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.