I don't read many webcomics. I like Shortpacked! and xkcd, although I don't always get the jokes. I read UserFriendly, although I don't know why; I get the jokes, but they're usually not that funny. I used to read Sluggy Freelance, but at some point I realized that it was no longer making me laugh, so I quit.
And then there's Dinosaur Comics, by Ryan North. The gag is that it's the exact same six panels, with the exact same six pictures, every day; only the dialog changes. It is perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, as it seems to get funnier the more I read it, and when I want to explain to someone else why a particular strip is funny, I often can't without giving them a lot of backstory. Sometimes a strip is funny enough on its own that I'll send it to a friend, but a lot of times I feel like the humor comes, at least in part, from the knowledge I have of the characters involved.
I don't know much about the guy who writes it, other than that he's Canadian and taller than average, but some of the comics hinge on somewhat esoteric concepts, especially involving science and technology, or linguistics and literature. This has always seemed like an odd combination to me - most people I know tend to specialize in either hard sciences or social sciences, but not both. The really funny thing, though, is that there have been several times that the comic has been about something having to do with linguistics or literature that has recently come up in one of my classes or my research. It doesn't happen often, but it has happened enough times for me to remark on it to Glen.
Eventually the coincidences between Dinosaur Comics and my life became kind of a running joke between Glen and me. I speculated that Ryan was perhaps my alter-ego, or that I was perhaps his evil twin. Glen, of course, pointed out that I was neither Canadian, nor taller than average, nor male. I responded that either Ryan or I might be in disguise, and further noted that, like Clark Kent and Superman, no one had ever seen Ryan and me in the same place at the same time. Glen was still skeptical, so recently, I proposed an experiment to settle the question.
I'd been thinking about René Wellek lately, mostly because I don't know much about him. With most literary critics, I can at least associate a word or phrase with them that says something about them: Bakhtin - carnivalesque; Said - postcolonial; Greenblatt - New Historicism; and so on. I'm aware that that's a very limited description of their work; all I'm saying is that at least I have something conceptual to hang on the mental pegs that are labeled with their names. But for Wellek ... not so much. And so I'd been thinking that I ought to get around to looking him up and seeing what he's about. Since there was NO WAY that Ryan North should be thinking about René Wellek unless he is actually me - or I'm him, or whatever - I jokingly said to Glen that if Ryan mentioned René Wellek in his comic in the next couple of weeks, we could take that as definitive proof.
Behold the Dinosaur Comics for June 18th, 2008 (click on the image for a larger version):
When I was finished hyperventilating, I called Glen and asked if he remembered the Dinosaur Comics experiment. He did. I asked if he'd seen the comic today. He hadn't. He went and looked at it. And then he laughed, and fessed up that he had emailed Ryan North, told him the story, and asked him if he would help Glen prank me by name-dropping René Wellek in one of the strips. Ryan obliged.
Some women are impressed by material things, like flashy cars or expensive jewelry. Some women are impressed by men who exhibit extraordinary physical prowess. Some women like to get flowers or candy from their significant others. I've never really been excited about any of that stuff. But this ... wow. I'm really touched.