Top is still 'flat'.

Although the punchline isn't as bad as it could have been, since you do get a vague idea of what the apollo retroreflectors are from how the beam comes back (it's some kind of space mirror, obviously). On the other hand, it would have been pretty awkward to cram an explanation about them into a gun battle.

I feel like this is something that would need a whole action movie of setup to pay off properly, like this is the final climatic face off between Top and Bottom, all their friends are dead, Top is about to win, when suddenly Bottom remembers the moon mirros that Scientist had briefly mentioned at the begining of the film and fires upward, letting him win the fight.

To be honest, what we've got here is just too dramatic. The punchline really can't be made funny without a completely different setup, like if the above hypothetical scene was being parodied by another movie and the two spies ran into a carnival house of mirrors.

I want it to be noted that I'd actually learned about the Apollo Retroreflectors before reading this comic, but I didn't make the connection until I read the comic a second time. It's obviously my own issue, but I suspect I'm not the only person who files that information under "those mirrors on the moon" rather than "Apollo Retroreflectors".

Also, didn't Mulan do this, but with a firework and an avalanche?