XKCD Isn't Funny - #1623 - 2016 Conversation Guide

The real loser in an argument about the meaning of the word 'hoverboard' is anyone who leaves that argument on foot.

Hello everyone. I seem to have picked up Randy's cold, and I feel like my insides have liquidized and my throat is made of vomit, so I'm sorry in advance if this is just completely incomprehensible. BEST FOOT FORWARD FOR NEW YEAR, AMIRITE?

The presentation is lame, being text only, it's not even a flowchart. I do understand that he's probably got like, holiday stuff going on, so it's not that egregious. It's just a really boring way to present the last comic of 2015. Boring topically too, it's super preachy. "Turns out cities are heavy", I can almost see him sneering as he wrote that.

Who's asking for moon colonies or floating sky cities, anyway? I know there's a scientific push for Mars colonization, but I haven't seen people asking around for moon cities.

Also, wouldn't flying cars be planes, not helicopters?

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it's a good one for all of you!


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1622 - Henge

I've got the Craigslist post ready to go! I wasn't sure what category it should go in, so I listed it as property and put that it has 'good sun exposure.'

This is one of those comics that's set up like it's a parody of something, but it doesn't make sense that that something would be parodied. I mean, a good comedian can make humor out of anything, and you can get all postmodern and mess with formula and expectations. It just seems to me that Manhattanhenge is a weird thing to poke fun at.

The last two panels also feel weirdly disconnected from each other. The both follow from the original panel, but in different ways. I know he was going for a double punchline, but it seems jumpy I think it'd be better if there was a clearer transition between them, like "Oh yeah, well what's that?" and then the that would be the sun.

The sun gag is a really lame joke, but that's obvious. It kinda reminds me of a school of comedy writing that I'm given to understand exists in anime: A random thing happens and some guy says "This doesn't make any sense!". (I don't watch anime, this is based off of something my friend Lachlan told me once) And while I don't think Randy's graduated from that same school, I think he's done at least a semester there if you catch my drift.

In conclusion, my cat likes to be on my shoulders sometimes and it's adorable THESE EXIST.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1620 - Christmas Settings & #1621 - Fixion


Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you're all in good health and good cheer. And hopefully, if you're not, a free iTunes giftcard code will cheer you up. Unless you weren't the first person to read this, in which case you're fucked.

This first comic is a good idea, but it has that classic XKCD problem of not actually showing the punchline action. It must be a Christmas tradition. I really want to see a confused guy looking at a kitchen faucet that's echoing out "Ho Ho Ho!"

Also, I know it's not supposed to be taken seriously, but shouldn't the panel for the whole universe be bigger than that? Maybe it's actually just really long on the front side, but the side sides are small.

My theory predicts that, at high enough energies, FRBs and perytons become indistinguishable because the detector burns out.

And this is a Christmas miracle. A genuinely funny XKCD. I love it, just the 'screw it, everything's fixed' attitude. It's so cavalier compared to XKCD's normal approach to science. The last two things on the right hand column don't go with the rest of the comic which is kinda lame, and I think the comic could have benefited from something like a "[name of problem]: SOLVED" caption under the descriptions, but overall this is a lovely gift to get on December 25th.

Merry Christmas, everyone. 


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1619 - Watson Medical Algorithm

Two years ago (as of original time of writing, 2015-12-22), I posted "Birth". I remember thinking to myself as I wrote it: "I'm going to be writing three reviews a week, even if I write this to the absolute best of my ability it's gonna read like crap compared to my later stuff, since I'll get so much writing practice." And, proving that I am a genius in yet another way, it does.

You can actually see me steadily improve if you flip through the archives, like a text-only flipbook that took two years to make. At some point I'll probably have to go back and rewrite all the crappy early reviews, and fill in the missed updates.

I want to take a moment to thank all my readers. Your comments and views give me hella motivation to keep up this blog, I really appreciate it. I'd also like to thank Jon Levi and Rob Mason for endorsing and supporting my endeavors. xkcdsucks and Died In A Blogging Accident may have ended, but once an XKCD hateblogger, always an XKCD hateblogger. #FriendsTillTheEnd!

It's funny how it seems like I've been doing this blog forever, and at the same time, it seems like just yesterday I was first reading through Carl's 'angriest rants'. I'm looking forward to writing my five year anniversary post and thinking that this post reads like crap compared to what I've got going on by then.

In other news, the comic sucks because even though it's a graph joke it's got too many words and like half of them are forced wackiness.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1618 - Cold Medicine

Seriously considering buying some illegal drugs to try to turn them back into cold medicine.

Hey, Randy, if you're reading this, I'm sorry to hear that you've had such an elongated cold. Hope you feel better soon, man. If it makes you feel better, it's led you to create a fairly decent comic. It is an easy kind of relatable, but it's not GetOutOfMyHeadRandy-bait. And check out that actually well-done exposition in the first three comics! Check out that surprisingly detailed background decor in the first! (which unfortunately goes away in the second and third panels but you can't have everything)

Also, I'm very amused by the idea of Randy drawing this comic while incapacitated by his cold. Imagine him being all "I must be funny! But also I can't focus because of all my symptoms! woe is me! woeeee!"


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1617 - Time Capsule

I just don't get these types of comics where Beret shows up and is wacky. It's like Randy's trying to be absurd but he's either trying too hard or not hard enough.

It kinda seems in this Beret-is-wacky comics, Randy just drops him into a random location and has him say incorrect statements. It's really easy and doesn't seem to have a point, like the comics could start and end at any point and we'd pretty much get the same effect, like a random selection from a bad Ricardo Villalobos song.

The best part of this comic is when Beret isn't just wacky: the whispered "Do you still have sandwiches?". I'm very much projecting emotion onto him and it is still bad writing, but it's funny to me to imagine his wonder and horror at the thought that sandwiches no longer exist. Everyone who knew him is long dead, but he's completely caught up on those sandwiches. In that moment, it almost approaches something that could be compared to being akin to Seinfeldian.

Also, that first panel is putting in a suprise last minute entry for "worst exposition in a 2015 XKCD comic". Reminds me of The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Speaking of, would you guys enjoy a top 10 / bottom 10 comics year-end list?


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1616 - Lunch

Just look at that. We have another "simple words" comic, and then above and underneath it, advertisements for that same joke over and over in book form.

I don't have a problem with running gags. Actually, I don't even have a problem with reused jokes normally. If you make a comic for more than ten years you're going to hit the same joke twice eventually, it's just something that happens. But this isn't a running gag or an accidentally reused joke. This is Randy blatantly retreading old ground, except instead of old ground it's a tired joke and instead of retreading it he's using it over and over again.

A running gag shouldn't just be a joke that's used more than once. A running gag should be a joke that gets placed in new contexts and done in different ways. Friends has some great examples of this, like with "we were on a break", which partially derives it's humor from the stubbornness of the characters (i.e. there is a reason they continue to bring it up, and it is in character for them to do so) and partially from the situations into which it is implemented, like the end of "The One With The Girl Who Hits Joey", where it's used in conjunction with another joke to form a third, separate joke.

A running gag is kinda like a meme, except the writers make the derivatives on their own. A good one ("we were on a break" or the Loss.jpg edits) is different every time, a bad one (XKCD's 'simple words' comics, the "*takes a deep breath* I lo-" meme) is basically just copying the original joke and changing an unimportant element of it so that the joke remains the same. They're like palate swaps, essentially plagiarism; although at least in the case of XKCD it's only self plagiarism.

I don't like doing the snarky insult bit. I don't think I'm good at it and I'm hoping that if Randy ever checks this blog out his reaction will be more "Oh, he has a point there" than "Christ, what an asshole". But I do have to say, that anyone who buys the Thing Explainer book is probably more easily entertained than someone who doesn't buy it.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1615 - Red Car

That guy only drives an alkaline car to overcompensate for his highly acidic penis.

I kinda feel like this was a deliberate attempt by Randy to avoid being CouldBeATweet. It's a neat example of how word choice can affect stuff. Because we only get the information that the car is red through the art, the line only makes sense in the context of the full comic. In contrast, the alt-text is totally an example of CouldBeATweet, but it's okay, because alt-text.

That said, 'cyan' is probably the most pretentious color he could have chosen. It couldn't just be 'green', like we all learned on the color wheel, it has to be the precise RGB opposite. Maybe it's supposed to bring contrast between the relative high level of the word 'cyan' and the fact the comic's a dick joke, but I think green would be funnier too, since it conjures up a worse mental image.

I asked my furry friend* how he would feel about a cyan penis and he (and by extension all other furries) would be into it. The cyan penis would obviously be a point of pride. XKCD has failed to do the research yet again. For shame, Randy, for shame.

Also, wouldn't he be just compensating, not overcompensating? Like, red and cyan would neutralize each other, his penis wouldn't become more red than cyan. Compensating is even the more commonly used word.

This comic kinda reminds me of the bits he'd add into What If? articles. I can't imagine the question that would've been asked to make that image relevant, but I imagine I'd be both interested and disturbed. This joke really feels like a side thing, a one liner as part of a larger set of jokes. There's nothing offensively bad about it, but it's not exceptional in any way. As it is, it's essentially filler.

*Who, by the way, thinks this comic is "retarded" and "impossible [to rewrite to make it good]".


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1614 - Kites

I still don't get why Beret has these weird supernatural powers. See, if it was me, I'd have had a new guy in a wizard hat do all his magic stuff. It'd make sense because if you have a wizard hat you can do magic. The ignorance of this fact is actually my main problem with the Harry Potter film series.

The visual pun is kinda cute, but also kinda concerning. I can't tell if dog is wriggling and going "arf" because that's the in-the-air equivalent of walking or if it's scared or confused. I understand I'm not supposed to read that far into it, but I can't help it, I'm hardwired like that.

Looking at it from a purely mechanical standpoint, the reveal that it's a dog leash and not a kite line is too protracted*. It takes three panels and then a reaction shot kinda thing, which draws it out too much and makes it come off almost dramatically. If you imagine horror movie music over it, you can kinda imagine the middle two panels as the equivalent of the slow opening of a door right before a thing jumps out or whatever. (I have not seen many horror movies.)

Also, nitpick: it's not walking if there isn't at least one foot on the ground at all times, and the dog is in the sky where there is no ground.

*Much like a very low budget art class.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1613 - The Three Laws of Robotics

I have been like, super tired lately, it's awful. Is this what getting old feels like?

So, this is not a bad comic. I think it actually makes a really interesting commentary on how prioritizing things can affect things, but it does it in a subtle way so you don't necessarily feel like you're being preached at. If the comic was "why you should prioritize sinks in the workplace" or whatever, it'd be snoresville, but as it is, robots! The visuals also prevent it from just being a graph joke, and the captions help clarify what the visuals are meant to convey.

There are a few rooms for improvement, though. The killbot hellscape shouldn't have had the same reused art (especially not that reused art, those are some lazy as hell explosions), it should have gotten more intense with each appearance. And in the terrifying standoff, shouldn't the robot not be agreeing to make cars for the guy, since "obey orders" is so far down the list? Like, couldn't the robot just threaten him until he gave [robot pronoun goes here] more pleasant orders?

Also, more philosophically, in the frustrating world, wouldn't there be some robots who were willing to do it even though they'd die? There're humans who are willing to do it, but that raises the question of whether an artificial intelligence would be capable of selflessness. As someone who has not read enough sci-fi, I am ill-equipped to answer this question.

In conclusion, Isaac Asimov was a smart dude and I should probably read some stuff he's written.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1612 - Colds

By total coincidence I just had a bit of the sniffles earlier today. I'm pretty sure I'm fine now though, thanks for asking.

I think this is an idea that should've just been scrapped. It's too complex to be shown succinctly and too lame to be worth showing out in full as an understandable non-graph thing. There are way too many elements for this graph to be funny, on top of the usual axis/lines, there are extra labels that clutter things up. No good. It needs to be cleaned up but I don't see an easy way of doing that.

I'm trying out different ways of delivering this joke in my head and none of them are working. The best I can do is imagining a really rambling old man saying it to an increasingly annoyed younger person, but that takes a lot of the focus off the joke so it doesn't really count.

In conclusion, I've been watching through Scrubs and it is a pretty good show. However, I've been told by differing people that it's almost totally medically accurate and that it's barely medically accurate, so if any Isn't-ers could point me towards a reliable source that would be pretty cool, brahs.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1611 - Baking Soda and Vinegar


If What If was still going, a full sized baking soda volcano would be a pretty cool.

My friend Lachlan, who's behind me as I write this, says: "It's not executed well, like it's a cute concept but I think the base issue is that you don't really know what's going on outside, like I initially thought that "BOOOOM" was a bomb outside he put there to simulate larger eruptions... it makes it seem like it's just an actual natural disaster so you don't know like, did the kid know this was going to happen or did he predict it... it kinda feels like a really shitty Calvin & Hobbes, often they'd have something being presented really naively or innocently but then at the end there'd be a darker twist that would touch upon a dark aspect of society or human nature, and that would be compelling. But because the dark twist mostly exists outside the action of this comic and because we don't know what exactly that dark twist is, and the potentially compelling part of what's occurring - like the natural disaster or whatever - is how the people react to it, but their reactions are primarily just saying what's happening rather than giving their interpretations of it."

(any garbling of his original message is the fault of my transcription and not of his dictation)


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1610 - Fire Ants

 Here in the entomology department, we have a simple two-step formula for answering any question: (1) ants are cool, and (2) we forgot the question because we were thinking about ants.

As this one abridged series I found on YouTube this one time said: "Ah, at last, regular updates." Feels good man.

I really liked where I thought this comic was going at first. Guy is uncertain about his future and goes to Authority Figure for guidance, but the advice she gives is useless. Guy takes a beat panel to mull over the life choices that lead to this moment. It spoke to me as an angsty college student. But then that pesky fourth panel comes along and retroactively ruins the prior three.

Guy isn't reflecting or contemplating running away to join the foreign legion, he's actively absorbing the 'advice' and only realizes it's useless after running it over a few times. Authority Figure is still useless, but it's not in a satirical way. I was expecting her to say "If you have any other questions, please see the department that hands out colorful brochures, the department's name is available online" or something to that effect.

As it actually exists, the joke is rather toothless. It's just the story of the quirky adviser who liked ants. Although I do like the (possibly unintentional) pun in the last line, probably more than I should.

That fact about fire ants building a raft is so 2008, though. I remember seeing like five posts about it back in the day on Failblog. First there was the video, and then there were four screenshots of comments on the video, which if I'm remembering correctly, were all some variation on "I jerked off to this".

(2008 was a simpler time.)