> Describe xkcd hereWhat? No, we're not doing another Describe Topic Here joke.
Describe xkcd hereOkay.xkcd
is a Stick Figure Comic
by Randall Munroe. It is a gag-a-day comic, and generally does not have a continuing plot line or continuity (though there are occasional short story arcs). Many of the jokes are based on math, physics, UNIX
and Internet memes
, as well as romance and sex. It utilizes Alt Text
for each and every comic which contain additional jokes and context.
Originally a relatively unknown set of personal sketches and doodles, it grew in popularity in 2006 when other webcomics (such as Dinosaur Comics
) began linking to it. However, it was when Randall posted a "Map of the Internet
", and said map was subsequently featured on Slashdot
, that xkcd's popularity truly erupted. Since then, it has been among the most well-known of webcomics.
Of course, you wouldn't know that just by looking at the comic. The characters are still drawn as very basic stick figures, with no facial features other than hairstyle (which is often used to distinguish males and females
). However, there are three recurring characters who can be recognized by their respective headgear:
- "Black Hat Guy," a Jerkass Badass character with a black pork-pie hat, who in one storyline encountered a woman who out-Jerkassed him, and has now become a romantic interest.
- A beret-clad Cloudcuckoolander and Anti-Nihilist, generally thought of to be an Existentialist, albeit one with a thing for pastries.
- A dark haired woman, referred to in several comics as "Megan"; she shares many of the same interests with the nondescript Author Avatar and is commonly shown to be in a relationship with him. Was the main character of the "Choices" Series.
- There also seems to be a recurring main character with a distinct personality (most likely the author's own), but since he looks exactly the same as all the other stick figures without hair or hats, it could be argued that he's just a stock character. He has picked up the nickname Cueball.
There are other recurring characters in the same social circle — e.g. the dark-haired existential nihilist
— but most of them are less distinctive.
Has mentioned this very wiki
. The wiki has returned the favor, taking many XKCD comics for page images (see Trivia.XKCD
for the list), as well as making the image for all pages under the category "Webcomic" a little picture of Black Hat Guy.
xkcd is part of the documentation for goto
on the PHP website
, and was mentioned as a ticket in a changelog◊note
Two big occurrences for the comic happened in 2012. The webcomic reached one thousand comics in January; as the above-mentioned main character says, "Wow — just 24 to go until a big round-number milestone!" Later in June, xkcd
added a section called What If?
to its website, where Randall tackles hypothetical questions with physics and silly drawings. Has a lot of snark
Numerologists take note: adding up the numerical values of the title's letters yields a sum of 42
. Coincidence?... Yes
Completely unrelated, but some fans had the bright idea to create graphs in XKCD style
The subcomic Time
, now finished, is so big it has its own page now.
Tropes used by this webcomic:
open/close all folders
# & A-E
- 20% More Awesome: Used repeatedly, including this particularly meta example involving a graph about a decline in a relationship that might be caused by graphing things.
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: 57: Wait For Me.
- Acceptable Targets: In-universe, string theorists, liberal arts majors, 610: Objectivists (and again at 1049), 590: typographers and 114: computational linguists. Also, Velociraptors.
- Affectionate Parody: 141: Parody Week, whose strips don't really make fun of anything and, in some cases, could actually have been used by the regular cartoonist except for the artwork. It turns into a deconstruction of parody with the author halting his MegaTokyo parody because he feels sorry for the writer. The author also stops a later Penny Arcade parody because he respects the writers too much (with the respect transitioning to Ho Yay and then Slash Fic before he finishes.)
- Age-Gap Algebra: #314 cites the "half-your-age-plus-seven" rule and provides the trope image.
- Aggressive Categorism: 385: How It Works.
Guy to Guy: Wow, you suck at math.
Guy to Girl: Wow, girls suck at math.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
- All Just a Dream: 806, "Tech Support".
- All Love Is Unrequited: 642, "Creepy".
- Alt Text
- Ambiguous Syntax: Hyphen and Jacket.
- Anachronism Stew: Discussed. No one will care in the future.
- Analogy Backfire: "And from that day on, I wore this little F key pendant everywhere I went."
- Angrish: One comic has a father conditioning his daughter's speech centers to shut down when she's upset. Hilarity Ensues to say the least: 573, "Parental Trolling".
- Animal Athlete Loophole:
- Anything But That!: Many of the strips revolve around Randall's fear of velociraptors.
- Applied Mathematics: It's fond of this.
- April Fools' Day:
- For 2010, they changed the layout so that you navigate through the comics with a text interface. If you typed in 'cat' with no arguments, you'd get a line of text that reads "You're a kitty!" There were a lot of Easter Eggs hidden in there. 'make me a sandwich'/'sudo make me a sandwich', emacs, the Konami Code... the list goes on.
- For 2011, all comics went 3D. Also counts as Hypocritical Humor given the April Fool's comic itself.
- For 2012, the comic itself changes depending upon the web browser one views the comic with (as well as various other factors, such as location and operating system, but the web browser is the easiest to view the change with), with at least four different variations in Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- "There's no porn set atop storm chasing vans. No homoerotic spelling bees. No women playing electric guitar in the shower". The last one actually worked, so it probably was not so bad.
- The future predictions for 2100 end with: "Rainforests mostly gone due to climate shifts", "All coral reefs gone" and "Gillette introduces 14 bladed razor".
- The Alt Text for 1036 reads: "I plugged in this lamp and my dog went rigid, spoke a sentence of perfect Akkadian, and then was hurled sideways through the picture window. Even worse, it's one of those lamps where the switch is on the cord."
- Art Evolution: Compare the first 150 strips or so with the newer ones.
- Artistic License – History: One man tells the story of how Christopher Columbus sailed across the ocean to prove the world was round, and a woman butts in to change the story so he ends up in Valinor. When he tells her to stop making stuff up, she responds that he needs to stop making stuff up.
- Art Shift: A few strips actually shift up in terms of quality. The author doesn't seem to have a strong inclination to keep up such things though. On occasion, Randall has created temporary UNIX-themed and 3D-versions of the comic.
- Art-Style Dissonance: It's surprisingly smart for its limited art style.
- Asbestos-Free Cereal: The "Free" strip, featuring three brands of cereal, with one of the being asbestos-free! Provides the page image for the trope and is the Trope Namer.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Illustrated with a clever visual metaphor here.
- Author Appeal: Randall seems to really, really like cunnilingus, going so far as to create http://cu.nniling.us/ a redirect to xkcd itself
- Author Avatar: The plain-featured stick man. (Sometimes. It can also be just anyone without special features.) Also, this
- Author Filibuster: Quite a few on DRM, for example here. Eventually lampshaded here and here. This one provides a similar counterpoint, though it's not exactly a lampshade.
- Author Vocabulary Calendar: Wikipedia's propensity for using specific words over and over is discussed in the strip "Malamanteau".
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Did you know you can just buy lab coats?
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- Big Electric Switch: In Time Machine, the time machine looks like some kind of vending machine with a Big Electric Switch on the front.
- Bilingual Bonus: Assuming you speak Binary... this strip.
- Each group of four bits represents one nibble (hexadecimal digit): 6261 7365 2032. Each pair of digits is the ASCII code for one character in "base 2".
- Bitter Wedding Speech: Hey, you asked me to do a toast...
- Black Comedy: On occasion.
- The Blank: All the characters.
- Bluff the Eavesdropper: In #525:
Now and then, I announce "I know you're listening" to empty rooms. If I'm wrong, nobody knows, and if I'm right, maybe I just freaked the hell out of some secret organization.
- Boggles the Mind: "Scrabble"; on the prevalence of dirty words you find when playing family games.
- Bookcase Passage: "Bookshelf"; one that activates when you tug on the copy of Atlas Shrugged, though all it does is tell you that you have terrible taste.
- Book Ends: The first panel and alt-text of this strip.
- The very first strip and the line on the very uttermost right of Click and Drag
- Time began and ended with a very small sandcastle.
- Brains and Bondage: Chemists pick the worst safewords.
- Brick Joke: Ongoing boomerang difficulties.
- The Journal joke, too.
- Does it count if they're only one comic apart?
- In The strip #349, we learn that trying to install FreeBSD has a chance of stranding one in the middle of the ocean. In Click and Drag, we have an ocean somewhere to the right, and there are two stick figures in the middle of it, complaining "Stupid FreeBSD..."
- ...Which comes up AGAIN even later, as a possible outcome in a "choose your own adventure" style comic.
- A very subtle one. Hat-Guy has a hat under his hat to one-up those who have their own hats. He shows up as a tiny little figure in a Guest Strip by Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal author Zach Weiner.
- Buffy Speak:
- Up Goer Five is a cross between this and an inverted Expospeak Gag: it describes a Saturn V rocket using only the 1000 most-frequently-used words in the English language.
- The first three panels of Winter are full of these.
- Burma Shave: Found here.
- Butterfly of Transformation: Pupating Transformers.
- Call Back: Very popular, especially in the Alt Text.
- In "Useless", an early comic, a heart is inserted into various mathematical formulas ending in question marks. It was captioned "My normal approach is useless here." Five years later in "Probability", he wrote a strip about a terminally ill woman. The Alt Text reads, "My normal approach is useless here, too."
- Another in "Rogers St.", to "Little Bobby Tables" from "Exploits of a Mom"
- Also, "Hell" and later, "Heaven".
- In "A-Minus-Minus", the Black Hat Guy sells an office chair on eBay, only for the actual package to arrive at the purchaser's home a bobcat. 251 comics later in "Packages", one character sets up a script that purchases something random off eBay every day so he can continually receive packages (notice the Alt Text). The bobcat gets mentioned yet again in "Coupon Code" (Alt Text again).
- In "Barrel - Part 1", the very first comic, a boy starts floating around in a barrel. In "Ferret", the author puts wings on a Ferret hoping he will fly. Eventually, the boy loses the barrel, and 11 comics later, in "Barrel - Part 5", is rescued by the winged ferret.
- The punchline for "Barrel - Part 1" is reused in Click and Drag", when you scroll all the way to the right.
- The man with the loud girlfriend and the elliptical dish from "Loud Sex" gets a mention in the Alt Text from "Bass".
- In "Forks and Spoons" scientists created fork/spork/spoon hybrids, with disastrous results. Only two comics later they are mentioned again in "Making Hash Browns".
- The inane statement in "Cat Proximity", "You're a kitty!" gets a callback in the mouseover for "Turtles" — "You're a turtle!".
- "Marshmallow Gun", where the water gun appears to be the same one from "Philosophy"
- Black Hat Guy's past exploits are brought up in "Secretary: Part 3".
- Electric skateboards are a recurring motif.
- So are giant hamster balls.
- "Lemme know if you find out why she's ordering all those colored plastic balls."
- In "Reload", the Alt Text says, "And watch out for that guy from comic #53." ("Hobby").
- Summer Glau:
- In "Circuit Diagram", the Alt Text remarks, "I just caught myself idly trying to work out what that resistor mass would actually be, and realized I had self-nerd-sniped." ("Nerd Sniping")
- At one point Munroe produced several strips about boomerang hijinks. Then, once we've all forgotten about them, we get this.
- A very subtle and easily missed one occurs in the Alt Text of "Exploits of a Mom", which references "Pi Equals".
- The comic Up Goer Five explains a space rocket with only the 1000 most common words used in English. It includes the phrase "you will not go to space today" for when something goes wrong. The What If? blag turned it into a running gag.
- In "Open Source", fake ninjas attack Richard Stallman in his sleep. Later, during "1337: Parts 4 and 5", he comes to Mrs. Robert aid.
- In "Just Alerting You" we see someone, possibly an early Megan, riding an Apatosaur. Then, in "Nowhere" we see her again riding an Apatosaur, this time in a daydream.
- The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: Spoofed.
- The Cameo: Hannelore from Questionable Content can be found here.
- Car Fu: Actually Submarine Fu: Black Hat Guy recovers his hat from his Love Interest in this strip by crashing a Russian nuclear submarine through the ice she's skating on.
- Catapult Nightmare: The dream in 806, "Tech Support" starts out as a nightmare, but eventually it gets a Happy Ending. The catapult is still there at the end.
- Centipede's Dilemma: "Did you know November is Tongue Awareness Month?"
- Centrifugal Farce: Argues whether or not this should be "centripetal force".
- Chekhov's News: Suggested here to make the news more interesting.
- Children Are Innocent: Subverted, though partially doubly subverted when the child says "Gosh" in reaction.
I eat my body weight in food every thirty-one days. That's slightly faster than the human average. [stares off at the clouds then falls down] I'm part of the floor now.
- The Beret Guy can count as one as well.
- And maybe Randall himself...
- Coincidental Accidental Disguise: Apparently, having acne on half your face and flipping a coin is enough to fool Batman.
- Comedic Sociopath: Black Hat Guy
- Comically Missing the Point:
The white balance, for one.
Focus is a bit too close.
The chromatic aberration suggests you bought your camera because it had "the most megapixels"
THE CAR IS ON FIRE!
Maybe you should use the insurance money to get a new camera.
- Continuity Nod: See Call Back.
- Convection Schmonvection: Would someone please inform these kids of this trope. (It's not completely their fault; they're re-enacting the plot of Volcano.)
- Cool Shades: A derivative of this trope (with a reference to the CSI Quip to Black), as seen here.
- Cool Sword: This strip pokes fun at some of the flavors this trope comes in.
- Counting Bullets: In a parody of Dirty Harry in this comic
- Creepypasta: Parodied here.
- Cross Over: HAL replaces Dave with someone who's more devoted to the whole science thing.
But look at us here talking when there's science to do! Goodbye, Dave.
My Deep Impact/Little Prince
crossover fanfic has been poorly received by the community.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Especially from a hypochondriac's point of view.
- Cuteness Proximity: Shown in the strip "Cat Proximity", which is the Trope Namer as well.
- Darker and Edgier : Played with in-universe by Harriet the Spy
- Date My Avatar: This strip demonstrates how the internet makes you appear smarter.
- Deathbringer the Adorable: This chart plots out scary names based on how scary the name is, and how scary the thing itself is. "Chernobyl Packet" and "Bomb Calorimeter" are considered this, while "Soil Liquefaction" and "Grey Goo" are cases of Fluffy the Terrible. "Flesh-Eating Bacteria" is in the corner for Names to Run Away From Really Fast.
- A Degree in Useless: According to the Alt Text here, anthropology.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The Tautology Club is about redundancy because redundancy is what the Tautology Club is all about.
- Description Cut: Surely Nathan Fillion has better things to do these days than pretend to be Mal Reynolds. Meanwhile, wearing a brown coat, "Name's Captain Reynolds, ma'am." *ahem* "Name's Captain Reynolds, ma'am." Made even funnier by a certain episode of Castle
- Determinator: "He just reconnected the cables we cut, muttering something about "uptime".
- Devil's Advocate: Invoked but not used here. The trope itself is used without Name Drop in the Wright Brothers example.
- Did You Actually Believe?
- Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Mephistopheles encounters the E.U.L.A
- Disproportionate Retribution: Lots. Here're three examples.
- Distant Reaction Shot: Used in the comic Tuesdays (for "endless wings").
- Distracted from Death: In this strip a guy is so worried about this happening that he forces in sweet last words even when his love interest is just going to the grocery store.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Deconstructed here, with the whole "Nice Guy" situation being played uncharacteristically cynically.
- Don't Explain the Joke: The comic frequently violates this rule. In many cases, the punchline occurs in the second-to-last panel, only to have a final panel that then explains it. Other times the punchline is in the last panel... but there's a final sentence that then explains the joke. On the rare occasion neither are done, you can probably check the Alt Text and find it explained there.
- Don't Try This at Home: See the Alt Text for Wings. Subverted in a blog post: "But remember, I am not advocating doing anything dangerous unless it’s really cool."
- Double Entendre: "Geology: surprisingly erotic."
- Dream Apocalypse: "Please don't wake up. I don't want to die."
- Droste Image: This. And that - possibly worlds 1st truely infinite one.
- Drunken Master: In the form of Ballmer's Peak.
- Dying Alone
- Eagleland / Global Ignorance: Deconstructed in this strip.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Newcomers to the series will find it very strange that the first few dozen comics are actually just sketches and philosophical musings set to artwork. It wasn't until around 50 strips in that xkcd as we know it began to surface.
- Earth All Along: The "Time" comic, which updated once an hour for just over four months after posting, is set in some strange world where the inhabitants don't seem to know things that are common knowledge among humans, like how rivers work and why birds chirp. The reveal eventually showed that it's actually set in the distant future of what was once (and will soon become again) the Mediterranean Sea.
- Edit War: Discussed here.
- Eldritch Abomination: This is why you shouldn't awaken the sheeple.
- Elemental Powers: Elements
- Elevator Gag: Floor 5: Zeppelin!
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Black Hat Guy and his girlfriend
- Even Evil Has Standards: While going over Black Hat Guy's (extensive) criminal record...
Black Hat Guy: I plead the third.
Congresswoman: You mean the fifth.
Black Hat Guy: No, the third.
Congresswoman: ...You refuse to quarter troops in your house?
Black Hat Guy: I have few principles, but I stick to them.
- Evolutionary Levels: Parodied in "Evolving", which uses a Pokémon style cut scene to show a disease-causing bacterium evolving into a drug-resistant variant.
- Exactly What I Aimed At: Apollo retroreflectors.
- Facepalm: "Local g" offers an example (last panel).
- Failure Is the Only Option: This flow chart explains how to write good code, or possibly not.
- Fake-Out Opening: "The remaining 90 minutes of the movie will be a romantic comedy."
- False Cause: Several, though it is discussed here.
- False Dichotomy: "Charity" discusses this.
- Fantasy Twist: This strip takes it to a very weird place.
- "Far Side" Island: If this strip is to be trusted, they're not half as boring as they're stereotyped.
- Fetish Retardant: In-universe, the Power Rangers theme is this.
- Filler Strip: Parodied.
- Flatworld: Here, in a reference to Flatland. (Bonus points for the Alt Text pointing out what a stick figure would look like in Flatland according to the book.)
- Flock of Wolves: What are the odds of five Ayn Rand fans being on the same train together?
- Four Point Scale: Strip 1098 explains the trope.
- Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle: Done with a wolf, goat and cabbage, it ends halfway through when the problem solver leaves the wolf behind, questioning why he had a wolf in the first place. The Alt Text goes a step further asking why there was a cabbage, taking only the goat, goats are fine.
- Geeky Turnon: Frequent, though with occasional unfortunate Manic Pixie Dream Girl overtones.
- Genre Blind: Genre blindness in horror movies is made fun of in this strip
- Genre Savvy: "The outbreak started with patient zero... and ended with patient zero five minutes later."
- "Gift of the Magi" Plot: At least the result was the same.
- Girl in the Tower: This girl wants to be a lighthouse keeper because she gets to be the girl in the tower, only she's the one saving people.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Go go Gadget two lesbians doing it.
- Giving Up On Logic: Computer problems make a character pretty much drop the trope name here (Not a Trope Namer though, as the trope existed for years before that comic)
- Glasses Pull: Done by both Rick Astley and Isaac Newton for particularly dreadful puns.
- Glass-Shattering Sound: Attempted. It doesn't exactly go as planned.
- A God Am I:
- Godwin's Law: Referenced and parodied in this strip. Also, the suggested a screen consisting entirely of Hitler's face with flashing eyes would be preferable to Vista.
- Going Mobile: There is a mobile version of the site, even with a button to click to show the Alt-Text.
- Golden Mean Fallacy: Played for laughs here. The Alt Text explicitly states: "I believe the truth always lies halfway between the most extreme claims."
- Gone Horribly Right: The result of trying to be "the Walmart of social interaction" is...
- Gone Horribly Wrong: In this strip, upgrading a computer leads to being stranded out in the middle of the ocean
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Or for a Tumblr.
- Government Conspiracy: This open letter to whatever group or groups are secretly controlling the U.S. government telling them to get their shit together, it's embarrassing.note
- Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Strip 79, "Iambic Pentameter".
- Guest Strip: A week full of them, by the authors of Questionable Content, Buttercup Festival, Overcompensating, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and FoxTrot. Yes, Bill Amend did a guest strip.
- Hard on Soft Science: With some frequency. It also appears in the warning at the bottom of each page. Homeopathy is a soft target, but perhaps Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.
- Help Help Trapped In Title Factory: How someone got trapped in a universe factory, we'll never know.
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Black Hat Guy uses a one-time-only time machine to go back and kill Hitler, at his friend's insistence. Only he did it in 1945, in the bunker, which is when and where Hitler actually died.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: "I just caught myself idly trying to work out what that resistor mass would actually be, and realized I had self-nerd-sniped." In-universe, the strip just before that one.
- Icarus Allusion: #1110, "Click and Drag", mentions Icarus. Really, it does. You'll have to look hard, though.
- I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Well, kill you even sooner.note
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- Incredibly Obvious Bomb: It comes with a ''radioactive'' label.
- Infinite Canvas: Several of the comics, but taken to the extreme with Click and Drag.
- Information Wants to Be Free: With a mythological twist.
- Inherently Funny Words: The xkcd "blag".
- Insane Troll Logic: All over the place:
- "Just talk to them like a fucking human being." "Nah, that's a sucker's game!"
- Face it—I'm your statistically significant other.
- "Why are you carrying a chin-up bar?" ... "I'm not really a not-carrying-a-chin-up-bar person."
- "Based on my impressions from walking down the aisles, home improvement stores stock about as many light bulbs as cans of paint. A normal house might have about 20 light bulbs, so let's assume a house needs about 20 gallons of paint. Sure, that sounds about right."
- Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Spoofed in Pale Blue Dot when the audience complains about the "blue dot" being an artifact on the photo.
- Instant A.I., Just Add Water: Very easy on Python! (as usual, Alt Text explains how)
- Internet Backlash: Many people were angry at #631, as well as the alt-text in #764.
- In the Style of...: Many of his parodies fit this trope a little closer.
- Inverted Trope: Well, if it were a trope...
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Some jerkass uses this on a furry in "Aversion Fads".
- It Meant Something to Me: The spambot.
- It Was His Sled: parodied.
- I Want My Jetpack:
- I Will Find You: Find You
- Jerkass: Black Hat Guy.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: "No One Must Know".
- "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: If all his friends jumped off a bridge it's probably because something bad is happening, like the bridge is on fire.
- Jumping the Shark: Played with in-universe in this strip's Alt Text.
- Kid Hero All Grown Up: In this strip. Kid hero goes to another dimension, saves a kingdom, and now has to live with that knowledge for the rest of his life here on boring ol' Earth.
- Know Your Vines: Relationship after camping trip: strained.
- Laborious Laziness: Sometimes optimizing efficiency, automating a task, or figuring out the best approach takes more time and effort than just plowing ahead.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Invoked in this Alt Text.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- The Alt Text gag from #721 only works on the assumption that people in the xkcdverse really are stick figures.
- The punchline of #1054 depends entirely on you reading the speech bubbles instead of imagining them as spoken dialogue.
- Lightbulb Joke: How many audiophiles...
- L Is for Dyslexia: Double subverted in this strip. And then subverted a third time in the Alt Text.
- Literal-Minded: Shake what your mama gave you!
- Logic Bomb: Used several times, but this one's for the audience.
- Logical Fallacies:
- Loud of War: Several strips have featured inventive audio revenge on loud car stereos and neighbours who are loud in bed.
- Lol Cats: "What are you doing?!" "Gluing captions to your cats."
- Loophole Abuse:
- Love Allegory: Katamari.
- Love You and Everybody: I love the whole world.
- Major General Song: "Every Major's Terrible", which is about choosing a course and how the person can't/won't/doesn't want to do any of them. Someone sang the whole comic (with accompaniment) here.
- Note that the video was released within hours of the comic. Say what you will about XKCD's fandom, but damn.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Most characters in the strip, male and female, have a strong devotion to making life a little weirder from the start, including Black Hat Guy, so at least by real-world standards, the recurring female character can come off as one, such as in #308.
- The appeal of this trope is parodied in comic 122: "I didn't actually mean be different. I just want silly and entertaining on command now and then."
- The Masochism Tango: Black Hat Guy and his girlfriend. He blew up her car, for Chrissakes. By moving the mines she had set up to blow up his car. She stole his hat. He likes his hat.
- Measuring the Marigolds: Subverted in "Beauty". Yes, scientists find beauty and wonder in their work. It's just not always what everyone else thinks of as beautiful.
- Michael Bay: Knows the worst-case scenario.
- Mighty Glacier: Used literally in "Digital Rights Management".
Black Hat Guy: Let's make a deal. You stop trying to tell me where, when, and how I play my movies and music, and I won't crush your homes under my inexorably advancing wall of ice.
- Mind Screw:
- Here. Just so you understand how weird this is, the guy on the right is talking to the past, and it's talking back.
- This strip starts out fairly normal. Then the whole world falls apart all of a sudden.
- The small print about "the algorithm" on the home page might also qualify as either an example or a parody:
We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves.note
. The algorithm is Banned in China
. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
The story behind that
is as follows: In 2007, some billboards popped up in New York
with those sentences on them, as part of an apparent viral marketing campaign by ask.com
. However, they apparently didn't finish it; the phrases didn't return anything relevant on Google. Randall decided to exploit this by having the many bloggers in his fanbase post the sentences as links to xkcd.com. He added them to the site itself so that the effort wouldn't be misinterpreted as an attempted Googlebomb
. It worked; if you Google the phrases, the top results are all references to xkcd
- "Perhaps this could change your mind?" It's like something straight out of The Twilight Zone.
- Mood Whiplash: Too many to fully enumerate. Some examples:
- Moon Landing Hoax: A few comics about the topic.
- More Than Three Dimensions: In strip #721, Cueball apologizes to a two-dimensional square named A. Square for having given him a hard time when he had trouble understanding three-dimensional space. Playing a four-dimensional game called Miegakure has made Cueball more sympathetic to Square's situation.
- Mundane Made Awesome: In the xkcd-Verse, computer science is revered as if it were a martial art. The 1337 story arc is a good example.
- Mundane Utility:
- Mundane Wish: Done in this strip.
- Nameless Narrative: Most of the names of recurring characters were never clearly stated.
- Averted with 'Megan'
- The alt text of the Actuarial strip names the Black Hat Guy as "Hat guy."
- The Author Avatar may be named Rob.
- Never Bareheaded: Black Hat Guy.
- Nightmare Fuel: Velociraptors, in-universe.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot:
- Noodle Implements: Invoked here, to the dismay of the characters.
- Noodle Incident:
- Office Sports: What programmers get up to while their code's compiling.
- Off the Chart:
- Oh, Crap: As said by Micheal Phelps.
- Older Than They Think: (In-Universe) With the rapid pace of technology and information, everyone assumes that conversation is dying, newspapers are becoming sensationalist garbage, the sanctity of marriage is being threatened, society is collapsing, and things were better in the old days. This comic shows that people have been believing this for over a century.
- Ontological Mystery: #505 starts with this, and then puts another layer on top.
- The Operators Must Be Crazy: #1438 posits what would happen if mission control acted like indifferent telephone service operators during the Apollo 13 disaster; the operator doesn't care about their emergency, makes snarky comments when they try to explain their plight, and brushes them off in favor of a call from his mother.
- Organ Theft: Inverted in 914. His ice is stolen... and he wakes up in a bathtub full of kidneys, rather than the other way 'round.
- Overcomplicated Menu Order: Xkcd orders $15.05 worth of appetizers, expecting the waiter to figure out what quantities of which items to serve in order to reach that number. The joke is that the costs listed on the menu just happen to mean that the waiter is being asked to solve a complex mathematical problem.
- Overly Long Gag:
- On TV Tropes
- Significant, which even combines this with Overly Pre-Prepared Gag.
- Expect to burst out laughing several times during #1110. Not from the little tidbits in it, but from scrolling through it and finding you're still scrolling but it's not ending!
- That or simply stare in awe with mouth agape while thinking about how long that had to have taken to make...
- Overly Narrow Superlative: "I love you most out of all the girls in all the world who love me back." May double as a False Reassurance.
Guest comic by Bill Amend of FoxTrot
, an inspiration to all us nerdy-physics-majors-turned-cartoonists, of which there are an oddly large number.
- Overly Pre-Prepared Gag: Just shy of a hundred years of Googled predictions for the future, until you get to 2101.
- Time may count as both this and Overly Long Gag: the image on the strip page changes every hour, forming a stop-motion video with narrative when combined on external sites such as this one. People discussing it on the forums initially assumed it would go on for a few days, it went beyond that. Then it seemed logical that it would conclude at the end of the week, with a punchline on April 1st. When it became clear that the story was of two people building a sandcastle on the beach, the most common prediction was that upon finishing the sandcastle the tide would wash it away and the scene loop to the beginning, forming a metaphor of some sort. Eventually the castle was finished and the tide did wash it away, the scene fading to white... only for a brand new scene to start, two people now on a quest to find out how seas and river and everything else works! It went on for over four months, updating each hour, and finally ended on July 26, 2013.
- Pac Man Fever: The subject of the fall-guy's ire's cellphone is making sounds more appropriate to a machine from the era he's actually referring to.
- Paranoia Gambit: Black Hat Guy hires Rick Astley to show up at a party and...just stand around not breaking into song. His victim quickly snaps and flees the room.
- Parking Payback: "Police reported three dozen cheerful bystanders, yet no one claims to have seen who did it."
- Parting Words Regret: Discussed in Leaving.
- Patchwork Map: In Geography Randall wants to live on an example map of geography books.
- Person with the Clothing: Black Hat Guy.
- Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Subverted.
- Planet of Steves: The Alt Text for Hurricane Names reveals that with the English and Greek alphabets and the Oxford English Dictionary exhausted, and the subsequent storms proving to be uncountably infinite, the NOAA gives up and names all the remaining hurricanes "Steve".
- Pluto Is Expendable: "It's been two years. I thought those wounds had healed. But I stand by what I said. Pluto never should have been a planet."
- Poe's Law: Referenced here.
- Poor Communication Kills: Demonstrated here.
- Porn Names: Discussed here.
- Power Perversion Potential: 3D printers.
- Precision F-Strike : Mission. FUCKING. Accomplished!
- Premature Aggravation: 439, "Thinking Ahead". "Did he just go crazy and jump out the window?"
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Five of them, ranked by the likelihood of catching on.
- The Presents Were Never from Santa: He's an agent for the "forces working beneath the chaos of life"...or maybe not.
- Public Secret Message: This strip makes fun of the public messages in Redwall.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- Quip to Black: Here. (The CSI meme version.)
- Rain of Arrows: Agincourt Gambit
- Really Gets Around: Touched on here.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Given by the target of a pickup artist in this strip.
- Record Needle Scratch: Apparently a good name for your daughter.
- Red Pill, Blue Pill: parodied.
- Reference Overdosed: Many comics require the reader to know the reference to get the joke.
- Remix Comic: the forum-produced Making XKCD Slightly Worse. Notable is the fact that the spin-off comic has more than three times the number of strips than the original.
- Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: This one. Lampshaded by the Alt Text.
- Retirony: This strip shows an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to defy the trope, with an officer dying the day before his last day on the job, when the department locks retiring officers into a heavily protected room for that day.
- Retro Rocket: The spaceship in this strip looks like a potato with fins.
- Reverse Psychology: Black Hat Guy warns vandals not to mess with his jack-o-lantern.
- Right Behind Me: This person wants to shoot for the moon, as in with guns, rockets and the like, hoping to destroy that stupid "skycircle". While talking about it, she realizes why her group is acting funny.
- Right Through the Wall: With an elliptical reflector dish.
- Road Sign Reversal: In "Astronaut Vandalism", with a twist.
- Rule Number One: The first rule of the tautology club is first rule of the tautology club.
- Rule 34: If there are no actual Strunk/White erotic fanfictions out there now, there probably will be as a direct result of this comic.
- Running Gag:
- Cory Doctorow blogging in a hot air balloon from the blogosphere.
- "My Hobby". Apparently, this guy has about a million different hobbies, give or take a few. (Full list)
- Mailing people bobcats, which started in 325, and was referenced in the title text in two subsequent comics. More recently, during the 2013 holiday season, the XKCD store stated, "I will probably not send you a bobcat" in the main page link.
- In the "what if" section of the website, the Netherlands is often seen as a superpower, from conquering the world as Munroe explains what happens if the oceans started to drain to having colonized Mars.
- Sarcasm Mode: "Try an Internet petition drive — those totally work."
- Scenery Porn: There are several strips that have good visuals in them, such as United Shapes, but the absolute ginormous size of "Click and drag" takes this trope way past root 121.
- Schmuck Bait: "Jeffrey is famous as the picture on the Wikipedia article on 'Necrosis'"
- Science Is Wrong: "No one told you because you're cute when you get into something."
- The Scream: How people react to endless wings.
- Selfcest: You'd think this is going somewhere dramatic, but no.
- Self-Deprecation: One way to interpret this strip.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: A rare non-video game example: This strip inspired an actual Flash implementation of the game. It's pretty unplayable (that's kind of the point) with the usual Tetris goals, but a MeFite pointed out the game is actually interesting and reasonably challenging if you try to end the game with as few pieces as you can.
- Serial Escalation: There are poster sized comics. There's one or two wall sized comics. But #1110 is so big it probably wouldn't fit on the floor of a passenger jet hangar. It's 165888 pixels wide by 79872 pixels high (roughly 46'/12m wide by 22'/6m tall at 300DPI). The stick figures are about half an inch tall in a world that is to them 5 miles across. Trying to find everything in it is likely to take at least half an hour.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Wikipedia's propensity for this is discussed in the strip "Malamanteau".
- Sexy Shirt Switch: At the bottom of #819, that girl in biology class wearing one of your shirts rates 4 (out of 4) stars on the hotness meter. That girl in biology class wearing one of your mother's shirts rates a Flat "What.".
- Shaped Like Itself:
- The basis of 688. And 703.
- According to 1079, Colorado is shaped like its Wikipedia article.
- The graph in #1230 is true if you interpret it either as a polar or a cartesian plot.
- Many, but of particular note is this one. It gets worse. Click the comic itself.
- Earlier than that, we have "In Popular Culture". It's very subtle, but take a look at the works listed as examples. Any of them look familiar?
- Calvin and Hobbes say Hi. And again (this one also contains Shout Outs to Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Lord of the Rings).
- In the first "1337" comic, one character poses the question, "How does she type with oven mitts on?" This is a reference to a frequently asked question on Homestar Runner's Strong Bad emails, and possibly also a reference to his "training gloves" in the site's "In Search of the Yello Dello" toon.
- The final "1337" comic has the line "You'd make a great dread pirate, Roberts."
- Several comics reference Ender's Game.
- The Alt Text on this one is a reference to an obscure detail in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
- Hannelore's twitter account is seen during this strip about swine flu.
- In the same one, it also has someone asking how long it'll take the flu to reach Madagascar.
- "Craigslist Apartments" has a few notable addresses, including one house on scenic Ash Tree Lane.
- Strip Games. See the Alt Text? Right.
- Black Hat is based on Aram from Men In Hats in many ways.
- Douglas Hofstadter and his recursiveness.
- Jason Fox makes a cameo appearance in this strip.
- The Alt Text of this strip is "We have met the enemy and he is us".
- Gravity Wells has a couple of things in Titan going "weeoooeeooo".
- Falling whale in Click and Drag a reference to The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy
- Also, a Creeper can be found in one of the caves.
- Hey! you're doing science. And you're still alive
- Big Brother realizes he's trapped in the worst possible hell...
- One of the contenders for the awful ringtone championship was "That noise from Dumb and Dumber."
- The Alt Text for this strip references the Helvetica Scenario.
- While the entirety of Wait Wait is a reference to the news quiz Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! if you look closely, one of the articles also quotes Peter Sagal as saying "I aten't dead."
- This strip has some suspiciously familiar file extensions strung together in the bottom line.
- In the "Jurassic World" strip, apart from the obvious reference to Jurassic World, the punchline is that the reconstructed dinosaur is T-Rex from Dinosaur Comics (and as a bonus, he's depicted in the same pose he always stands in when delivering a punchline).
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Black Hat Guy and his equally sociopathic girlfriend, when they think no one's watching. God help you if you catch them at it.
- Silent Scenery Panel: The occasional landscape drawings.
- Slow-Loading Internet Image: Discussed in this comic.
- Smart People Play Chess: On roller coasters, no less.
- Snowy Screen of Death: With a screensaver.
- So Bad Its Horrible: Conversed here.
- Something Only They Would Say: How to get access to a server.
- Something Person: Etymology-man!
- Sophisticated as Hell:
- Space Elevator: After countless engineers / spend trillions over fifty years, / a modern Babel disappears / because some fuck brought pruning shears.
- Space Whale Aesop: This is what happens when you use GOTO.
- Special Edition Title: On October 26, 2009, the site was temporarily redesigned in a retraux early 90's style in dubious honor of the end of Geocities. Complete with broken HTML!◊
- Spin The Earth Backwards: Sort of.
- Spy Speak: Parodied.
- Stalker with a Crush / Dogged Nice Guy: Once again, Strip 513. You'll understand.
- Starfish Alien: Whatever the entity in Steroids is.
- The Stars Are Going Out: Invoked in this strip.
The point is that there are too many stars. It's been freaking me out.
- Stealth Pun:
- This strip.
- In this strip, where an audience member lampshades its use.
- In this strip, beneath Black Hat Guy's tool bench is a box labelled "drills" and a box labelled "non-drills".
- In this strip: "Haiku? It's an experimental OS that I... oh, never mind." Now try counting the syllables.
- The Alt Text in this strip asks, "When you talk about the job experience you'll give me, why do you pronounce Job with a long 'o'?" This is a reference to the Biblical figure Job, whose story centers on him being tormented with sickness while maintaining his faith in God.
- Stick Figure Comic
- “Stop Having Fun” Guys: Trope Namer. This strip shows a guy deriding a few people playing Rock Band, telling them it doesn't make them cool ... even though they're having fun.
- Stuffed into the Fridge: The combined volume of Summer Glau, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul is less than the volume of the fridge! Here.
- Stupid Question Bait: A press conference about an asteroid heading towards Earth gets sidetracked by reporters asking about what role Social Media has played.
- Swallowed a Fly: This strip, referencing a similar example in Serenity.
- Swivel-Chair Antics: Graphed.
- Take That:
- As required for any "real" computer user, the strip hates Windows, especially Vista.
- Computational linguists are also targeted occasionally. Because fuck computational linguistics. In the Alt Text:
Chomskyists, generative linguists, and Ryan North
, your days are numbered.
- While all those are often partially tongue in cheek, DRM gets searing loads of venom.
- Randall also makes his views on string theory fairly clear. Brains vs string theorists is a very Old Pun.
- Fuck grapefruit. Fuck coconuts.
- This for people who endlessly parrot Python.
- Fuck literary criticism, philosophy, anthropology, psychology... basically, any field that isn't physics, mathematics, or computer science.
- He has also declared war on chemists, though that's more a grudging rivalry than a belittlement.
- With some exceptions, like the one against homeopathy, the Take Thats are usually intended to be in jest. Occasionally the comic doesn't make this entirely clear; notably, the one against anthropology majors was so widely seen as a serious insult to the field that the author later issued an apology for it, as noted above under Incredibly Lame Pun.
- Fuck the cosine
- Console Lines. Xbox / Playstation fanboys are jerks. Nintendo fans will give you a hug, though.
- Fuck Cancer.
- "Suckville is considered by the Census Bureau to be part of the Detroit Metropolitan statistical area, despite not being located anywhere near Detroit."
- Another Alt Text one: "I've been trying for a couple of years now, but I haven't been able to come up with a name dumber than 'Renesmee'."
- "Slideshow" attacks websites featuring slideshows utilizing the Ken Burns effect.
- Talk About the Weather: Weather geeks HATE this trope.
- Talking Your Way Out: Inverted. The superintelligent AI is so convincing, it convinces the Black Hat Guy to let him back into the box.
- Tempting Fate: A couple times in this strip.
"Are the raptors contained?" "Sure. Unless they figure out how to build lightsabers."
- Terrible Ticking: Unn-tss, unn-tss, unn-tss...
- That Cloud Looks Like: Cueball asks Megan what she sees in a cloud, but she instead points her cell phone at it and uses Google's image search to identify it. Google says it's a cloud, Cueball is unimpressed.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Cueball and friends try to come up with a word to fill the Kix slogan "Kid Tested, Mother...". Their failed attempts include "Selected", "Perfected", "Not Notified", "Watching Helplessly", "Infected", "Consumed", and "Fucker".
- There Are No Girls on the Internet: This strip addresses the author's theories about the reason for that.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: In-universe example.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Science. It works, bitches.
- Threatening Shark: Just imagine what would ensue if this comic ever reached the folks behind Sharknado.
- Title Drop: Alt Text drop, actually. From "Time": "We need to run."
- To Be Lawful or Good: He chooses lawful.
- Too Dumb to Live: In this comic, a girl runs up to a man named Rob and tells him:
"Remember last week when we dug up all those indian bones and made puppets out of them? It turns out they were buried over an ancient indian burial ground!"
- The Topic of Cancer: Shows up in more than a few strips, as Randall Monroe's now-wife had been diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer during their engagement.
- Tradesnark™: In this comic's alt text after the spambot is found out:
"Fine, walk away. I'm gonna go cry into a pint of Ben&Jerry's Brownie Batter(tm) ice cream [link], then take out my frustration on a variety of great flash games from PopCap Games(r) [link]."
- Truth in Television: The "Get out of my head Randall!" meme where many of the comics are applicable to the everyday lives of the readers.
- Turing Test: The examiner is now questioning his own humanity.
- TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life: Possibly the first actual work to use this?
- Twice Shy: This strip. And again.
- Unholy Matrimony: Black Hat Guy acquires a girlfriend in a mini-arc who shares similar interests and is more than a match for him. She comes up again, but slightly more rarely than he does.
- Un Installment: 404
- The Unpronounceable: U+202e.
- Interestingly, in the 'archive' page, all comics after that strip are displayed Right-to-Left.
- Unsound Effect:
- Unwinnable Joke Game: There's a strip about Tetris. Predictably, someone on the internet made a game like that. And some managed to score lines in it.
- Up to Eleven: The basis of 670.
- Vanity License Plate: The tendency of such plates to be owned by pretentious rich jerks is parodied, and Black Hat Guy claims another victim.
- One guy tries to fool people by getting a vanity plate consisting of 1's and I's, thinking he can commit crimes with impunity as no one will be able to correctly record his plate number. This backfires on him in that he's the only one with a license plate like this, so the cops can find him easily; and the Alt Text suggests his girlfriend gets a similar plate so that she can commit crimes that he'll get blamed for.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: One of the biggest practitioners. The strip often bases comics on obscure math, physics, or computer jokes. This has gotten less common over time, and the forums are very useful. You may need to be knowledgeable in several possibly obscure or complicated fields to completely get some of the earlier ones. For example, computer programing, meteorology, cosmic rays, and tao philosophy. Really.
- Another example: Hand this to an electronics technician, and just sit back and watch the laughter.
- Viewers Are Morons: This directly goes against the above assertion, sometimes twining the two. While many of the jokes in the strip are aimed towards those in specialized fields or hobbies, Randall has a tendency to explain these references and jokes within the comic.
- This was more prevalent in earlier comics, which can probably be attributed to the fact that Wikipedia was still new and pretty unknown when Randall started his strips, and so things that are now fairly common knowledge among anyone who has spent any time on the internet (like the Donner Party) were still only known by those who studied certain fields or the sort of people who get on Jeopardy.
- Visible Silence: E.g. the end of this strip
- Visual Pun: This comic features a literal tarbomb.
- We All Live in America: The old World According To Americans "map of ignorance/prejudice" gag is subverted when the Americans asked turn out to be "unexpectedly good at geography" and also aware of the holes in their knowledge.
- We Are as Mayflies: To the time vultures, at any rate.
- Weasel Words: Randall has a bone to pick with Newscasters who use "one of the [X]" instead of "the [X]" when they aren't 100% certain to the validity of a claim, they get so used to hedging their speech that they use it in cases where they can be 100% certain, and the weasel words just ruin what they are saying.
- Weird Currency: Here.
- Wham Episode: Randall reveals that due to illness in the family, the next few weeks are going to be filler. Normal updates resume. Then five months later, he gives us a Tear Jerker with a heart-breaking Ironic Echo. (His now-wife is doing just fine, though.)
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?: My normal approach is useless here.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Done via FPS mod.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: Parodied.
- White Knighting: Occasionally the kind is accused of engaging in this kind of behavior, something directly parodied by Chansawsuit here.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: This comic points this out, specifically with regards to zombie movies that start in labs.
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: You could argue that it's subverted in the Alt-text... but not by much.
- Wiki Vandal: Wikipedia articles are frequently defaced whenever a relevant topic is mentioned, as this blog documents.
- Wiki Walk:
- This shows the danger of falling into these.
- This comic describes the trope perfectly.
- This one mentions a path in the Alt Text.
- Women Are Wiser: The women usually play the more sensible part in the comic.
- Word Puree Title: Explained here.
- The World Is Just Awesome: In general, the frequent invocations of interesting bits of science. In particular, xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel and Click and Drag make the point that it's a big world full of fun and wonder.
- X Called; They Want Their Y Back: Interrupted here due to Sarcasm Blindness (or maybe the guy's just snarking back).
- Parodied here, where they didn't leave a message on voicemail. To leave a message, press '1'. (Rather hard to do on a rotary phone.)
- Umwelt has two variants that also parody the trope, one for using Maxthon Cloud Browser and another for using Netscape Navigator.
Maxthon: "Maxthon? Hey, 2005 called. Didn't say anything. All I could hear was sobbing."
Netscape: "Netscape Navigator? Hey, the nineties called - drunk, as usual. I hung up without saying anything."
- X Days Since: 38 days since someone reset this sign.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: One of the strips is the trope page. Also this.
- You Answered Your Own Question: Happens here
- Your Brain Won't Be Much of a Meal: When Zombie Feynman wants brains after explaining how MythBusters are true science:
Try the physics lab next door. Zombie Feynman:
I said BRAINS. All they've got are string theorists
- Your Mom: Played with frequently. The trope is also used. Subverted here. Is in the Alt Text here and here.
- Zeppelins from Another World
- Zerg Rush: Due to the popularity of xkcd, it's common to click on links and watch counts skyrocket. This is more apparent on "What if?", which has at least one outside link and a couple of PDFs per post. One of the most common comments in any of them is "xkcd army reporting in!"
- Zonk: The beret guy appears on a nameless game show based on the classic two-goats-and-a-car problem and wins a goat. Instead of going for the car, he takes the goat and says he has an overgrown yard.