XKCD Isn't Funny - #1530 - Keyboard Mash


I was looking at my blog, late one night, when

So, I just watched the Friends finale for the first time (thanks, Netflix!), and afterwards I watched the pilot, like to see how they compared, and it really is incredible how much the show changed over ten years. They even have a different editing style, like the shots are generally shorter. And I realized that Friends had (more or less) one style that dominated most of its run, so any deviation from that style seemed out of place*; but the last series I finished, Breaking Bad, was experimental enough with its camerawork and editing that any additional experimentation was just part of the ride.

And I think one of XKCD's greatest strengths is the same lack of formula, it doesn't restrict itself to a set number of panels or even a set amount of space or even a single image type (remember that comic awhile back that was just fifty gifs?). I'd also argue it doesn't use those formats to their fullest potential, but still, today's XKCD uses a completely new panel layout specifically for this joke alone, and I think that's kinda cool.

The joke? Yeah, it's alright. I'd like it more if I didn't feel like White Hat was specifically chosen to be eaten by the spider as punishment for having the wrong opinions in previous comics. The dialogue also doesn't read like a real Skype conversation, with the ellipses in No Hat's first messages and the perfect grammar elsewhere. I wouldn't be surprised if Randy actually did type like that all the time, but c'mon, no one uses periods in one line sentences.

*See: "The One Where They All Turn Thirty", especially the credits scene.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1529 - Bracket

I'm staring at the "doctor" section, and I can't help but feel like I've forgotten someone.

The joke is that some well-known people have the same or similar-sounding names or titles. In this comic, Randall imagines pitting all people (and some objects) with similar names against each other in a series of unspecified matches. This is drawn out in brackets to the final match, despite the fact that after one or two matches there would be no similar names between the remaining contestants.

Randy should feel bad for thinking that this constitutes entertainment in any way. This is like something I would say if I was trying for anti-humor (although I'd have used an actual setup, to make my audience first think I was going to say something funny).

Fuck this comic. Fuck it. Fuck everything. Let's get everyone on earth in one of these brackets so we can collectively end it all, one round at a time. Whoever wins the last round can staple this comic to the front of a Starbucks so that when the aliens come they'll know why it had to end.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1528 - Vodka

Or whatever's handy! I'm pretty much pure alcohol and water, so it doesn't really matter!

So, a week or so ago I was talking with my Italian friend, and she was steppin' to my groove like "in Italy we have real food, not this... fake crap" (read that like "een eetally wee hav re-el food, note this... fake crop"). We went back and forth for a bit, and she was all "We invented bread!", to which I of course replied: "No you didn't, the Egyptians did.". And she came back with "Well, we invented pizza.".
And I leaned back and said "Okay, but you know what the best type of pizza is?" and I waited for a second before jumping up and answering my own question: "Hawaiian, bitch!" and fistbumping one of my non-pastaland friends.

Also yesterday I was shaving my arm and I cut open my elbow pretty badly. #AboutMe

These comics that could just be tweets irritate me on in a certain way that most other XKCD comics don't. With art as minimalist as this, there's always going to be some amount of "Well I could have done that.", but I really, truly, honestly, without a doubt, believe that had this comic not been made, I would have eventually made this joke on my twitter or during a party or whatever. Except I'd have used "привет" instead of "Hi!", to make sure I insulted the Russians a bit.

I'd also like to mention that yes, at least it's not text-only, but the art adds nothing to the joke, and comics being an inherently visual medium, it should. It's like if a movie was made so that you only needed to listen to the audio, watching it would suck.
That's not a perfect metaphor but it should get the point across.

In conclusion, here's some jokes I made:

Arg, that matey always drives me nuts. I shouldn't have fitted me acorns with engines. Yar.

This guy told me I'd bought fool's gold. I told him not to insult my favorite gold merchant.

"This isn't really my cup of tea." I say to the waiter. "Oh, I'm sorry, which tea did you order?" he replies.

"Boy, that bloke isn't really the sharpest tool in the shed she was looking kinda dumb with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an l on her forehead well the years start coming and they don't stop coming fed to the wolves now i hit the ground running didn't make sense not to live for fun your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb hey now


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1527 - Humans

At this point, if we're going to keep insisting on portraying dinosaurs as featherless because it's "cooler", it's time to apply that same logic to art involving bald eagles.

I get the dinosaur parallel, here, I do. I just find it kinda poorly done. For one, dinosaurs couldn't discard their feathers, whereas humans can take their clothes off (wink). For another, I find the movie-logic satire to be incredibly uninteresting compared to however robots would forget everything about their creators.

Like, humans invent robots, that's the first step. Then somehow humans are wiped out completely. And then, all robots lose all memory of humanity, forcing them to resort to old-school excavation and restoration techniques (as evidenced by the "metal crowns poking through their heads", which means that robots found crowned human skeletons and (stupidly) assumed the metal was naturally part of the body).

However, I immensely enjoy the irony of a robot saying that science ruins everything, so I'm actually thinking that I'll give this one a passing grade. And let me just be completely honest here: It's totally because I get annoyed by people who complain that movies should be 'cooler' instead of realistic* too, and I am totally letting my bias get the better of me.

*Not to say that movies shouldn't explore fantasy elements and settings and stuff, but when they do it should be consistent within the universe, instead of (for example) a magical effect being delayed in one scene but not another for cheap drama points.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1526 - Placebo Blocker

They work even better if you take them with our experimental placebo booster, which I keep in the same bottle.

Ah, placebos. Or as my forth grade self would call them, "placebos" (pronounced 'place boes').

The first two panels have some of the stiffest setup I've ever seen. It reminds me of the first episode of that Fairy Tail anime, where the guy who eats is eating and the totally useless blonde chick monologues uninterrupted for like three minutes about how the show's setting works. At least today's XKCD doesn't have the receiver of the monologue turn out to already know everything that the monologue says.

Come at me, Fairy Tail fans.

Is the idea of how they'd test this really that complex? Maybe my massive brain is just too goddamn smart, but it seems pretty simple to me. Take two groups of cancer patients or whatever, give them both placebos, and then give the control group a second placebo and the other group the real booster. I get that it's supposed to be like, meta and confusing, but it's really not.

Finally, sugar pills don't help headaches, at least not if you call them "sugar pills". Placebos work when the doctor says 'hey this is a new drug', which makes the person think that it's a drug so their mind will alleviate the symptoms somehow. Placebos don't work when someone says 'Hey, take this not-drug that has no medicinal properties'.

[EDIT, one day later]
Welp, as it turns out, placebos work even if you know they're placebos. However, my failure allows me to point out that the alt-text, similarly to #1523, makes a stronger punchline than the one the actual comic gives us.

In conclusion, I gif'd my favorite shot from Breaking Bad:


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1525 - Emojic 8-Ball

This is an interactive comic, so you'll have to click on the image to go to the original and get the full effect. For those of you who want to save a click, if you click the ball, it shakes and a triangle with a random selection of one or two emojis (most of which I just see as retangles) appears in the inner circle.

Speaking of, does the 8-ball remind anyone else of HAL 9000? I know it's hard to give spheres depth, but it looks completely flat to me. Especially when it shakes and the shine doesn't change position or shape at all.

I'm kinda reacting to this the exact same way I reacted to regular magic 8-balls as a kid: "Well, that's not an accurate source of answers to my questions."*. People who believed in these things, is this any funnier for you?

*I also stopped believing in Santa Claus and God at some point in second or third grade, which is probably indicative of something.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1524 - Dimensions

I would say time is definitely one of my top three favorite dimensions.

I'm having a little trouble figuring out exactly why, but this joke just feels obvious or easy to me in some way. It gives off the same kind of vibe I get from the 'relatable' (scare quotes!) comics.

The art is surprisingly nice for XKCD, I actually really like how the leaves were done. However, the art adds nothing to the comic, it's almost like it was done to make up for the poor quality of the joke.

The issue with the way this comic is set up is that with Bald just saying the whole thing, it might as well be a tweet. The entire comic is just framework for the text, and while I am grateful to Randy for not just giving us a text-only comic, it has to be stated that were the comic done differently, it'd actually feel like a comic.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1523 - Microdrones

Oh, weird, Amazon is out of butterfly nets.


Hi, everyone. Anthony Fantano here, the internet's busiest music nerd. And it's time for a review of the new X K C D album...: Microdrones.

XKCD (dun) is the primary alias of Massachusetts-based parody songwriter and artist, Randall Munroe. And under this alias, he'll take on subjects such as science, math, and even pop culture.

Randall first came to my attention around 2008, with projects like "Irony", "Scientists", and "Words that End in GRY", the last of which could almost be considered a signature work for his early days.

But then, as XKCD progressed, it became progressively less thought out and more as just a tool to get the writer's thoughts out, to the point where the majority of its comics were, in my opinion at least, not really worth reading. There are some exceptions to the rule, like "Time", and even "Vacuum", but XKCD is definitely a project that works better in a 'greatest hits' type format -mat -mat -mat -mat

This comic, avoids the majority of the problems I would usually associate with Randall's work, it's not preachy or obscure, and it's even topical. The first panel gets us off to a great start, with a reference to a topical event, even clarifying it a bit for people who haven't heard of it.

The second panel hits a bit of a low spot for me, we suddenly loose the continuity from the previous panel and we're left in this white void. It's obviously supposed to represent a fantasy sequence, but there isn't really any noitisnart (transition) into it so it comes out of left field.

I like the third panel's idea, it's definitely not something we're supposed to take seriously, but there's no real wink to the audience, nothing that kinda spells out "hey, this isn't an actual idea". And, in my opinion, that's something that you couldn't really blame an XKCD reader for thinkiiing, given XKCD's history of comics that exist solely to deliver a message.

The image of trying to stop Armageddon with butterfly nets, in the forth panel on here, is an amusing image, but we don't actually get to see it. I'm left wanting more when I go through Microdrones, like so much more could have been done.

There is a bonus track on here, which, uh, brings things to a little bit of a more satis-satis-satisfactory end, but it's hidden in a way that kinda separates it from the story, more like a commentary or a limited edition bonus single than an actual part of the continuity. It should have just been a fifth panel on here if you ask me.

I'm thinking a strong 3 to a light 4 on this thing, tran

sition, but if you looked at this comic, what did you think about it? Did you love it? Hate it? Why? What do you think I should review next? Anthony Fantano, XKCD, Microdrones, forever.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1522 - Astronomy

Astrobiology is held back by the fact that we're all too nervous to try to balance on the ladder while holding an expensive microscope.

I wondered why the number "1522" seemed especially familiar for about a minute before realizing that's the channel I record reruns of The Simpsons from.

Y'know, that's actually a nice night sky, even if it is reused from panel to panel. If I was still an XKCD fan, I could totally see myself using this as a desktop wallpaper or something. However, art points are also deducted for that weird integration of 2D and 3D in one panel that we've seen previously in #1441. The ladder even starts off as flat before gaining depth in panel three, a la the perspective in #940.

My thoughts on this comic include a succession of "at least it's not..."s. At least it's not #811, where most people couldn't even tell what the joke was supposed to be. At least it's not another "Beret is powerful, possibly evil" comic. It's still not well-executed though. We can see the magnifying glass as soon as Beret walks onscreen, spoiling the surprise.

I also feel like Telescope Girl (the new superhero coming to a Marvel near you) should react in some way to Beret's arrival, even if only by saying "Glad you could make it" or whatever.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1521 - Sword In The Stone

That seems like an awful lot of hassle when all I wanted was a cool sword.

I'm finding it very hard to suspend my disbelief for someone having access to Wikipedia and also needing to look up "England". Explainxkcd argues that The Chosen One is just looking through England's history (ha! like any country other than America has 'history'), but I disagree in this case, given the absence of a panel where she's going "hmm" or something to that effect. It looks more like just she doesn't want the responsibility, rather than being frightened off by all the ways English monarchs have died.

This is also one of the rare occasions where I think color would have lent the comic something. A beam of light is shining down on The Chosen One and a heavenly voice is coming down, I'd have used some yellow for those. I know he's going for the 'mystical' look, but I think that it being in light gray while the rest is in black just makes it look background and unimportant, a la #838. In color, it'd be bolder, more suited to something that parallels the voice of God so obviously.

Continuing backwards, the premise is also lacking in originality. Lots of Chosen Ones have refused the call over the years. That's even the second step of the typical hero's journey. My personal favorite example is Triangle, from Triangle And Robert.

Speaking of those music notes in the third panel, I just released a new album, consisting predominantly of music, which you can (as usual) buy for a price of your choice or stream/download it for free. Go listen to it! It has my vocals on two tracks!


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1520 - Degree-Off


I'm confused. Isn't Randy the same person who made this? Again, I wonder how many XKCDs I could review by replying with another XKCD comic. If we take #435 as a legitimate argument, it pretty much totally refutes this one.

I find it interesting how I've taken to using words like "refute" in reference to how my reviews go. I'd like to think that says something about how often Randy uses XKCD as a way to express his opinions rather than say jokes, but it probably says more about how the guy running an XKCD-hate blog has too many axes to grind.

As long as we're taking this comic as a straight-up argument, that graph needs a source or something. If I had one of Randy's "[CITATION NEEDED]" stickers, I'd put one right on panel three. And you'd all see it, because that's how awesome I am at attaching stickers to things.

It's also really unfair, argument-wise, to have Physics essentially say a joke, and have Bio leap down his throat like some kind of feminist. #JokesThatWillLoseMeReaders

If I were in Physics' position, and it's not necessarily the side I'd take, here's the counterargument that I'd make:
You can cure all the diseases you want, that won't help at all if a meteor's headed towards the Earth. Physics would be the one to build spaceships we can escape to Mars on. Physics would be the one to make other planets habitable so that humanity can spread throughout the universe, creating new life. Physics would be the one to stop the heat-death of the universe (which physics discovered, by the way) and stop humanity's extinction, 10^{10^{120}} years from now.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1519 - Venus

The sudden introduction of Venusian flowers led to an explosive growth of unusual Earth pollinators, which became known as the "butterfly effect."

This could be funny to someone else, and I could see why, but it just pisses me off.

See, in my life I've had a few teachers who just didn't give a shit, at all. Like for 11th grade physics, I had this guy named Mr. Guilmain who literally wouldn't teach. I don't mean he was bad or he didn't explain things enough, I mean he did stuff like show us his vacation photos and tell us about how if we're not agnostic we're wrong. I hope he gets cancer made of AIDS.
Also, he's my explanation for not getting any of the physics jokes XKCD's put out. The only thing I learned in his class was that A=M/F or something like that, and that was from him showing a video of a different teacher (a video he paid more than a hundred dollars for).

In 12th grade, my French teacher would read, or have someone read, the translation of a piece, and we would write down what they said, and then we'd hand in what we wrote for a grade. It was the most pointless thing.

Don't get me wrong, I did have a lot of awesome teachers that really helped me learn the material and made look forward to class every day, but that's not relevant right now.

TL;DR: I am unable to separate my experiences with awful teachers from my reading of this comic, even if said comic is intentionally over the top.

[EDIT, one day later:] Commenter "Fake Name" points out that SMBC has done this same joke before, except instead of the teacher just saying more or less random things, there's a structure to it, built around a pun.