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December 6, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Professor Liar: A Parlor Game Idea. By Zach Weinersmith of SMBC fame.
posted by Navelgazer (58 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Game?

This sounds like giving a talk on behalf of your advisor who couldn't make it to the conference.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:37 AM on December 6, 2012 [33 favorites]


Zach Weinersmith, now there's a guy who gets me.
posted by sendai sleep master at 11:39 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


>Coffee Midwifery

>Mustache-Napoleon Hybridization

>The periodic table of hairballs

I could discourse on these things for days.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:46 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought bullshitting your way through topics that you know nothing about and are possibly made up is what everyone was already doing at parties...
posted by Benjy at 11:48 AM on December 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


The setup reminds me of Cards Against Humanity, which is available via CC.
posted by daHIFI at 11:49 AM on December 6, 2012


9) Creating More Aerodynamic ____(s)

don't worry guys i got this one
posted by backseatpilot at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is the Groundlings improv game Expert Talker. It is at least two decades old, probably much older.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is like most AskMes, honestly.
posted by resurrexit at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


This game sounds like the party version of every one of my Graduate Committee meetings.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 11:59 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


This sounds like fun! Sadly I'm probably the only person in my social group that would think so.
posted by Carillon at 11:59 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the Chomsky reference at the end made this a little too on-the-nose...
posted by straw at 12:00 PM on December 6, 2012


Thank you so much for posting Cards Against Humanity. While I like Professor Liar, and would probably be decent at it, there's no way I'm playing it against anyone I know. Nor would they play against me, I imagine.

But Cards Against Humanity? Hell Yes.
posted by mrgoat at 12:01 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I spent twelve years compiling credits towards my single liberal arts degree. I have been wondering what my training was preparing me for. Now I know. Now I am ready. I will crush all opponents in this game. It is my destiny.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:03 PM on December 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


1f2frfbf - Molecular Corgiology. Go.
posted by phong3d at 12:06 PM on December 6, 2012


When I first encountered SMBC, I thought it was wildly funny. A poor man's XKCD without all the awkwardness about women -- comedy gold!

Over time, the various formulas he employs have gotten a little tired. And dude is prolific! There are a whole lot of mediocre comics in that enormous catalog.

But there's still a lot of gold, too. If SMBC came out 3x/week instead of 7x, and dropped the 2/3 of its comics that are most conspicuously rehashes of old ideas, I'd be even more enamored with it.
posted by gurple at 12:08 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am actually a professor. Earlier today I had my teaching observation/evaluation for the semester. I'm pretty certain that my college already plays this game.
posted by Perfectibilist at 12:09 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


er, (7-3)/7 != 2/3, but you get my drift
posted by gurple at 12:10 PM on December 6, 2012


This looks incredibly entertaining. I've got a dinner party coming up soon where most of the attendees are, at best, casual acquaintances. This would serve as an awesome icebreaker game, and all I'd really need to set it up are a couple packs of index cards to create the two decks.
posted by asnider at 12:11 PM on December 6, 2012


As a person who hates public speaking, this sounds like a terrible thing for me. Saying "um" would murder me, as it's either that, or a huge pause.

However, it could be fun as a bit of structure added on an Omegelle-style chat room.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:12 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Move over cards against humanity... Here comes something for cheap night out...
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:13 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


phong3d: Are you interested in Covalent Cardigan Coupling or Physical Pembroke Pairing?

Do not trifle with me. I am doing this in alliteration just to keep things interesting.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:14 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Saying "um" would murder me, as it's either that, or a huge pause.

I also wonder if the "you can't say 'um'" rule might be too strict. Most people are pretty bad about using "um" even when they know what they're talking about. To instantly kill the round because the Professor said "um" might mean that it takes a REALLY long time for either time to earn the 5 points necessary to win.
posted by asnider at 12:14 PM on December 6, 2012


There's a trick to not saying "um": replace it with something else. That only works in jokey situations like this, but it could work really well:

"The Varion Rings described by the Pendergast Equation, forsooth!, clearly indicate a partial solution, forsooth!, to the Eppenstadt Dilemma. Forsooth!, q.e.d."
posted by gurple at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Saying "um" would murder me, as it's either that, or a huge pause.

It doesn't take much work to train yourself to use a new pause word ("uh" "hm" "so") or to be honest, eliminate them altogether.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2012


It doesn't take much work to train yourself to use a new pause word...

All kidding aside, tread carefully there. I had a teacher in high school who had a pause *phrase*. "And going through that way". It didn't mean anything, it was just a verbal tic that he'd clearly fallen into over the years. "Next class, we're going to discuss F=MA, and going through that way". I clocked him at 16 occurrences in a single class hour once. "Um" wouldn't have stood out.
posted by gurple at 12:19 PM on December 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder about that rule myself. I have a friend who would absolutely own at this game (he's finishing up his Ph.D right now) but for his slight stutter.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:21 PM on December 6, 2012


Going through a PhD defense once was enough. None for me, thanks.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 12:21 PM on December 6, 2012


I would enjoy this game (I love to bullshit people for laffs), alas most of my friends/family would hate this game. Violently.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:23 PM on December 6, 2012


I mean we can't even get through a game of Balderdash without some serious gnashings of teeth.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:25 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also wonder if the "you can't say 'um'" rule might be too strict. Most people are pretty bad about using "um" even when they know what they're talking about. To instantly kill the round because the Professor said "um" might mean that it takes a REALLY long time for either time to earn the 5 points necessary to win.

Not to mention eliminating everyone who has graduated from those oxbridge places where stuttering is required to help you pretend you spontaneously clever are just now thinking about the things that you spent your entire degree studying.
posted by srboisvert at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also: my father would kill at this. I wonder if I can get a slightly fancy version printed up in time for Christmas.
posted by asnider at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2012


I should set a monthly reminder to just shovel Zack Weinersmith some money just for being so awesome.
posted by Theta States at 12:41 PM on December 6, 2012


Swords: Do They Exist?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:44 PM on December 6, 2012


If you really want to sound like a professor, say "now..." instead of "um".
posted by echo target at 12:45 PM on December 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I first encountered SMBC, I thought it was wildly funny. A poor man's XKCD without all the awkwardness about women -- comedy gold!...Over time, the various formulas he employs have gotten a little tired. And dude is prolific! There are a whole lot of mediocre comics in that enormous catalog.


I'm actually of the opinion that SMBC has surpassed XKCD. They're both good comics but I think because Zach started out doodling comics with an English degree and then went back to school for a physics degree he has an ability to find the absurd metaphors that exist in our world whereas I feel Randal does the opposite by using other things in the world to make jokes about the sciences.

While I can understand why a lot of people might prefer Randal's work I personally think that SMBC has the ability, at least 3 or so times a week, to take the profound and complex and boil it down to a single mantra: "Humans are kind of lovable, stupid, and funny".

There's something Vonnegut like about it when it's at its best. Also, Zach, without patting himself on the back about it, has clearly made an effort to place all sexes, races, sexualities, and family set ups into his comics. So when he pokes fun at our entire species everyone is included.

I think Weiner is wonderful!
posted by sendai sleep master at 12:48 PM on December 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


This sounds fun.

I find SMBC to be extremely aggravating. It often has great germs of ideas and is so close to being brilliant, but nearly every comic exposes something about how he just doesn't quite get the topic he's talking about. It's in academia's uncanny valley. Also, there's a lot of what seems to me to be stereotyping and misogyny that flies under a false banner of irony and sex positivity.
posted by painquale at 12:53 PM on December 6, 2012


I agree that, at its best, SMBC is great. XKCD at its best is great, too. They're different and only kind of in competition.

I think XKCD's greatness-to-meh ratio is higher, these days, which is not surprising since SMBC puts out more than twice as many comics.

Case in point: today's SMBC. Meh. YMMV, but meh.
posted by gurple at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2012


Also, there's a lot of what seems to me to be stereotyping and misogyny that flies under a false banner of irony and sex positivity.

Huh, now that I do not get. I think of SMBC as being pretty cool about the races and the genders and the whatnot, particularly when compared with XKCD. But I might be blind to stuff... can you post an example or two?
posted by gurple at 12:55 PM on December 6, 2012


I too do not pick up on the stereotyping and misogyny but would be open to hearing perspectives on why it exists in SMBC as would, I think, Zach Weiner. Not unlike Jeph Jaques of Questionable Content fame (recently on the blue) he strikes me as the type of dude who would like to be made aware of these kinds of (likely unintentional) elements in his work.

That being said, a lot of Zach's early work (written when he was barely out of his teens) does rely somewhat heavily on easy, cynical jokes about marriage that I could see coming off as simply "please, take my wife!" jokes.

That being said, I think the strip has grown and become something relatively different since then.
posted by sendai sleep master at 1:11 PM on December 6, 2012


I find SMBC to be miles better than XKCD, if only because I actually find SMBC occasionally funny.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:21 PM on December 6, 2012


I find almost every XKCD comic to be an assertion of geek identity. I am / we are like this! People like this are amazing! If you get it you're in the club, and you're great.

SMBC definitely has its biases, but it seems to poke fun at the types of people it seems to identify with, as often as it elevates them. I find that attitude much more sufferable over the long haul.
posted by gurple at 1:27 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Although I like Zach's stuff, it sounds like he's reinvented a slightly easier form of Just A Minute, a bullshit-based improv game that's been a BBC radio staple for about forty years.
posted by forgetful snow at 1:28 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Zach Weiner probably is very progressive. But I think the strip is not. This has to do with the fact that SMBC engages in parody about sexism so often, and I think that it usually misses. There are a lot of comics about people talking about the differences between men and women, or about how dumb guys say insensitive things, etc. Often, the sexist viewpoint is being overtly mocked, but I think the humor of the piece usually comes from taking the perspective of the sexist character.

These two comics sprung to mind. I understand that people will say that the comics are funny because you are meant to laugh at the sexist character, not with him. But I don't think we have much insight into why we laugh at things like this. The first comic wouldn't be funny if the guy didn't say "tramps and filthy whores;" the humor is partly reliant on these words. Making sarcastic fun of sexists and racists is a way that comedians often get away with expressing sexist and racist jokes, even if they have the best of intentions. A joke like this could be told by a misogynist stand-up almost verbatim. Jeph Jacques doesn't have any comics that parody sexists, so I don't see this problem in QC or other comics I think of as progressive.

I might not feel a problem if there weren't just so many strips about how women-are-like-this and men-are-like-that, and I didn't feel like there was such an aura of manic clumsiness about the strip.
posted by painquale at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hmm. Well, I tend to disagree with you about those particular strips, but let's take a look at them... maybe I'm giving them too much doubt-benefit.

"Filthy whore": that one seems to be primarily about the idea that old people are cranky and have outdated ideas that are jarring to younger people. I can see it as being ageist more easily than sexist. Now, you could say that he could have chosen a number of topics (race, homosexuality, etc.) to make the joke about and he chose slut-shaming because it was facile for him -- doing the same joke about race would have netted him more blowback. I could agree with that. I don't think that elevates the joke itself to the level of sexism.

"Energy research": I think this one is a funnier strip for reasons of format (very evocative of The Onion's Kelly), but basically it's the same joke as the first one: old people, even old people in science, have outdated attitudes. Now, the "UGLY CHICKS" thing in particular, I will agree with you, comes near or crosses a line. It's not necessary for the humor, and in fact I think it detracts a bit because the phrasing seems incongruous with the speaker. I'll give you that one -- I think I found it kind of off-putting at the time and forgot about it.

"Two women at once": I'm just not seeing this as misogynist. If all his sex jokes (and there are a lot of them) played on female issues like body image and not male issues, I'd agree that as a whole they'd be sexist. But I think it's been pretty even in that regard.

Beans overthought: I agree with out a little bit, but not much, and I still think XKCD is way more problematic.
posted by gurple at 1:55 PM on December 6, 2012


manic clumsiness

I think that's a good way to put it. Weiner updates 6 days a week and therefore throws a lot at the wall and, as I think you mentioned previously, a lot of it doesn't work. I find myself able to enjoy the strips bright spots in a way that I feel overshadows its problematic parts. I do, however, recognize that it is problematic. But like you said "I think Zach Weiner probably is very progressive" and like when QC is attacked by people who think Jeph is being insensitive I always like to remind myself that these two comic creators really seem to be trying to push for a progressive conversation. On a broad level this shines through when the strips are boring (which QC is every once in a while) or when they're off the mark politically (as SMBC is sometimes) and that's what keeps me coming back to these comics even on those bad days.

Both Jeph and Zach seem to pour their human out on the page in a way that screams "I have goodwill and am generally not an asshole!" This allows me to enjoy SMBC while not overlooking the problems it has.

TL/DR: I both agree with painquale AND enjoy SMBC thoroughly.
posted by sendai sleep master at 1:59 PM on December 6, 2012


Islamic Corgis
Marketing to Corgis
Space Corgis
Amphibious Corgis
Military Use of Corgis
Corgitronics

I hadn't realized it before, but Corgis are pretty much funny in any context. I would play the hell out of this game.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zach Weinersmith, when I find out which senior member of my company's engineering staff you are, SO HELP ME FSM, I will TP your car.

This is professional slander, even if you didn't call me out by name. You will rue the day.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:38 PM on December 6, 2012


A few years back, I bought a t-shirt from a Goodwill. On the front reads "Summer Conference 2008, Dayton, Ohio" and on the rear is a quote, perhaps from Maya Angelou, that is inspiring, but vague (as is the wont of conference-centric quotations).

Due to the lack of identifying information, I thought it would be fun to invent a conference topic on the spot when asked about the shirt. I start with something like "Conference for the seeding of freshwater manatees in the Great Lakes", make up a few talking points (good for the environment, increased tourism, lack of natural predators, etc.), and end with "but most importantly, this is something that creates real jobs for Americans."

(Truthfully, I've only been asked about the shirt maybe twice, but it's a fun game to play when it surfaces in my t-shirt drawer.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 3:09 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a teacher in high school who had a pause *phrase*. "And going through that way". It didn't mean anything, it was just a verbal tic that he'd clearly fallen into over the years.

I had a professor freshman year who did the same thing, but hers was "in a manner of speaking", and she always went up on her tiptoes as she said it. Drove me absolutely nuts. I, too, eventually started keeping a tally in order to stay sane and I think the record was around 35 in one 50-minute class.
posted by junco at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2012


I had a teacher in high school who had a pause *phrase*. "And going through that way".

Wow. That's a pretty impressive length to content ratio. Now I want to make a new game, what's the longest phrase that can genuinely be substituted for "um"?
posted by straight at 4:25 PM on December 6, 2012


Military Use of Corgis

Dennison (Journal of Military History, VI, ix, p. 47) emphasizes the desperation to which the Blitz had driven the British by citing evidence of a program proposed by MI-5 whereby Welsh corgis were to be sent to offices of the Luftwaffe. No documentation of the intended effect of the program survives, Dennison writes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:49 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


This sounds kind of like Just a Minute, except with questions and sillier topics.
posted by kenko at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2012


I used to go to a fair amount of grad student parties. As one can imagine, there were quite a few people who were incapable of admitting they didn't know something you brought up in discussion.

Whenever I went to one of these parties, I would find out what departments' students were in attendance. I then picked a field with as little intersection with the fields of the people at the party (i.e. math at an English department mixer).

After a few drinks, I would sidle up to the most pompous looking person there and start talking about a theory I made up about my supposed field. The theory's name was composed of two ethnically different names, an adjective and a noun. Like in this game. An example is the Pyrush-Subramaniam Theory of Bovine Defenestration. I would then talk about it at length, without going too overboard. The object was to see if the pompous person would admit to not knowing about the theory. If they challenged the authenticity of my "theory", I would obfuscate by bringing up "papers" that were important to the current scholarship on the subject.

There was only one occasion when someone actually said that they had no idea what I was talking about.

Hubris is a powerful thing.

Anyways, I love this idea and will be playtesting it at my next game night.
posted by reenum at 6:40 PM on December 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had a professor freshman year who did the same thing, but hers was "in a manner of speaking", and she always went up on her tiptoes as she said it. Drove me absolutely nuts. I, too, eventually started keeping a tally in order to stay sane and I think the record was around 35 in one 50-minute class.

I had a prof who, when discussing a piece of literature that was supposedly among the first to include characters who behaved in a realistic manner and had little quirks and foibles that were purely to make them seem more real (as opposed to having some symbolic/narrative purpose), pointed out that: "Real people have quirks and crutch words, right? For example, I tend to end my sentences with right, right?" And then it was right, RIGHT, RIGHT all the time! I couldn't not notice it. I, too, began keeping a tally. I forget what the highest number I counted was.
posted by asnider at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ha, we actually started a tradition of doing "slide karaoke" at my department's holiday party. Basically, we recruit some grad students and some faculty and make them give a completely ridiculous Powerpoint talk with figures that make no sense, sight completely unseen. It was a little uncanny how smooth some of the performances were. For example, picture: crazy, room-filling mechanical contraption; professor (without missing a beat): "...and of course we hope to make our new technology available to others in the department in the form of a core facility. Here is where you load your samples."
posted by en forme de poire at 12:28 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, gurple, I actually have another 5-worder! One of the teachers at my high school used to use the phrase "in terms of doing that" to fill space.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:31 PM on December 8, 2012


en forme de poire: see also the promotional videos about products like the Rockwell Retro Encabulator. I also once ran across a video advertisement for a CNC machine in which a speaker who sounded very much like an english-as-a-first-language speaker read pages of text written by someone who seemed very much an english-as-a-second-language writer, but unfortunately I don't have the link at hand.
posted by jepler at 3:38 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


hahahahaha logarithmic casing! I just cackled really loudly - that's gold.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:17 PM on December 8, 2012


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