Reviews Comments: Intelligent, Witty, and Disappointingly Crude.

Intelligent, Witty, and Disappointingly Crude.
So, XKCD has a reputation for being one of the best webcomics out there. I disagree. Sure, it has some amazingly obscure jokes that require mathematical knowledge to understand, and sure it is often funny, but, more often, it descends into mean-spirited humor.

For example, Black Hat Guy, upon hearing the old riddle involving the three words in The English Language that ends in "ngry", cuts off the jokester's hand, saying "Communicating poorly and then acting smug when you are misunderstood is not clever. I hope we've learned something today". Apparently, making inane riddles is a crime worthy of dishandbobulation.

But really, most of XKCD is based around communicating poorly and then acting smug when you are misunderstood. That's the basis of all the really obscure mathematical jokes.

Speaking of acting smug, that adjective could describe most of the comic. It's very highbrow, and it's often condescending towards Liberal Arts Majors, Pedants, people who hate Neologisms, internet nerds, string theorists, and people who have eclectic interests. Many strips are written purely to be annoying to the reader.

Yes, it is funny, but it's not the type of humor I like. One out of five stars.


So what you're saying is that it's objectively bad because the humor does not appeal to you personally.
comment #15926 MFM 27th Aug 12
He didn't say it was objectively bad. Besides, for a humor webcomic, "the jokes are meanspirited and unfunny" is a pretty important criticism.
comment #15927 doctrainAUM 27th Aug 12
Well, his conclusion sounds pretty subjective with the statement "it's not the type of humor I like." However, he immediately follows that with a star rating, which is usually supposed to be an objective rating and recommendation of the work.
comment #15929 MFM 27th Aug 12
Star ratings are used by plenty of professional critivs who are under no illusion that their reviews are anything other than personal opinions. The term "objectively bad" is a contradiction, after all.
comment #15931 doctrainAUM 27th Aug 12
I'm not sure if I'd agree that it's mean-spirited. Your example is a pretty good example, but I think you're taking it more seriously than it aims to be taken and I'm not sure if I'd be able to find many more examples.

And the same with smug really, I've often thought it's smug, but the examples you give tend to be unserious jokes and the rest... well maybe the guy just is really clever. You don't have to be smug to produce intellectually demanding things nor be interested in making jokes about them. The guy sounds like a Wikipedia surfer, so this stuff probably genuinely interests him and he just likes making this stuff, lording it over people isn't necessarily required as motivation
comment #15933 Tomwithnonumbers 27th Aug 12
I just don't like the times he makes fun of soft sciences (like linguistics) for no apparent reason. Is that smug? I'm not entirely sure, even if it does give the image that he thinks lowly of it.

Then there's the comic with millions vs. billions (bailout, I believe). Or the one where he calls HD TV unimpressive because it has less resolution than his cellphone. Then, there's the page image for Magic Versus Science we have here. To many paranormalists (like me) who know how deeply misleading it is see it as Munroe gloating, "Ha ha, I am so much better than those people who buy such nonsense."

This is part of why "nerd" humor is so hit-or-miss.
comment #15934 doctrainAUM 27th Aug 12
Isn't the paranormalism one also accurate though? And accurate by definition even :D, if something paranormal were confirmed then it would be part of the established universe and so normal. The ability see someone else, or communicate with another being through walls are pretty spectacular if we weren't so darn used to them.

But I'm being fatuous. That comic is smug and undeniably proves your point and I can't even really deny that he wouldn't do that sort of thing regularly. The HD TV one is more dependent on how you go into it. It can be a fun little snarky fact or it can be claim of superiority. He almost certainly knows that it's a lot more expensive to produce things that are much bigger to the same resolution so hopefully it's not smug. I always interpreted the arts things as just the ongoing jokes between arts and science students thats as natural (and unserious) of a divide as anything possible. Arts students are useless and science students incapable of appreciating human emotion and it's the job of either one to remind the other of that :D
comment #15952 Tomwithnonumbers 29th Aug 12
Not a paranormalist myself, but I think the counter argument would be that those interested in that sort of phenomena aren't rejecting science so much as seeking to test assumptions based off what they believe is reasonable. It's seeking to get these things confirmed and introduced to mainstream science. Granted there are a few who phrase it as "Science doesn't like get how the universe works man... There's truths out there out of science's reach." but really, I've met my fair share of Materialists/Non-Believers who I agree with but either fail to articulate the point they are trying to make well or just aren't that bright, sometimes both. Long story short, Paranormalists are trying to alter what we view as normal rather than reject that there is laws in the universe and just because a few of them are complete idiots doesn't mean their views can be discounted outright or even if they are wrong that we ought to have the right to look down on them. That said, I don't think there's a lot of evidence out there for most things that paranormalists grasp at and a lot of the evidence offered by them can be explained by "mundane" or common causes.
comment #16339 Fauxlosophe 1st Oct 12
Okay this one was pretty darn smug

Unless he was critiquing NASA for communicating poorly and overcomplicating situations. But I suspect that that wasn't the intended purpose and it ends up being pretty darn insufferable. I could believe it was just an intellectual challenge that interested him, trying to convey something fairly complicated within normal confines, but I will now fully admit that XKCD can come off as smug
comment #17004 TomWithNoNumbers 28th Nov 12
I found that one more to be poking fun at Buffy Speak. Nowhere does it try to make the reader ashamed for not knowing the proper terms.
comment #17005 Tuckerscreator 28th Nov 12
I intended to be subjective in my conclusion. Sorry that I did it poorly here.
comment #17008 ATC 28th Nov 12
I like it. Occasionally I don't get one because I don't have the right reference pools, but that happens with jokes.

He points out what happens if you limit yourself to only the 1000 most common words, and that is considered smug.

Perhaps it isn't xkcd that has the problem.
comment #17009 LastHussar 28th Nov 12
I think that comic would be smug if it were deliberately getting the parts wrong, to make him seem clever for knowing what they really are. But it's actually describing them in layman's terms, exaggerated for humor.
comment #17010 Tuckerscreator 28th Nov 12
See poking fun at buffy speak is exactly where my problem would lie, I can believe he's not doing that and that he was just interested in the exercise of describing a complicated subject in simple words and that's fair enough. He does that sort of thing a lot and again it's a fairly impressive acomplishment. My problem is that it keeps coming off in my head as though he's poking fun at something or making a point, which frankly neither you or Last Hussar are helping to waylay (=D) and that is what I'd struggle to get my head around as not being something that would detract negatively from my view of the author.
comment #17012 TomWithNoNumbers 29th Nov 12
I see no smugness in that strip, and you don't seem to be giving any real reason why it is.

And xkcd does have a lot of obscure references, but they don't occupy "most of the comic", and a lot of them are explained on the site.
comment #21386 ading 6th Oct 13
I used to despise XKCD with every fibre of my being, now I admit that I sometimes find it funny.

The maths/science jokes can rot in a hole though just for not being particularly funny unless you have a degree in quantumrocketbanannaultraphysics or whatever,I know that you have to be in on the joke, but being in on the joke is the entire punchline sometimes.

The other comics can be very funny though, and sometimes really cool, like click and drag.
comment #21397 ElectricNova 6th Oct 13
"The maths/science jokes can rot in a hole though just for not being particularly funny unless you have a degree in quantumrocketbanannaultraphysics"

Really? I don't have a degree in anything and I get those jokes just fine. But maybe that's because I often find jokes funny even when I don't entirely get them... Still, I'd say I get a fair chunk of them, and I don't have a degree, I just read a lot.
comment #28678 NoriMori 13th Apr 15

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