1027: Pickup Artist

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Pickup Artist
Son, don't try to play 'make you feel bad' with the Michael Jordan of making you feel bad.
Title text: Son, don't try to play 'make you feel bad' with the Michael Jordan of making you feel bad.


Hairy and Cueball are sitting at a table with drinks. Hairy tells Cueball that he's learned some pickup artist tricks. Cueball is appalled, declaring that pickup artists are "dehumanizing creeps" (given Cueball's standard role in the comics, it's likely Cueball is expressing Randall's opinion here). Hairy argues that he's simply learning new tactics such as "negging" (undercutting the target's self-esteem so that she'll feel vulnerable and crave approval), evidently oblivious to the fact that he's proving Cueball's point. Rejecting Cueball's advice to simply talk to women "like a fucking human being", Hairy sets off to try out the technique.

Meanwhile, Black Hat and Danish are sitting at another table. Black Hat, being a classhole, leaves to roll a bowling ball through the restroom stalls to hit the feet of anyone there using them. In North America, public restrooms usually have a 1-foot (30 cm) gap between the floor and the bottom of the stall dividers. As people sit down to use a stall most of the time, their feet would be vulnerable to being hit in sequence. Perhaps Black Hat is going for a 'strike'. Hairy approaches Danish, while Cueball looks on and says "oh no" — seemingly recognizing Danish and anticipating the disaster Hairy is walking into, or perhaps simply not wanting Hairy to use his tricks on anyone.

Hairy makes an attempt at "negging" by suggesting that Danish's fruit plate reflects a need to lose weight. Danish, naturally being a master at psychological manipulation, immediately realizes his game, and crushes him utterly by taking another shot in the psychological dark — telling him that he's trapped in an endless cycle of failure because he's ultimately a mediocre person and will never do anything of value with his life. Demoralized, Hairy declares that he needs to go home and think about his life; Danish tells him, "It won't help.” This may be a reference to the "deathsticks" scene in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Alternatively, it might mean that she considers Hairy's mediocrity as so persistent that even reflecting on what she said won't enable him to overcome it (Note that since Danish is 'negging', this might not even reflect Danish's *true* opinion on Hairy as a person at all -- she might just be reacting to what he replied in the most effective, i.e. in this situation, most lastingly soul-crushing, way). Lastly, another possible explanation of her reply might be that once Black Hat discovers his shenanigans, Hairy might not have much more life to rethink.

The title text refers to Michael Jordan, a very popular and accomplished basketball player who played for the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards. His name is often used as a noun to denote that someone is the best in their field, which is later used in 1120: Blurring the Line.

The pick up subject and Hairy returned in 1178: Pickup Artists, where he tries to improve his skills (which he must have felt he needed after this experience), by hanging out with other pickup artists, thus the plural version of the comic title. This comic is one of a small set of comics with the same or almost the same title as another comic (only plural form of artist the difference).


[Hairy and Cueball sitting at a table.]
Hairy: I've been learning tricks from pickup artist forums.
Cueball: Pickup artists are dehumanizing creeps who see relationships as adversarial and women as sex toys.
[Close-up of Hairy's head, with a faint outline of Black hat and Danish sitting at a table in the background.]
Hairy: No, it's just a bunch of tips! Like negging: you belittle chicks to undermine their self-confidence so they'll be more vulnerable and seek your approval.
[Close-up of Cueball's head.]
Cueball: Just talk to them like a fucking human being.
Hairy: Nah, that's a sucker's game.
Hairy: Ok— wish me luck!
[Small frame across top of panel reads Meanwhile... and Danish is sitting at a table with Black hat standing next to the table holding a bowling ball under his arm.]
Black Hat: I'm going to the bathroom to roll a bowling ball down under the line of stalls.
Danish: Cool.
[Close up of Cueball's head, with Hairy approaching Danish's table in the background.]
Cueball: Oh no.
[Hairy and Danish at a table. Hairy is standing up and leaning on the table.]
Hairy: You look like you're on a diet. That's great!
Hairy: How's the fruit plate?
[Close-up of Danish's head.]
Danish: Ooh- are we negging?
Danish: Let me try!
[Close-up of Danish's head, with her hand raised.]
Danish: You look like you're going to spend your life having one epiphany after another, always thinking you've finally figured out what's holding you back, and how you can finally be productive and creative and turn your life around.
Danish: But nothing will ever change. That cycle of mediocrity isn't due to some obstacle. It's who you are.
Danish: The thing standing in the way of your dreams
Danish: is that the person having them is you.
[Hairy and Danish at a table. Hairy is standing up.]
Danish: Ok, your turn! Ooh, try insulting my hair!
Hairy: I think I need to go home and think about my life.
Danish: It won't help.

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Penny Arcade had a fascinating exchange on this subject a while back: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2009/08/10 - start in the last paragraph of the first post, and note that until "Follow up" the argument is mostly feigned. Especially read the two long posts at the end.

The biggest message I got out of it is that "pickup artistry" to many awkward people (aka nerds) is actually "learning how to fit in better socially and get over crippling anxiety when talking to women, or even in social situations generally." Negging, then, is not "lowering women's self-esteem to sleep with them", but is engaging in the gentle teasing and joking around that occurs between friends - the "diet" example Randall proposes is a terrible one. In that way you're acting less like you're treating your social partner as some untouchable object of worship (which most of us would agree is creepy as hell). It's very hard for those without any sort of crippling social anxiety to imagine trying to be socially active under those circumstances. Is it sad that "normal" comfort level and social graces didn't develop naturally, such that some nerds have to "learn" these things? Perhaps. Does that mean we should shame all nerds for trying to fit in, labeling them "dehumanizing creeps"? Yell at anyone with low self-esteem "HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE, LOSER!"? I hope not.

Of course there are jerks who will use this stuff for evil. Maybe more of them than the nerds, I have no idea. It's also possible these anxiety-fighting methods have better alternatives. Just another perspective I didn't know about until reading about it, which made me take Randall's one-sided, there-can-be-no-other-explanation comments on the subject with a grain of salt. But, still a funny strip, so whatevs. - jerodast (talk) 16:17, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

I loved the strip because of throwing a bowling ball under a line of stalls (which isn't creepy nor dehumanizing?) but anyhow... I agree with you. I used to be virtually unable to talk to women, let alone flirt. I used pickup tips to break out of my shell and learn how to be a sociable person. Today, most new people I meet can't believe I used to be that shy, I actually had my best friend talk bad about me to my girlfriend who couldn't believe that at all. Guess what ... she loves me for being a good and honest person. The only thing pickup learned me was to show my honest and good side to other people in a normal, non creepy way.
That being said. It is insulting that an otherwise smart person like Randall couldn't see the different aspects of pickup and rather just go with the popular "creep" definition. Then again, Baret Guy is just a cliche asshole. Maybe that's the lesson, neither pickup artists nor assholes are good choices for women. 15:55, 22 January 2013 (UTC)
What do you two think that the phrase pickup artist literally means? If you want to develop into a good and honest person, how could the way be to learn pickup tricks aiming to seduce and fuck women? If you meet someone that wants to learn to be more romantic, suggest them to read Pride and Prejudice, or watch Casablanca. –St.nerol (talk) 20:03, 22 January 2013 (UTC)
How is Beret Guy an asshole?! You mean Hairy, right? Beanie (talk) 12:45, 14 May 2021 (UTC)

this hit too hard for me, should i just kill myself? 16:25, 1 May 2023 (UTC)

Trying to be a "Romantic" upon first meeting a girl is going to crash and burn 99/100 HARD. The reason being, romance is wonderful when you are already IN a relationship, but it is a terrible way to start. The hollywood version of "Romance" isn't even anywhere NEAR what a real healthy relationship full of problems and compromises and arguments and give and take is. As one of those "Nerds" with crippling social anxiety I tried that. I watched Casablanca, wonderful film. I grew up treating every girl/woman I met as though they where a princess. I was the most romantic person I could possibly be. It got me nowhere. Actually it got me called a creep on dozens of occasions. The few times a woman would respond favorably she was just using me for whatever petty bs she wanted at the time, rides, drinks, etc.

The real world you have to find the middle way. Neither bag-em-and-tag-em womanizing, nor putting women on an impossible pedestal. Everything I know about "Normal" human interaction I learned from pickup artist books and shows. The whole point was to learn how to be at ease around people and have them at ease around you. Are there goofy tricks sure. Do I personally think negging for the most part is bs, absolutely. It isnt there to be used as a cureall. The purpose of negging is to bring the super full of herself party girl back down to planet earth in a gentle way. To let her not walk all over you. Its not to try and make someone feel bad, but to instead imply that you aren't going to be their whipping boy. Properly used, it just is a way to show you've got balls. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

To the unsigned person who wrote that: Do you realize you're displaying a markedly negative attitude towards women in general? Even the very idea of being "romantic" right off the bat shows a belief that women aren't actual human beings, they only exist to be targets of your sexual aggression. When you don't respect someone as a human being, get to know them, etc., you set yourself up for disappointment. It *is* creepy, exactly the same as PoA techniques. The goal isn't to get to know someone to see if you're compatible; it's to manipulate them and coerce them into "feeling at ease" or into a semblance of a relationship. And if you despise a woman enough to describe her as a "super full of herself party girl", why in the world would you want a relationship with her? You yourself state that you don't, you just want to cut her down and prove your own power. Your techniques have nothing to do with establishing a communication between equals and everything to do with establishing yourself as dominant and powerful and women as powerless. 21:45, 28 February 2013 (UTC)
From my limited perspective, a "pickup artist " is a person, usually male, who tries to coerce or "pick up" others, usually female, for a night out, usually for intercourse. However the technique used can be employed in a variety of ways or for a variety of purposes. Apparently, it is an effective way to start a conversation with someone you are romantically interested in. That is,if you are intending to go into that direction. I'm not sure if a pickup artist actually studies the so called art, or if they just employ their skills as often as possible. I can see why some can be considered "dehumanizing creeps" but the art itself is not necessarily dehumanizing.
On a less serious note, what Danish is doing is technically not negging. In the comic, negging is described as a way to get someone to seek your approval, where Danish only seems to want to make the guy feel bad. ~Alithia 03:05, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
Seems to be a double standard: in dating men are supposed to honest and straightforward, be themselves - "be a man", yet it's accepted and not frowned upon if women have some "tricks" (damsel in distress etc) for that situation. Every women's magazine (and website) is full of "how to get THAT guy" and other similar 'how-to's on how to manipulate and deceit men, and nobody rises an eyebrow... If a man does that he's a sleazeball, a "pickup artist" etc. I'm not defending the "art of pickup", I despise it, but I don't like the double standard. 17:02, 18 October 2015 (UTC)

My perfect woman, right there! - E-inspired (talk) 22:29, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

The last picture reminds me of a szene in Star Wars Episode II, when Obi-Wan executes the Jedi Mind Trick on Elan Sleazebaggano. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0121765/quotes for details. --Kigana (talk) 15:59, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

A belated word to any male readers who have a really hard time figuring out how to talk to women (I'm not referring to pickup tricks here!): Mystery novelist Dorothy Sayers, in an essay in her "Are Women Human?" collection, wrote “A man once asked me ... how I managed in my books to write such natural conversation between men when they were by themselves. Was I, by any chance, a member of a large, mixed family with a lot of male friends? I replied that, on the contrary, I was an only child and had practically never seen or spoken to any men of my own age till I was about twenty-five. "Well," said the man, "I shouldn't have expected a woman (meaning me) to have been able to make it so convincing." I replied that I had coped with this difficult problem by making my men talk, as far as possible, like ordinary human beings. This aspect of the matter seemed to surprise the other speaker; he said no more, but took it away to chew it over. One of these days it may quite likely occur to him that women, as well as men, when left to themselves, talk very much like human beings also.” This affirms the advice in the comic: when you feel overcome with social anxiety in the presence of a woman, try talking to her as if she's an ordinary human being. :) [though this excerpt is surely copyright, I believe it falls under the fair use policy; it can be found on https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/529133-are-women-human] 10:23, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

xkcd will never have a comic like this again. 19:19, 20 January 2021 (UTC)

Local asshole tries to belittle woman, gets fucking folded Me[citation needed] 05:09, 28 September 2023 (UTC)