This is a non-numbered April fools' comic, and is the first April fools' joke performed on xkcd. This comic is formatted similarly to other posts such as Blue Eyes. The post describes xkcd becoming syndicated into a newspaper, changing from a webcomic. Newspapers are notorious for censorship of content, and Randall describes all the changes that would be required of the comic, the humor coming from their progressive absurdity.
Randall then offers a "free preview" of the new syndicated version of xkcd. This is a parody of newspaper comics such as Garfield, which tend to use relatively weak jokes in order to appeal to a broad audience. Notably:
- The joke being told, "Why did the computer cross the road?", is based on one of the most well-known jokes in existence. Those who know the joke have probably heard variations of it dozens of times, and will not find another one to be very humorous.
- The punchline of the "joke" is that computers are complicated. This relates to the general cultural stereotype (in the US) that math is hard, and by extension anything related to math is hard.
- The punchline is followed by an extensive editor's note explaining the meaning of the acronym "LOL." Although that acronym could be considered the most niche terminology in the comic, it is still one of the most well-known texting abbreviations.
- Furthermore, the editor's note clarifies that LOL is meant to be an indicator to the audience that they should find something funny. The fact that humor has to be pointed out to the comic reader shows just how weak it is.
- The layout of the comic is a clear reference to Garfield, including the usage of three identically sized panels (in the same aspect ratio as Garfield), the use of borders around the outer panels but not the one in the middle, the fact that the characters don't change poses between panels, and the floor taking up about 15% of the bottom of each panel. See here for an example.
In addition, the strip image is noticeably grainy, as if it were a photograph of a newspaper.
List of changes supposedly imposed on Randall
- Cultural references that would be lost on the average newspaper reader
- xkcd is known for its niche cultural references, one of the main reasons this wiki exists.
- Mathematics above the high-school level
- Another trademark of xkcd is its use of mathematics for humor. More complex mathematics tends to not lend itself as well to comedy.
- Obscure scientific subjects
- Again, this is a common feature of xkcd comics, which turns off many would-be readers for its exclusivity, making xkcd difficult to syndicate.
- Overt sexual material
- xkcd's abstract art style means that it can get away with sexual content without seeming profane, and takes advantage of this often.
- Objectionable words such as fuck, shit, cunt, ass, tits, cock, scrotum, bitch, Belgium, pussy, or twat
- Newspaper comics tend to have very "clean" humor, which xkcd's usual writing style is ill suited for. Belgium is the rudest word in the universe according to the US-version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
- Same Sex relationships
- Newspapers are more often read by older people, so same-sex relationships are often absent to avoid conservative backlash.
- Star Wars
- Star Wars, a common reference in xkcd, is an intellectual property that would need to be licensed, at great expense to United.
- Star Trek (Original and Enterprise)
- Similar case to Star Wars. It is curious that the original series and Enterprise are referenced specifically, and not any of the intervening series (i.e. The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager)
- The home phone numbers of White House employees
- At this point, the list items begin to become more absurd, tipping more credulous readers off to the joke.
- Bacon Based Currencies
- Bacon was a significant meme around this time, especially on Reddit, where xkcd comics were very popular. (Compare 1835: Random Obsessions.)
- Erotic use of Flywheels
- While it is hard to see how one could use Flywheels erotically, there have been attempts.
- Exposés regarding other United Features syndicated characters
- Here Randall seems to imply that certain (fictional) comic strip characters are involved in scandals, of which he knows the details.
- Exposés regarding the personal lives of United Features Syndicate executives, specifically including CEO Kenneth Lowe
- Overly specific stipulations like this one often suggest scandals or wrongdoing of the named parties.
- A form of technology used to have sex remotely, obviously unsuitable for the funnies.
- Portrayals of Johnny Cash as an Amway distributor
- Amway is a Multi-level marketing company; a link to Johnny Cash is not apparent.
- Any story that ends with "and that's how my penis got the nickname 'grappling hook'.
- As comics are expected to be family friendly, anything involving rope-driven genitalia grappling devices would likely be unwelcome.
- Computer-computer Cybersex
- Two chatbots cybering with one another is a plausibly real thing, and an easy target for xkcd.
- Swordfights between white people
- Possibly a reference to the cliché that white people can't dance.
- Bitch & Animal
- A "queercore" gay punk band, never mentioned elsewhere in xkcd.
- Sexualization of Mount Rushmore
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore features the 60-foot (18 m) heads of Presidents George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), as for the sexualization of the mountain, See Erotic use of Flywheels.
- Staplers as mélée weapons
- By folding a stapler open and compressing its upper half, a stapler can be used as a very ineffective imitation of a hand gun. Hand guns are ranged weapons, and therefore not mélée weapons. Staplers could however be used as a short range mélée weapon that would leave a staple in the opponent upon impact.
- Road trip buddy comedies starring Tank Girl and William Howard Taft
- This is simply a bit of surrealism on Randall's part; Tank Girl (the subject of a comic book and 80s cult sci-fi movie) and William Howard Taft (the president that everyone knows as "The one that was so fat he got stuck in the tub) would have very little reason to go on a road trip together.
- Eric S. Raymond performing in Cirque du Soleil
- More surrealism. Eric S. Raymond (more commonly known by his login name esr) is a controversial figure in the tech scene; he's most well known for maintaining (poorly, in some people's opinion) the legendary Jargon File, and for writing The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which some consider one of the seminal manifestos of the modern Open Source/Free Software movement. He would have very little time or energy to spend performing French-Canadian contortion-based performance art. (Cirque du Soleil was previously mentioned in the title text of 198: Perspective.)
- Hats with buckles
- Most likely a reference to Pilgrims and how they are traditionally depicted in paintings and would probably fall under "cultural references that would be lost on average readers".
- Licking of nipples atop a moving train
- Refer to #4.
- [A Cueball and his Cueball-like friend are standing in some sort of grassy area.]
- Cueball: Why did the computer cross the road?
- Friend: I don't know.
- [Same scene, but Cueball and his friend are moved to the right.]
- Cueball: I don't know either! Computers are so complicated!
- Friend: LOL!
- Editor's note: "LOL" is an online acronym for "laughing out loud." It alerts you to something funny, so keep an eye out!
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