2016-08-23

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1708 - Dehydration & #1709 - Inflection


I don't hate the joke in this one. I can appreciate the irony that someone heavily researching water would forget to hydrate. That said, the execution is pretty first-draft.

I know that XKCD is supposed to be minimalist and stuff, but that still doesn't excuse the dialogue in panel one. Who talks like that!? It sounds like someone reading the first line of an autopsy report, it's so clinical and precise. I'd submit it for a Bulwer-Lytton, if it wasn't also so boring.

Then a bunch of people chime in on this BORING conversation and I know it's just a joke comic strip but if you actually read it it's not good.

I am okay with panel three, that gets a pass from me. The laptop/book/whatever in her hand is a nice touch, even if it does disappear a second later.

The final panel has an okay punchline, but then follows it up with three post-punchline things. The first one, okay, that's a reasonable thing to say to a dehydrated person. The second, ehhh, if it's going to be a final punchline it should be moved to a new final panel. The last line is just completely unnecessary and not funny and doesn't make sense even. Have you ever tried drinking water straight from the tap? It's hard, you pretty much just get your lips wet at best. At worst, you just waterboard yourself.


I saw this joke in screenshotted tweet form on tumblr about a year ago, and it didn't have all that boring linguistic stuff in the front.

And if you're going to put two big-ass blocks of text about linguistics in front of a punchline, can it at least be assumed that the reader knows what an alphabet is? Even if the reader doesn't know the subtle nuance of the technical definition, everything needed to understand the comic can be inferred from "you can show the changes through spelling"

Also, where does Bald's question come from? The conversation is entirely based around inflections and suddenly he pops in with that. Pictographic languages aren't touched upon at all until his mention of them. I understand that IRL ("in real life" for all my readers that don't go on the Internet) random comments only tangentially related to the current conversation can get blurted out, but this isn't a conversation we're having over fast-food, this is Dialogue and should be treated as such.

I wish I had an up-to-date iPhone so I could end this review with a bunch of thumbs down emojis, but I don't, so just pretend these squares are emojis that aren't displaying through your browser.

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2016-08-16

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1706 - Genetic Testing & #1707 - XKCD Phone 4


This is like a clip from the most boring sitcom ever made. There's no banter over getting the DNA testing, no mini-jokes about what kind of genetic sample was used, not even a Homestar Runner reference!

Not gonna lie, after looking that link up I watched an hour of Homestar Runner stuff. Man, that is top quality internet right there. Coming back to XKCD is like following up a delicious coq au vin with some snot on a paper plate.

This whole comic is just a bunch of set ups to jokes that don't happen. It could almost be funny, if it was intentional anti-humor. As it is, we have "I should probably start avoiding chocolate" as a punchline. Not even "Well, it explains my chocolate allergy". Instead he's tacitly admitting that he's had chocolate before without bad side effects.

Other missed opportunity: Having the percentages in panel three not add up to one hundred. It'd be a little mini gag that some people would miss, making it all the more special to those who spotted it. It'd even go with the theme that ancestry tester places are bullshit.


Oh god he's going to keep making these. He's like Wall-E, keeping on with his useless and unrewarding task because no one is telling him to stop. I haven't seen Wall-E since it came out, does it still hold up?

So, let's pretend it was funny the first time he did this. It wasn't, but let's pretend. He's making fun of how smartphones have useless features and they're poorly made and stuff, okay that's fine. I don't see why Randal Munroe has to tell us this while Maddox is still alive, but to hell with it. Why then, do we need the same joke repeated three more times? 

2016-08-12

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1704 - Gnome Ann & #1705 - Pokémon Go


My first thing is totally a me-only problem, but I can't help but read things like they're spelled in my head. "Jalapeno" will always be "Ja-la-pen-o" when it's written down. So it took me two readings more than it should have because I kept on reading "Gnome" with the G pronounced. But, like I said, that's just me being an idiot.

This comic is like one of those "word replacements" ones he does sometimes, but with skin. It's actually got images and stuff!

I wish we got a little more understanding of who Gnome Ann is, though. I don't need a full character backstory, but I think it would have been pretty cool to have some explanation for why she has these amazing powers, or some narrative structure to tie the comic together.

Maybe panel 4 could be the first panel, the idea being that she gets her other awesomeness from just being really smart. And then she puts the marriage asunder, makes the wicked flee, she makes time and tide wait for her, and THEN she's grown enough to kill the bad guy. The Star Trek opening bit could be an epilogue thingy.

The comic, as it is, isn't outright bad so much as not actively good. It's kinda neat to see the reinterpretations of famous sayings, but nothing really gets developed enough for me to engage.


This comic, on the other hand, don't make no sense. The person is walking along without their phone, then pulls it out when they see the Pokemon? They wouldn't do that, they'd understand that because they're not seeing the pokemon through their phone, it's not part of the game. Maaaybe they'd try and scan it to see if it activated anything in-game, but they wouldn't be confused because people aren't that stupid.

If the guy had been walking while looking through his phone, that'd be fine. Suddenly a thing you're used to seeing on screen appears on screen but it doesn't work because it's not actually, sure, I can dig it. But that's not what's shown. That's what should be shown, but it isn't.

In conclusion, this comic can pokemon GO AWAY!! hahahhHA!

2016-08-06

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1703 - Juno


I wish I'd seen Juno so I could be like "This comic is even worse than Juno!" (I heard it was bad)

This comic couldn't be a tweet (at least without editing), but it's definitely set up like one. The first two panels are just a substitution for the link the the article he'd be riffing on.

The joke itself is perfect for twitter, snarky, short, doesn't make much sense if you think about it. Why would she say that during a press conference? The whole point of a press conference is to not look like an idiot!

This comic should have taken place during the landing. We see the dramatic countdown to landing, the cheers, and then someone checks in. "Hey, we landed on Saturn?" Slowly, the celebration fades. On the display, we see Jupiter's rings up close. Sheepishly, one of the scientists asks "...Saturn?" It'd be a much more dynamic presentation of the same concept. The comic as is has a very static presentation, the visuals are Star Wars Prequel boring, just three people standing doing nothing.

That wouldn't be so bad if the joke was funny, but it's so Twitter throwaway. There should have at least been another joke in the announcement panel to make it seem less like he's just trying to be an alternative news source.

2016-08-02

Questionable Content Isn't Funny - #3275 - The Revenant & #3277 - Vengeance



As I'm writing this, it is my birthday, and Jeph Jacques was kind enough to give me the present of a comic that NEEDED to be reviewed by me, even though Jeph Jacques more like Jerk Jacques for blocking me on twitter.

These comics both take place shortly after an intense emotional experience in which Faye almost relapses into alcoholism. This is Serious, and is presented as so in the first two panels of #3277 and the comic preceding #3275. But then things suddenly go off the rails and the humor gets cartoony. 

I want to make it clear: Humor is great as a coping mechanism for the self and for others. One time after a friend told me about their history of self-harm, I made this dumb joke about a person I saw out the window, and it cut the tension and we were able to relax a little. But we didn't suddenly burst into a pun-off, the mood was still down. My friend didn't even Laugh laugh, he did a kind of exhale and he smiled a little. 

Now, I can believe that a person can genuinely make jokes in times of emotional crises - I'm a guy who made jokes about the redness of my throat while I was throwing up bleach - but I can't believe that another person is just going to jump right in and add on to the jokes. Martin is supposed to be Faye's best (?) friend, he should still be concerned about her enough to impair his humor.


With the second comic, I don't know if it's reasonable for the illegal robot fighting place to have a furnace, but I do know that it's not reasonable to reforge glass after smashing it. The reveals in panels 1, 2, & 4 are all sweet on their own, but put together they just become over the top. I understand that the steadily escalating thing is a standard joke format, but it's one that works best in settings without consequences. Squidward can get away with trying to run Spongebob over with a steamroller, Hal would go to jail if he did that to Dewey

If Bubbles was making a joke, like she was trying to reassure Faye using humor, this comic would be okay. As it is, nothing we see gives us any indication that she's being anything but serious. This is a weird course of action for someone as serious as Bubbles. 

2016-07-24

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1702 - Home itch Remedies


This comic should have just ended in the second panel. Cut out the fourth line of dialogue, too. The funniest (and truest) part of the comic is "I just want sympathy".

Maybe it's just because I live in the northeast where everyone just hates things all day, but are weird home remedies actually a widespread phenomenon? I can't think of a single example I've seen in my life, at least not for bug bites. Hiccups, sure, because it's always fun to get your friends to hurt themselves, but not bug bites.

I think Randy thinks that any exaggeration is inherently funny. It can't just be "rub a mixture of honey and syrup on it" it has to be this impossibly elaborate thing. Just like every good lie has a little bit of truth, every good joke still reflects reality. This exaggeration goes too far out of the bounds of normalcy and becomes meaninglessly absurd.

2016-07-17

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1700 - New Bug & #1701 - Speed And Danger


I swear I can almost see the thought process that went into this. Randy was working on some code thing and he encountered a bug. Suddenly, inspiration strikes, and he begins writing comic #1700. But the only way he could think to make it funny was to exaggerate the wackiness of the bug he had. And then he didn't exaggerate it enough. Wacky would be "I keep intercepting private CIA communications" or "the screen turns green if I use the microwave". it's not "server crashes user password URL". BOR-ing.


Speaking of boring computer junk, I'm really surprised that computer crashes weren't put on the list. I don't know if it was an intentional avoidance of a cliche or if Randy just didn't think of it but either way I feel this comic is weaker for it.

This comic, as is, is pointless. It's definitely not funny. What the fuck is the joke? That faster crashes are more dangers than slower crashes? Yeah, I think most people who know what vehicles are know that, so it can't be educational either. Computers would at least add another dimension to the comic. 

Another thing this comic is missing is "normal cars". Also maybe "Mario Karts". This graph is so threadbare compared to the graphs I have come to expect from XKCD. 

2016-07-12

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1698 - Theft Quadrants & #1699 - Local News


Why would it be bad if the tinyurl.com domain name was stolen.

I think when Randy was writing this comic, he assumed people would be able to understand it because he knew what he meant. And I am not going to ask anyone to bring out the pitchforks for that, I think every writer falls into that particular hole a few times in their career. However, that hole is one reason why editors exist and I would like to posit that Randy's content would be improved by one.

For example, I might have been able to discussed this comic's joke since I might have understood it.


This one had to be explained to me, but I don't hate it. Once I looked up all the big confusing words, I realized that this pun is totally solid. 

(For those who don't know: "nonlocal" doesn't mean 'outside the immediate area', it's some kind of physics thing about time travel (I think))

I've turned this comic over in my head a few ways and I don't see any simple ways the definition of 'nonlocal' could be explained without the pun being spoiled, so I'm just going to give XKCD a freebie with this one. Pretend, for the sake of this review, that all the other comics are good. This can be the one comic I don't get because it makes a high level reference. 

That said, I do think there was an easy segue into a second punchline. Just one more panel, same talking head dealy, but it's another chick and she's saying "Good evening, topping off the nightcast, previous news presenter Allison Zhurnalistka died from a mysterious ray, meaning I finally got my promotion". Possibly there could be a panel of the first chick flickering out of existence in between the two panels. 


2016-07-06

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1696 - AI Research & #1697 - Intervocalic Fortition



I appreciate that Randy at least holds the pretension of being able to make fun of himself. However, if he wants to make a joke about how immature and lowbrow he is, maybe he shouldn't have followed it up with a joke about 'intervocalic fortition'. One of those words even sets off spellcheck, that's how obscure it is!

But that's getting ahead of things. The concept of the joke is solid, continuity issues notwithstanding. The art leaves me a little cold. The AI is supposed to be as smart as an adult (or at least still in the process of becoming less smart) but it looks like one of those old computers from the sixties.

I also feel like the comic could have been presented through action, rather than narration. Picture it: Scientists sit at a table, they're wracking their brains trying to figure out how to simulate a six year old's brain. "God damn it, men!" the guy in the biggest labcoat says. "We need to make a robot that thinks like a six year old or we'll never be able to cure abuse trauma!" Suddenly, from the corner of the room, someone pipes up. "Well" they start "We have an adult brain simulated, right? What if we just took that and made it dumber?" The head guy gapes "Brilliant! But how could we possibly bring the greatest mind science can create to the level of a child?" Cut to Randy entering the room, telling his escort "...more like PEE-search!". Same joke, just presented in a way that's more enjoyable to read.


I know of one person that would enjoy this joke, and he's the guy who made this. And is that an ad hominem? Yes. Next paragraph.

Even if I knew about the ludicrously obscure premise that this joke runs on, I wouldn't find it funny. It's just a joke he's done a few times before. "My Hobby: Lying". Boring. Done. Trite. At least show us some kind of future reaction panel where people are really confused about what you lied about.

2016-07-02

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1695 - Code Quality 2


Is this supposed to be like a roast? I don't think Randy knows how roasts work. You can't riff on something that the audience has no knowledge of. I mean, you can, but it's really hard to be funny about it. Insulting something we don't see is like recording a diss track against someone that doesn't exist. You could say anything and it'd be perfectly valid, since you're making it up.

Roasts in fiction can work. It's been a while since I've watched anything Seth McFarlane related, but I vaguely remember enjoying the episode of American Dad where they roast the alien dude. But with that we had multiple seasons -worth of established character traits and personality.

But, beyond that, a roast needs to have actual funny insults. This comic could work if it wasn't for the fact that the insults suck. They're all the same structure "This is like if [High Class Smart Person Thing] was made out of [stupid thing]". Simile insults are fine, but if that's all there is, that just shows uncreativity. At least switch for a straight metaphor once in a while.

It's also way too wordy. It should just be "It's like a poem". The author isn't important. The specification of the type of username isn't either, at least not to that extent. It flows much better if the phrase was just "bad usernames".

This comic is proof that Randy wasn't bullied enough as a child. If he had been, maybe he'd have at least been able to steal some of their lines.

That was uncalled for, I'm sorry. I just wanted to do insult comedy like the cool kids.