33: Self-reference

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I think about self-reference a lot.  Example: this comment.
Title text: I think about self-reference a lot. Example: this comment.


Self-reference is a situation where something (a comic, a drawing, a musical work, a novel, a mathematical theorem) refers to itself in some manner. This can be a powerful technique in art, music, mathematics and computer science (it is the basis of recursion).

In this comic, Cueball promises not to use self-reference for humor, and then realizes after a beat panel that, since this comic is referring to the series of comics he is part of, he is using self-reference, thus breaking his promise.

Without the last panel, this comic wouldn't be funny, and therefore wouldn't break the promise about using self-reference for humor. But with it, and his realization that he is breaking his promise, it does break that promise.


[Guy standing alone] Guy: I promise to never again squeeze humor out of self-reference.
[Guy standing alone]
[Guy standing alone] Guy: God dammit.


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  • This comic is not exactly clear to me. What is the self-reference, or what is the humour? TheHYPO (talk) 14:29, 21 August 2012 (UTC)
    • I added a bit. Does that help clarify? Of course, one of the hallmarks of self-reference is that clarity tends to be lost. Blaisepascal (talk) 14:44, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

What if I don't find this humorous, then he's not squeezing humor! -- 00:09, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

But wouldn't it still be squeezing if he tried? That would mean that whenever he tries, he succeeds. Fabian42 (talk) 08:08, 25 August 2017 (UTC)
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