Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I rorschach my colleagues

While verbing an eponym

The math professors in my department are a diverse group of people, so you can't expect them all to react in the same way. However, we do all have an affinity for math in common, so should we all respond in like manner to a cartoon with a math-based punch line? Maybe—but we sure didn't.

I ran across this cartoon while noodling about the Internet. It's from Cyanide and Happiness, and this particular cartoon is by “kris”:

Did you find that amusing? I laughed aloud, printed it out, and carried it about the math department. Here's what my colleagues said when I asked them why it was funny (if indeed it was):
  • “Well, the idea of killing yourself if you don't know math.”
  • “Uh, I don't know. Is it funny?”
  • “It reminds me of my students.”
  • “Any joke about killing yourself is pretty funny.”
  • “I'll laugh at anything.”
  • “The idea that hanging yourself and going to a movie are okay alternatives to talk about.”
  • “I could tell I was supposed to laugh.”
  • “Yeah, he's bad at math, which is why he made the rope too long. He can't even measure things right! Should we tell our students that math skills are necessary to a successful suicide?”
I was disappointed. That last colleague was the only one who reacted the way I did. Yes, it's the dangling rope. Clearly that's the gimmick. One fellow instructor looked at the cartoon again after my explanation: “Oh, it's a visual joke. I didn't even look at the rope.”

Hey, guys, you have to take into account all pertinent information. That's what we tell our students, right? So: measure twice; hang once.


Anonymous said...

Ummm... is measuring really math? "I need 3 feet of rope."

Or is it that he's supposed to subtract his height from the ceiling height?

I don't know ... I didn't think it was funny, and I still don't, exactly..... Of course, I'm not a mathmatician, either.

Zeno said...

Of course: all manner of mensuration is math, even if be so humble as to reside at the level of mere arithmetic.

As you may have noticed, most of my colleagues did not find it particularly amusing either, even though it tickled me quite a bit. The punch line is very much out of left field and that kind of twist appeals to me. I was sorry it didn't go over better. (Part of the problem may be that I was the person presenting the cartoon: "Oh, damn. Here he comes again with that grin on his face. This is going to be weird!")

Anonymous said...

I did a double take when I read this post because I found that comic about three weeks ago and linked the very same comic because it was COMEDY GOLD. ( ) if you were wondering :D

P.S. have you read any of depressing week? I love it.


Anonymous said...

Meh. What can you expect. They're only Math profs.


Anonymous said...

The cartoon itself is mildly funny, but I wouldn't bust a gut. But your faux Ross Perot comment, "measure twice; hang once" is priceless. Well done, David!

Zeno said...


But thanks.

Tom Foss said...

I really liked it. It's the posturing and the three silent panels that make it, though.

Maybe you need to show it to more comic book/comic strip fans.

King Aardvark said...

I thought it was great. Most of your colleagues need a serious dose of funny, by the looks of things.