XKCD Isn't Funny - #1559 - Driving

Sadly, it probably won't even have enough gas to make it to the first border crossing.

That is so low menace for Black Hat. This could have been so much better, like he puts a corpse in the car, or he sends the car to the inside of a building, or anything else that would have lead to actual damage of any kind.

It makes me think of Black Hat, waking up hungover, slurring out "The fuck am I supposed to do today, I need to keep my image up, the fuck can I do... ugh...", seeing an ad for a new self-driving car in the newspaper he used as a blanket and just going "yeah, whatever".

He's not even causing mental anguish to anyone, at the time of writing, self-driving cars are not available for purchase by individuals. So he's just causing a relatively minor breakage to Google or whoever.

The trail of dirt that the rock leaves also looks weird. I'm used to Randy's stick figures just being in a white void. Suddenly getting a semi-present horizon line is offputting, like listening to a song you've listened to dozens of times before only suddenly the vocals are replaced by Smash Mouth All Star. The dirt makes it look like the comic didn't fully load, and the dots and such are the tops of something that's cut off.

In conclusion, not as good as The Kinks song.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1558 - Vet

 It's probably for the best. Since Roombas are native to North America, it's illegal for Americans to keep them in their houses under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

I agree completely with Randall that Roombas are adorable. They're like circular cats that can clean! In fact, the implication of an innocent Roomba slowly running out of juice surrounded by forest predators just gives me bad vibrations. I'm honesty surprised there isn't a mention of it, considering this is the author who gave us #695.

I'm also surprised that this is a Short Hair Girl (a.k.a. Megan) comic. Assuming a Roomba is a dog is such a Beret thing to do. Remember way back when he thought lug nuts were scones? So, unfortunately for this comic, it suffers from the same problems as that one. Why does this woman think a Roomba is a dog? That's potentially funny, learning that information. Does she actually think that or is she being a bitch for some reason? She admits to being wrong in panel 3, which makes me think she's supposed to be pulling some kind of performance joke, but she's not being watched in panel 4, which makes me think she's just crazy.

The other day, The Webcomics Review posted a thing about some of the joke formulas XKCD uses, and one of them was described as "people doing random things for no reason", and that's totally what this is.

On the positive side of things, that's a nicely drawn tree in the final panel, and it doesn't feel like it's compensating for could-be-a-tweet-itude, like it has previously.

In other news, there's something special about this review: It's the first review written in my new dorm! College has officially started for Greg Greenwell.

I'd just like to say that I think it's really cool that this blog's coming with me, and I'm glad I have readers along for the ride, so to speak. I'm looking forward to continuing as long as XKCD does (and if it stops, I'll just move on to Questionable Content or something).


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1557 - Ozymandias

 And on the pedestal these words appear: "And on the pedestal these words appear: "And on the pedestal these words appear: "And...

Man, Ozymandias is a good poem. Not as good as the Breaking Bad episode it's named after, though.

Recursion jokes are generally pretty easy to like, but usually there's some kind of fourth-wall breaking or some other meta thing going on. Like this. Or that one story from that Stinky Cheese Man book that I can't remember well enough to describe properly. And those are funny because they're playing with the format of their respective mediums, it's like a meta thing.

This comic, however, is a more simplified version of the joke, being entirely monogue and therefore an example of CBAT (a demo version of Zubat). And when we have this kind of comic, where it's just a pretty lame gag, I really feel like there should be something else in there. Even if it's just the other person getting annoyed or a shitty meme, that's another level to the joke. And there should be another level to the joke when there's so much room for one.

If this was just a quick throwaway line in a movie or a show or even a standup act, I'd be fine with it. But standing on its own, without any support, it just falls flat.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1556 - The Sky

 The other half has some cool shipwrecks, rocks, and snakes, but if you move those out of the way, it also has more sky.

So, this comic isn't funny; but, to be fair, it's not trying to be, that's not the point of this particular piece. The point is for people to read it, think "Oh, wow, that's not a stick figure comic, Randy can actually do some pretty art stuff when he tries." and also perhaps "wow, that's deep that the sky is just the other half of the earth, such a fitting image for such a deep thought."

I'm actually not sure if I got that right, since the line "It's one of my favorite halves." is so vague as to what the other half might be. The title text indicates it's either the earth or the ocean, and either way I'm mildly surprised. I'd have expected Randy to be more scientific about the sky vs. outer space thing after reading #1394.

Taking the art on it's own, it's not a bad picture, it'd probably make a nice desktop image at least. It's got some nice contrast going on. The perspective is maybe a little wonky and the smaller clouds look like he was just filling in what he saw as empty space, but overall the second panel is good job at making pretty thing, Randy. I like the top left corner the most, myself.

Unfortunately, the comic's biggest flaw is right above that corner. It really isn't nice, compositionally speaking, to have a panel jutting out over the top of the large central panel. Maybe to fill up that ugly blank space, there could be a few extra panels showing them walking to the sky-viewing place, and a beat panel between Hair's two lines. It'd be a nice square, and the row of panels on top would even balance out the black ground on the bottom.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1555 - Exoplanet Names 2

 I'm going to drive this Netherlands joke so far into the ground they'll have to build levees around it to keep the sea out.

The day is December 18th, 2015. Millions of fans sit in movie theaters the world over, waiting, shivering with excitement. Finally, after what seems like an eternity of trailers, the Star Wars logo appears onscreen. Unfortunately, Disney hired Randall Munroe as a creative consultant, so the audience is treated to the first six Star Wars films in slightly edited formats to provide context for the new one.

I would understand if he just had a bit at the beginning like "Hey you guys, the first comic was a while ago but just so you know this is the second one", but instead it's literally just most of the first comic before we get to the new content. It's more like an update then a sequel. And really, did Exoplanet Names need either? I understand there's been a new NASA thing going on (and I already set up my name to go to Mars), but the joke about stupid names for planets has already been made, who was asking for an expansion back to a list comic?

Also, why are some of the red names integrated with the black ones? The colors should be segregated. It's not like the names are actually in references to anything about the planet, you can switch any of the names around and the comic doesn't suffer at all. Mixing the red and black just makes this comic more annoying to read for people who don't want to reread the first set.

Also also, this comic contains the fourth reference to The Spice Girls in a hundred comics or so, including yesterday's (which was also a sequel). Is it supposed to be a running gag? I don't get it.

In other news, I was all set to link to my review of the original Exoplanet Names and just add some additional commentary, until that plan was foiled by the fact that XKCD Isn't Funny hadn't started when the original went up and wouldn't for another fifty comics or so. Damn past me, damn him to hell.

(Friend Jon Levi was still reviewing comics back then, though; his take is right over here)

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1554 - Spice Girls

 The Earth's five major mass extinctions were the Posh Extinction, the Sporty Extinction, the Scary Extinction, the Ginger Extinction, and the Baby Extinction.

Okay, I can kinda see the first four panels being a decent bit on like, Friends or something like that, with the vocal inflections and the facial expressions to help the joke along. The words would need to be changed though, the pacing's wrong: instead of "Hearing Spice, Vision Spice..." and so on, adding "Spice" after every word, it should just be "Hearing, Vision, Smell, Touch, and Taste" delivered all in one breath. Slowing down the punchline makes it less funny, the joke should hit the audience all at once, like a kick or headbutt or some other sudden impact.

I'd also say to cut it after the forth panel. My reading is that at that point she's fed up with the game or whatever it is, and she's essentially insulting him, giving a semi-offensive wrong answer instead of the more jokingly wrong ones she gave previously. Bald should, in turn, get more visibly annoyed, instead of just stating the obvious "You're not even trying". Instead, we get words that sound like the spice girls' names, which is just lame. It's not like she's got the one name she remembers and then she loses steam, which might work. It looks like she's just saying random words.

The fact that this is a continuation of #1417 is confusing too, since it gives this comic a context in which groups of the same number are easily confused, which makes the reader see Hair as trying and failing the whole way through rather than not trying until the end.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1553 - Public Key

I guess I should be signing stuff, but I've never been sure what to sign. Maybe if I post my private key, I can crowdsource my decisions about what to sign.

I apologize for the lateness of this review. Apparently, if you're really bad at changing your wifi password, you can accidentally make it so your computer can't connect to the internet at all! Who knew??? Not me! Who knew??? Not my mother! Who knew??? Not Obama, he only knew about the NSA!

Lucky for me I have a laptop that I only forgot about for TWO SOLID DAYS. (In the meantime, I got really good at losing at Solitaire)

And speaking of computers and that which is contained therein, lookit that comic! I know I'm reading into this more than I should, but isn't this scenario vaguely sad? Like "Maybe if I give out my personal information people will finally pay attention to me.".

On top of that, the actual intended joke isn't that strong. It's just someone thinking about doing something stupid. He doesn't even actually do it! I had my issues with #1469, but at least it actually showed the stupid character being stupid. Maybe Randy was leaving it up to the reader's imagination, but he's taken it a step or two too far. Instead of imagining the consequences of Stupid Person's actions, the reader's left imagining Stupid Person's actions.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1552 - Rulebook

It's good to be back, guys. And so many things have happened since I've been away! I released an album, I turned 18, "Uptown Funk" finally stopped cluttering up my tumblr feed. But XKCD hasn't changed a bit. It's actually kinda nice, having a could-be-a-tweet comic on my first day back. It's like meeting an old not-quite-friend for the first time in many years, and even the things you disliked about them seem charming in the context of your reunion.

It's kinda weird coming back to XKCD Isn't Funny and reviewing a comic like this, though. I really wasn't expecting to see shock humor on my first day back on the job. And it is shock humor. The joke isn't 'we're extending the Ain't No Rule to get your dog out of the game by the same way that you got him in', like it should have been; the joke is 'we're doing something cruel to an animal'. And I don't think Randall Munroe can really pull that type of humor off.

A similar joke in The Campaign (which you should totally watch by the way) worked because the characters were surprised and offended too, and there were consequences when it happened. With this, it's just deadpan, the people and the dog don't react at all, they might as well be the horizon line for all they add to the comic.

Lastly, there totally is an entire set of rules that say you can't kill and eat the dog.

It's good to be back, guys. ☺