MIT Talk

(Note: Firefox crashed just as I was finishing this post. This is a terse recreation, as I’m about to collapse.)

I gave a talk at MIT yesterday (now the day before yesterday). It was wonderful. I had never really done this kind of thing before, but it went so much better than I expected. I had someone tell me afterward that my talk was better than the one by the Penny Arcade guys, and that I was funnier in real life than in the comic. It’s hard to imagine better praise than that.

The talk sold out early and the place was packed:

I was stalked by RoboRaptors and pelted with playpen balls (which fell from the ceiling in the middle of the talk, courtesy some mysterious party) :

Feeling a lot less tired than I look in this picture, I signed playpen balls (with jokes about spherical geometry), comic prints, tickets, and — at one point — breasts.

There are more pictures here.

Firefox keeps crashing. Here are some brief Things I Did:

– Made fun of audience member’s mom, said “fuck you” to some of the world’s top young computational linguists, and answered a question by whistling the “Katamari Damacy” theme.

– Finally managed to give davean credit for all his work, in public, in circumstances where he couldn’t escape. He pretended to be annoyed later, but only a little.

– Met lovely people who twirled burning things at high speeds out on the lawn at night.

Oh, and I don’t know of any video of the lecture yet, aside from one bit floating around. It should be out there somewhere. But hour-long videos with troubled audio are no fun — what I’d like to find is a transcript, like the one of the Penny Arcade talk (although those are a lot of work to create). But I’m content just remembering how cool it all was.

Thank you to everyone involved, and I’m sorry to everyone who I couldn’t give enough time to that night (after the lecture, I was meeting and talking to so many people that I had trouble keeping track of who was where and when, or who I was speaking with from one minute to the next). But it was a lot of fun. Let’s do this again sometime soon.

175 replies on “MIT Talk”

  1. I think a part of the reason many people would enjoy you more than Penny Arcade is because you have an academic elitist humor that appeals to us academic elitist people. That’s not completely true, but probably half true, you also have random internet jokes also appeal to us.

    Penny Arcade has video games which appeal to a lot of people here (myself included) but probably not at the level as math and science and all round geekiness does.

    Which one was better? I can’t say. But thanks for coming anyway.


  2. Video game humor is a dime a dozen. The Penny Arcade guys are certainly very good at it, but it’s not horribly different than dozens of other comics.

    XKCD is unique. I’ve never laughed so hard as “helpimtrappedinauniversefactory” or Schrodinger’s Comic. Or Moral relativity (I can’t help but think of “the asshole song” when I see it). Also, Snape killing Trinity with Rosebud was classic. And, my all time personal favorite… “Come on, do you really expect me to do coordinate substitution in my head while strapped to a centrifuge?”.

    I swear, this comic has lead to more actual, honest to god laughing out loud than any other comic (With the possible exception of “Rob and Elliot by Clay Yount, or Clay Yount’s “Bikini Suicide Frisbee Days” guest comics for Sluggy Freelance), and it does it while STIMULATING MY BRAIN.


    Long story short: xkcd is funny, and is such high quality because it’s funny in a subject not known for associated humor.


  3. Aw….I missed it? And I told myself to remember the date too. Damn the complexities of a high school life.


  4. Should the video and/or transcript pop up anywhere, please let us know.

    By the way: Don’t you use Firefox 2.x? Or did the auto-recovery not work? (Never failed me so far.)


  5. Please come to Princeton if you ever get the chance. The crowd will be smaller, but on the plus side we probably have a man-sized centrifuge we could strap you to.


  6. Stanford, you know. California, summer, or fall even which is still summer, palm trees, er.. architecture, and.. oh, food. That’s where it should happen next if talks are given. Stanford.


  7. Damn it!! It sold out too fast, pleeeeese come back to Boston again, soon. Glad you had a good time.


  8. Sounds like a great time. I totally would have gone, if, you know, I wasn’t in High School in Wisconsin.

    The other day I caught my friend in a “Stand Back! I’m going to try science!” shirt. I did not realize he was a fan.


  9. Next time you’re nearby, come to Columbia. Beautiful New York City and all. The centrifuge comic is even taped to the door of an Astrophysics classroom (it’s how I found XKCD).


  10. Awesome stuff. Makes me wonder what attendance would be like at my crappy university. Aside from the small CS department (which is full of fans, by the way) and a few from Math I wonder how many students are visitors.

    Anyway, congrats on all the praise, you certainly deserve it.


  11. Drat my whole “I don’t live there” situation! When will I master the art of warping space and time for my own devices? WHEN?!

    In those pictures, you look like you were having a fantastic time. Congratulations!


  12. The newest wordpress saves your posts automatically just in case. Don’t blame the Firefox!
    By the way, come to GA Tech! You can check out our huge climbing wall. As an added bonus, Atlanta is way cool.


  13. If you’re in the UK, some to Reading! We have a robot Dalek, and you can make literary jokes about our name!


  14. I can only dream that one day you will come to my university in Colombia… or that I’ll travel to USA and see you…

    Anyway, thank you for making really smart (and sometimes abstract) stuff really funny and giving me a reason to read… (I had to ask a physics proffesor about the Fourier cat…)


  15. Yay for lovely people who spin fire! Your comic makes my Monday Wednesday and Friday, every week. I have to say, the girl in the Philosophy comic (“She’s getting existential again” … “It’s okay, I have a supersoaker”) is definitely representational of my family. Kudos on that one πŸ™‚ Terribly sad I missed the talk… but as you say, lets do it again sometime!


  16. Boobie! It’s fading already though, and I didn’t shower or anything 😦 We’re trying to decide if retracing it in permanent marker so that it lasts for a couple weeks is appropriate or not.


  17. ….. I’ve just discovered you…. (insert standard omg wau u iz teh awezome win of teh intarwebz vary zmarts of the being with comix etc)

    From a washout to someone who’d likely have been successful… Does the name Arnold Ross mean anything to you?

    If not, sokay, I’m just curious. πŸ™‚ I won’t insult you by suggesting you give a talk where *I* am about to attend school.

    But… you know… thank you for the good stuff. It reminds me to not get too full of myself as I continue to exist in this particular venue.



  18. I’m most impressed by the fact that the first person to mention the signed breasts in the comments was the owner of them.

    Isn’t this an interblag? shouldn’t “this thread is worthless without pics” emoticons have been popping up within seconds of the original post? What is happening to my reality?


  19. Scott Says:
    What is happening to my reality?

    It’s being filled with caption-glued cats.


  20. Hey, you saw the Fire Poi people? These guys live in my dorm. I’m going to learn that eventually.

    Come back sometime and learn how to play with fire. Surely you can get a comic out of that too.

    Holy cow, my boyfriend and I are in that shot where you’re signing playpen balls. Win. He’s the guy with the Security shirt and I’m the long-haired girl with the big blue backpack to his left. SO THERE. I have a picture with Randall Munroe. Ha.


  21. # chrisamaphone Says:
    May 16th, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Next you should hit up Carnegie Mellon! πŸ˜‰

    This. Come to CMU, we’re geeks!


  22. I came over with a couple other folks from Harvard to see you, and we all had an awesome time. I guess your fan base isn’t quite as large up the street, but we’re working on winning more people over! Anyway, it was great getting to hear you talk, and you should definitely move to Boston. (Also, you should make the comment captcha problem more difficult that “2+3” :p)


  23. I’m so jealous! It sounds like the talk was awesome. I don’t want to sound like the others and say “you should give a talk over here,” but really, I can’t resist. I can’t comment without saying that you really really should visit a southern california university – say Harvey Mudd (yeah!) or even Caltech. Thanks for all the awesome geeky comics. Yeah, video game comics are funny too, but it’s difficult to find a math/science comic for nerds like me.

    Did this get published twice? Sorry, I think the first time it was cut short.


  24. Ohh I so wanted to go..

    Come to Cornell! We barely have ANY computational linguists!

    And we have ponies! Well, maybe. But if we don’t we can get some!


  25. I second Lee. You’d get a great response from GA Tech. (I don’t go there, but shhh! I live close enough to get there!)

    Now the real question is who ate what of the Internet cake.


  26. Please come to the University of Alabama!

    Anyway, I’m a huge fan and subscriber to both your comic and blag. The thing that surprises me most about you is that your humor is so similar to mine. Its like, if I you were Charles Schulz and I was some kind of sudo-self-aware snoopy that actually cared about things!

    ok, yea.

    ~John Wesley

    P.S. I’m the guy that first submitted this blog post to StumbleUpon! WOOT!


  27. There were so many people trying to get into the talk that I thought “this guy can’t possibly live up to the hype.” But you didn’t just live up to it – you surpassed it. My friends and I have been brainstorming ever since about what we’d drop out of a kite. It’s pretty hard to beat the off-the-hook phone idea, though.

    P.S. Hi Drew! I’m in the first picture, to the left of the guy in yellow (Knight). You can’t tell, but I’m wearing my xkcd “Stand Back” shirt…


  28. Just wanted to say that was the single best talk I’ve been to all year.
    I was wondering, you mentioned being invited by someone who didn’t get a ticket, was that Allison?
    If so I owe her a hug.


  29. I have to say it was the best talk I’ve been to *EVER*. I nearly laughed nonstop for the whole 90 minutes.

    This alone has made my MIT career. πŸ˜€


  30. “Randall, you got asked to sign breasts. YouÒ€ℒve officially made it.”
    By that you surely mean that his geek license has to be revoked; geeks just don’t sign breasts (well, in Photoshop maybe)…


  31. So, I found out about your comic on Monday night. (I think it was by the MIT LSC website, but I could be lying, and it could have just been an entire coincidence.) Tuesday night I had already read through the archive, and was at MIT. Found a poster informing me you were doing a talk… the night before. This sent me into a spiral of depression.. but at least I have the poster now. =D


  32. Okay, so I just began reading through these comics today, it’s a bit after noon, and I’m on 233 (Stalling for studying) and 233’s little line thingy mentioned the Futurama episode with Fry’s Dog, and that episode was on Tuesday, I think, and at the end I was sobbing my freaking eyes out, so that comic was amusing. =) Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. Don’t know if you’ll see this, but I was too shy to email. =)


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