Falls somewhere between being a Slice of Life and Life Embellished comic. Strips appear frequently on Cracked. For a short time, Scott's best friend Rick had his own spinoff series, Asking the Wrong Guy, though lack of interest led to its cancellation.
In July 2015, After 10 years of comic creation, Scott announced his decision to conclude the comic, citing increasing difficulty in avoiding repetition as the primary reason, along with a desire to focus on writing full-length novels. The final strip was posted on August 24th, 2015 and the comic then began rerunning with creator commentary added.
Contains (mostly one-shot) examples of the following:
- Abstract Scale: A ruler that measures disapproval in "milliscorns".
- Accidental Murder: It's less-than-subtly implied that Mr. Everywhere was killed by the Knifeketeer while he was training.
- The Ace: Mullet-Haired Boss and Jenkins... believe themselves to be this. Rocket Hat actually is.
- Acting Unnatural: "How to Maintain a Low Profile."
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Jack and the Beanstalk teaches kids the following: sell your parents' stuff for things you want. If a deal sounds too good to be true, take it. And worst of all, "fum" rhymes with "Englishman"."
- Art Evolution: The earlier comics are simple and have less stuff in each panel; modern strips are generally more complex in their art and word bubble placement. More to the point, Rick apparently changed his look at some point, meaning there's "classic" Rick and "modern" Rick.
- Author Avatar: Scott shows up as himself in the comic, and is also "Omnipresent Man" for good measure. (And despite looking the same, Rocket Hat is explicitly a different person.) The real Scott considers his comic persona to be the closest thing the strip has to an overall villain, mostly because he's such a jerk.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Scott tries to disguise his yawn by pointing away and asking, "Whatever can that be?" The person he wishes to distract does not look where he's pointing but says, "Whatever it is, it must not be very interesting."
- Beard of Evil: The source of this trope gets referenced.
- Blessed with Suck: Omnipresent Man. He's everywhere. EVERYWHERE ELSE.
- Born Unlucky: Rick.
- Bothering by the Book: Utilized here to sabotage Mullet Boss.
- Butt-Monkey: Almost bordering on Cosmic Plaything, the universe seems to have it in for Rick. Noteworthy example in this comic.
- This is fully intentional, with the blessing of the source material himself. He (apparently) had felt envious of his fictional self.
- The Chew Toy: Again, Rick. Explained in this comic.
- Celebrity Endorsement: Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, was a great fan of this strip right from the beginning and his support and endorsement helped establish it and spread its popularity.
- Clothes Make the Superman: Rocket Hat. Not quite played straight, as while he needs the hat to fly to and from the Moon, he's perfectly capable of dealing out one-sided beatings without it.
- Comically Invincible Hero: Rocket Hat. And he does it without the audience ever seeing him move.
- Comically Missing the Point: Many examples (Mostly with Jenkins), though Scott himself decided to take away a different lesson from a bird documentary in ''How to face your fear. (Keeping in mind he has a fear of birds)TV: Hunting and deforestation have endangered many of these beautiful, irreplaceable creatures.
Missy: They don't seem so scary now, do they?
Scott: No, clearly we have the tools to defeat them!
- Conservation of Competence: At the one end you have Mullet Boss. At the other, Rocket Hat. Which end is which? Rocket Hat can beat the Moon Men handily, frequently, single-handedly, and silently (strangely). Mullet Boss... can kick a dog in its junk.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much any time Rocket Hat fights the Moon Men.
- Damned by Faint Praise: The tourism slogans in "How to Plan a Vacation", such as "Death Valley — It's Better Than It Sounds!" and the apparently-real-life "Missoula — We Like It Here!"d
- Description Cut: Pretty much every panel of every strip, with the "instruction" text clashing with the depiction of events.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?
- Digging Yourself Deeper: Jenkins tends to specialize in this.
- Doesn't Like Guns: Parodied with the Knifeketeer- his sole power is stabbing, which has actually left all his nemeses dead. Rather than being praised, he is a laughing stock due to his lack of worthy foes. Well, that and his boxing glove knifes.
- Don't Explain the Joke: One of the two problems here, the other being Dude, Not Funny!.
- Droste Image: The infinitee.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Very early comics had Scott giving the advice as himself, rather than as a neutral third party, and then following it to the letter in the illustrations. The more modern versions start at around here.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Scott Oscar Meyer.
- Enemy Mine: How to Unite Against a Common Foe
- Another strip had the Emperor trying to force this, only to find his enemies were already friends with each other.
- Epic Fail: In "How To Cheat at Videogames", Meyer spends 4 hours stuck on a boss everyone else says is easy. And then spends another 4 hours just trying to enter the Konami Code.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Discussed in-universe.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Parodied.
- Evil Twin: One or two strips involve them.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "How to Show Some Civic PrideScott's Mother: Why not talk about the Christmas Lighted Farm Implement parade?Scott: There's not much to say. They put Christmas lights on farm implements and have a parade. It's all right there in the title.
- Faux-To Guide: The advice is generally good - or at least accurate - but the characters frequently follow it badly.
- Fleeting Demographic Rule: It only took three years to accidentally remake this comic.
- Flipping the Bird
- Freakier Than Fiction: According to "How to Defend an Artistic Decision", Comic Rick is less of a Butt-Monkey than Real Rick, because "people would never accept the grim reality of what it means to be you".
- Goldfish Poop Gang: The Moon Men. THE DETAILS ARE UNIMPORTANT!
- Good Angel, Bad Angel
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: How To Name Your Band.
- Good Is Not Nice / Affably Evil: That's why I suggest doing the right thing in the most evil manner possible.
- Gratuitous Ninja: One of Scott's coworkers was complaining about how her son wanted to be a ninja when he grew up. Scott spun it in the most positive light possible.
- Groin Attack: Discussed between Knifeketeer and his nemesis.Knifeketeer: Nah, Girl-illa won't talk to me after what I accidentally did to her sidekick.Macra-Mayhem How is Cojon-Ape?Knifeketeer: Still trying to come up with a new name.
- Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Jenkins wrote a Star Trek Fan Fic in which "Admiral Jenkins" saves the day.
- In another strip, Rick apparently replaced Harry Potter's name with his own in his first-edition books.
- Hypocritical Humor: In "How to Evaluate Another Person's Artistic Expression";Scott: By just making cat noises and calling it a guitar solo, you're claiming to do something without learning the skills to do it.
Rick: Like a guy who traces over photos and calls himself a cartoonist.
Scott: No, that's completely different.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "How to X". There are also a handful of exceptions.
- I Like My X Like I Like My Y: Not actually in the comic (which is about Scott preferring coffee black rather than adulterated with other things) but the comments section to "How to Appreciate Something for What It Is" has a wonderful collection of "I like my coffee like..." jokes.
- I'm Standing Right Here: Said twice by Rick. Not that anyone cared.
- Incompetence, Inc.: Scott's workplace. Incompetent boss, apathetic employees, angry clients who keep inexplicably coming back for more. The corporate higher ups of the company send their worst employees there and deliberately provide them low funding.
- Insane Troll Logic: Jenkins. Sometimes 'insane' is the more operative part of the term, sometimes 'troll' is, but most times you can never be sure.
- Invisible Streaker: The Invisible Naked Man.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Trope Namer.
- Jerkass: Jenkins.Scott: Poor Jenkins. Everyone he talks to is always angry.
Smitty: That's Jenkins' curse. He only deals with people who are, at that moment, dealing with Jenkins.
- Just Between You and Me
- Killed Off for Real: Mr. Everywhere, at the Knifeketeer's hands.
- Knife Nut: The Knifeketeer and (even more so) his sidekick Stabby.
- Martial Arts and Crafts: "Macramayhem, master of the martial crafts!"
- Metaphorgotten: "There comes a time in every father's life when he has to fire one of his kids."
- Money, Dear Boy: In-Universe example in how to give constructive criticism:Scott: You shouldn't write a book for the title.
Mullet Boss: I'm not. I'm writing it for the money.
Scott: Oh. That's okay then.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: The Legion of Super Heroes, and the Knifeketeer, a collection of the world's mightiest crime-fighters. And the Knifeketeer.The Judger: We shall now be known as "The Judger presents the Legion of Super Heroes: featuring Rocket Hat and special guest: Omnipresent Man".
Knifeketeer: Yeah, still feeling excluded.
The Judger: I'm beginning to think your power is being unsatisfiable.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Stabby, who's something of a Robin to the Knifeketeer, except more dangerous.
- No Hero to His Valet: The Moon Emperor does a poor job of convincing his Moon Minions that he cares about them.
- No Indoor Voice: Al almost always talks in all caps.
- No Matter How Much I Beg: Used (and subverted) by the Moon Emperor here.
- Noodle Implements: Parodied; Rocket Hat gained his abilities in a conspicuously unexplained "accident involving model rockets, a hot glue gun and a plastic souvenir Viking helmet". Despite it being transparently obvious how such items would create a rocket-hat, it doesn't remotely explain how it turned him into a Badass Normal superhero.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever "the unpleasantness" of Sunnyside was, it made national news. The commentary reveals that this isn't based on a specific incident, but there were a few drug stories that made national news.
- Not So Different: Scott likes to point this out with him and Mr. Ryan, much to the latter's chagrin.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We never see any of Rocket Hat's superheroism, just the awed after-the-fact recap by witnesses.
- The Omnipresent: Omnipresent Man.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Conversations between Scott and Mullet Boss often involve this. Perhaps exemplified best here.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Scott's boss qualifies in every way. He even has a terrible hairstyle.
- Product Placement:
- Pure Is Not Good: In the last panel of this comic.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Invoked in regards to fictional-Rick's luck.Scott: It just didn't seem plausible that you'd never ever win. Ever.
Rick: So you're making me more believable by lying about me.
Scott: More "distorting" than lying. Seeing you as you are would damage people's world-view. You're like a positivity eclipse.
- Reminiscing About Your Victims: This comic about how to fake a smile suggests, in its final panel, just thinking of a pleasant memory and letting your face do the job by itself. What was the memory in question?I remember the time I murdered that hobo and made a poncho out of his skin. Good times.
- Right-Hand Cat: Here.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: A frequent issue of Scott's - the comment pages typically have a number of corrections in them, and he fixes misspellings as they are pointed out to him. Lampshaded in this comic, which also serves as a Take That, Audience!.
- Self-Deprecation: A few comics break the fourth wall to mention Scott's drawing ability:Scott: I got sucked into a vortex this morning.
Rick: What'd it look like?
Scott: Like something only a skilled artist could draw.
Rick: It's a shame I'll never see one.
- Shout-Out: Frequent.
- Society Marches On: His retrospective on this comic mentions how the joke went from absurdist to mean-spirited over time as "hobo" went from a reference to a 1940's itinerant laborer to a general term for the homeless in common usage.
- Stealth Insult: Scott is fond of these. The third panel of this comic is one example.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Scott explains the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast.
- Straw Loser: Rick.
- Streisand Effect: Invoked when relating a story he'd heard from someone involving their having removed the keys from a handicapped woman's scooter and thrown them as far away as they could. But as he puts it in the last panel...Scott: To the person who told me the story in panel one: I have not told anyone your name, nor have I drawn any likeness of you. You can never sue me, or even act offended without identifying yourself. I win.
Rick: In the most cowardly way possible.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: The "Sexy Uncle Sam" costume (for women).
- Sword Cane: The only way to settle a dispute among gentlemen is to compare them - perish the thought of possibly damaging one's sword-cane!
- Summation Gathering
- Superhero Origin: Most of the alleged superheroes get a capsulized one, in an episode that explains How to Give a Character Superpowers.
- The Judger is a Non-Human Hero exiled from a race of Space Elves for her judgements being "too vague and poorly-considered".
- The Knifeketeer is a Badass Normal whose pacifist parents were "slapped to death by a hemophiliac, and I was powerless to save them."
- Omnipresent Man won his powers in a game of contract bridge.
- Rocket Hat got his "powers" in a Freak Lab Accident involving a hot glue gun, some bottle rockets and a plastic Viking helmet.
- Sustained Misunderstanding: Scott mishearing "back waxing" as "bag wag sing":Scott: I'm sorry, what was that?
Mullet Boss: My bag.
Mullet Boss: Wags.
Scott: Uh, okay.
Mullet Boss: WAG SING! WAG SING, MY BAG!
Scott: I still don't know what you're talking about, but I'm begging you to stop explaining.
- Take Our Word for It: In every panel with Rocket Hat, he's in exactly the same posenote , facing the same direction. Anything he does is described after he's off panel.
- Technical Pacifist: The Knifeketeer has several special knives for defeating a foe harmlessly, most prominently the "Fist-knife". It's actually very effective, as foes collapse from laughing too much.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Once in a while, Rick gets the better of Scott, generally in a meaningless way. Ironically, it appears that the real Rick does not like those occasions, because then he envies his fictional self.
- Town with a Dark Secret: Parodied - the people in Scott's hometown of Sunnyside never discuss "The Unpleasantness", but everyone else in the state of Washington did.
- Open Secret: It made the national news.
- Translation by Volume: Parodied in "How to Talk to Someone who Speaks a Foreign Language". To sum up, be patient and remember that people might stereotype. Read it here.
- Trick Arrow: The Knifeketeer uses a Boxing Glove Knife, being a parody of Green Arrow and other superheroes who have to rely on inventive stupidity to remain useful and nonlethal at the same time.
- The Un-Smile: A classic - "Your hide will make a fine poncho!"
- Video Wills: Sort of a running gag in the strip.
- Villain Protagonist: The real-life Scott considers himself this in the world of the comics.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Scott and Rick spend half their time insulting each other... and they're basically each others' only friends in-comic.
- The Voiceless: The resident superhero Rocket Hat. Lampshaded within the comic as well. Sorta. And subverted in a guest strip.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer...: The Knifeketeer's schtick, in that he stabs many of his problems into submission. When the Knifeketeer comes under suspicion of attempted murder, his "defense" is that he always wants to stab everyone. Turns out he thinks that "defense" is a kind of stabbing in its own right. The other superheroes consider him something of a joke because it's hard to maintain a rogues gallery when all your enemies are dead.
- Win Your Freedom: Rocket Hat occasionally has to go through this.
- World of Snark
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: How to Learn The Error of Your Ways From Three Ghosts that Visit You On Christmas Eve.
- Your Answer to Everything: Getting kicked in the groin, apparently.