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Revision as of 23:11, 7 August 2012

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki! We already have Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". comic explanations!

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D.B. Cooper
'Why on Earth would someone commit air piracy just to finance a terrible movie decades later?' 'People are very strange these days.'
Title text: 'Why on Earth would someone commit air piracy just to finance a terrible movie decades later?' 'People are very strange these days.'



In 1971, a man referred to by the media as D. B. Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 and escaped with $200,000 in ransom money (equivalent to $1,160,000 in 2014). While the FBI maintains that Cooper was most likely killed when he parachuted from the plane, they have never determined his identity, and their agents still actively investigate the case, the United States' only unsolved plane hijacking.


In 2003, Tommy Wiseau released The Room, considered by many the worst film ever made. In the decade since he has become something of an icon alongside his infamous movie, of which he was the producer, writer, director, and star. Surprisingly little, however, is known about him.

This comic points to similarities between several details of Cooper and Wiseau's stories:

Cooper Wiseau
"Vanished mysteriously with a large amount of money":

Cooper escaped with $200,000 in 1971 dollars, equivalent to around $1.2M today. $5,800 of that money was recovered in 1980 in the vicinity of where Cooper jumped from the plane, but the rest was never found. Assuming Cooper survived, he would have had decades to turn the $200k into an even larger fortune.

"Appeared myseriously with a large amount of money":

The Room cost $6 million to make, and initially grossed a mere $1,900—a loss of 99.97% of the investment. It is generally assumed that all or most of that money was Wiseau's own, which raises the question of how he obtained such wealth.

"Real age/name unknown":

Cooper's real name remains unknown. While he was estimated to be in his mid-40s, his precise age is also unknown.

"Colleague says he's much older than he claims":

In 2010, Wiseau stated that he was 41. His friend and Room co-star Greg Sestero, however, says he was born in the 1950s.

"Ambiguous, possibly affected speaking style ('negotiable American currency')":

Cooper's use of this unusual phrase has led to speculation about his origins, including as to whether he was perhaps not an American.

"Ambiguous, possibly affected speaking style ('You are tearing me apart, Lisa!')":

The most famously melodramatic line from The Room, "You are tearing me apart, Lisa!" is one of several which highlights Wiseau's unusual accent and less-than-complete command of the English language. As with Cooper's "negotiable American currency," it is phrased in a way not typical of American English.

"Fate unknown":

Cooper has not been seen since he jumped from the plane, though the FBI has investigated over a thousand "serious suspects." He either died trying to jump from the plane, or disappeared completely after touching down.

"Background unknown":

Despite Wiseau being a public figure for over a decade since the release of The Room, little is definitively known about his background. Sestero says Wiseau was born somewhere in Eastern Europe. Wiseau has said he has moved back and forth between Europe and the U.S. throughout his life, spending significant time in France and Louisiana. His accent is clearly European, but is otherwise hard to place.

His legal name, place of birth, date of birth, and nationality are all unknown, as are most of the details of how he's spent his life.

However, these are only a few cherry-picked aspects of their lives, and do not seriously suggest that they are the same person. For instance, even if we assume that Wiseau was born in 1950, and that Cooper was only 35 (probably the youngest age which can be mistaken for mid-40s) in 1971, that leaves a 14-year gap between their ages. Likewise, Cooper was said to have either an American or Canadian accent, while Wiseau's bizarre accent is certainly not North American. While Cueball's theory in this comic is clearly a joke on Randall's part, given Randall's known distaste for conspiracy theories, this may also be making fun of people who base theories off of minor details while ignoring contradictory ones and bigger-picture questions. The question in the title text, for instance, notes that Cooper would have gone through a huge amount of effort just to produce a movie; a similar rhetorical device is often used against convoluted conspiracy theories, where one points out how much more easily the supposed conspirators could have accomplished their goals.

The title text goes on to attribute such a weird motive for hijacking to the impression that "people are very strange these days," which is another quote from The Room.


Panel 1

D.B. Cooper ("Dan Cooper")

Hijacked a plane in the 1970s. On landing, demanded money and parachutes. Jumped from plane mid-flight and was never found.

  • Vanished mysteriously with

large amount of money

  • Real age/name unknown
  • Ambiguous, possibly

affected speaking style ("negotiable American currency")

  • Fate unknown

Panel 2

Tommy Wiseau ("Johnny")

Wrote, directed, and starred in The Room, a film widely hailed as "The Citizen Kane of bad movies."

  • Appeared mysteriously

with large amount of money

  • Colleague says he's much

older than he claims.

  • Ambiguous, possibly

affected speaking style ("You are tearing me apart, Lisa!")

  • Background unknown

Panel 3

[Images captioned Cooper (FBI sketch) and Wiseau (Flickr photo by Al Pavangkanan)]
Offscreen: This is the dumbest theory I've ever heard.
Cueball: But it explains everything!!

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