May 2008

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« Basic Instructions, Part 3 | Main | Delicious Conspiracy Theories »



I think Scott Meyer's 4-panel format was more suited o his style of joke. The format of the joke tended to be 1: establish a theme + minor punchline, 2 & 3: build on theme with more minor jokes, 4: culminate with joke that refers to minor theme of the first panel.

Personally I think that the way the last panel refered to the first one can't be pulled off without the development of the theme and the distraction from the minor theme of the first panel provided by the middle two panels.

Oh, and Scott (Adams) careful who you're calling inexperienced: I bet most people who read this blog have read more cartoons than you've written! ;-)


I suggest to steal ideas from "Un gars, une file" DVDs.


I know you're trying to help the guy, but his stuff fits the four panel rhythm perfectly. The one about the guy who tries to convince his son that he's going around the world (which is the funniest f**king thing I've ever read) only works because the fourth panel is the perfect culmination of the previous three. You're trying to get PG Wodehouse to write like Henny Youngman. Won't work.

Stew Hawke

Nobody is gunna read this comment. But here goes.

I think Meyer manages the strip format quite well. I didn't like the snide expression one but the video game one was funny. I suspect the relationship thing is a bit of a fine line to get right but of interest to people.

Compared to Dilbert I suspect it would be harder to stick to the topic and not offend a large percentage of the audience (wives, women). However compared to Dilbert it might be a bit easier to put in the occasional related but not wifey type strips.

For example Dilbert in the recent past went for a walk with a woman. Nothing to do with "in office" but certainly in character and in theme. Meyer has a theme and really anything to to with it could easily reflect on relationships. Not all relationships are to do with ones significant other. Opertunity to be a bit broad.

Adams, just don't break the guy's spirit. Why not just lend him some money so he can get on with what he thinks is good? Surely there is a business opertunity there. Put your money where your posts are. Or just reccomend the guy and then shut up.

Stew Hawke


Ok, first my tip for the comic situation.

"30 years ago television was not very common, boys and girls were socially involved, outgoing, used to spend time on playing guitar and sing and talk with each other.

Now we have three televisions at home, everybody stays in a different room watching his/her favorite program and there's not family conversation anymore.

I think that's why my parents marriage lasted so long."

(I hope it will help :D)

Second I wanted to say, I'm a wannabe cartoonist myself, in the sense that I'm too lazy to publish anything I draw on a daily basis, but I do draw stupid strips for the entertainment of my friends, occasionally.

Point is, the situations I draw are taken directly from my own life experiences and, yes, when I decided to make one of my friend act like a dog and started to address her in the comic as "the pochie" (puppy in Japanese), let's say she didn't take it very well.
I can't imagine how hard would it be if I published my works.

So, since "Let's don't make my wife call me by lawyers instead than by my pet name" seems like a real issue, here's my suggestion.

Put aside the context, let's focus on the protagonist character.

The funniest jokes Scott conjured were not the men-woman situations, or better, if they were, it was not because of the couple stuff, they were funny because his main character was playing totally non politically correct.

For example I laughed a lot on the "how to lie to kids", that was one of the funniest strips and it was not about couples.

It is surely a good idea to find a general "subject of action" in the strips, but that will come later, as it best suits the characters.
The question here is, what kind of humor Scott Meyer is best at?
And how this humor reflects on his characters?

The best of his work is when he has a victim on which materialize the bad effects of his description.
In "How to open a snack quietly" the idea is very good, but there's no victim.
It makes me smile, because I recognise myself into that kind of situation, but it doesn't make me laugh.
Why don't emphasize the idiocy of the situation itself instead?
Men can go on the moon, build satellites and cure global diseases but, for the sake of everything that's possible cannot open a snack without make a disturbing noise.
That would have been really funny, because the human race would have been ridiculed.


I just wanted to point you to this comic I'm not a programmer, I don't know a lot of maths but I enjoy it. (My boyfriend is a programmer though, so I get most of the jokes)


The re-done newspaper 2-panel style strips totally work better for me. I love the one general topic and how it relates to their relationship and can see the same format with more relationships (the guy and his buddy or father or dog...whatever). They would evolve as I make it my daily habit. DAILY HABIT. That's why I have dilbert emailed (to work of course) and that daily habit is what sells newspapers.


It is really stunning how many people are caught up in what the characters look like. (Attractiveness-wise.)

First of all, those things are subjective. Second, real people look like this, get a grip. Third, they wouldn't be as funny if they were stunningly beautiful.

Fourth, and most important, when and why did you start caring if you're attracted to the imaginary people in your local newspaper? Get a grip. Sheesh.


I'm seeing a lot of criticism about the graphic style... I find that really odd as it was one of the points of this comic which immediately impressed me, and made me want to read more. I like that fact that the characters are representative of "real people", that they have personal quirks and characteristics and recognizable personalities. I think it has potential for a loyal fan base. (In the manner of "For Better or for Worse".)

I also love the "voice-over" quality of the accompanying text. I think the "wordiness" sets this comic apart. I also think this would be a successful format right now, with the success of "Instruction Manual" style humour books. Maybe if the "How To" title ran as a title bar across the top of the comic, there would be room for all four panels in the standard (easy printed) format, maybe allowing room for some of this text, albiet edited?

Just some thoughts.


I think you are right about the strip format. Basic Instructions can make it big time, and there's no reason to risk that. It will probably take a while to get used to the new format and learn all of the tricks to get it right.

I think the people who favor the other format are somehow concerned about one cartoonist telling another cartoonist what to do. "Oh no, he's lost his voice! Someone is more powerful than someone else! I can't let that happen!" That is, I don't think they really favor the previous format, rather, they just have knee jerk reactions every time they see someone "censoring" someone else.

As for it being "about something": it's clearly about relationships, but, uh, it's also about basic instructions in life, no? That's actually a fairly specific idea.


I loved the contrast between married and divorced life.

I'm going to be laughing a good long while remembering the "Cold and empty" line in the "How to Justify an Extravagant Purchase to Your Spouse". That first panel is a complete comic in itself!

Yeah, I'm divorced.


Have you seen savagechicken?

Now that has a product angle with the sticky notes and the chicken, and jason on friday the 13th.


Guys seem to get a passive-aggressive tendancy when they are married. They get a task from their wife and then purposefully stuff it up. She gets so annoyed that shes like "give me that!" or "Dont worry, I'll do it!'

Mission accomplished. Guy can go sit back infront of the TV and channel surf.


My relationship observations (from a female perspective):

A guy asks me out based on what I look like. Six months into the relationship he asks me to "tone down" my appearance because i'm now in a relationship. (and by appearance i mean to stop wearing make up, high heels, and fashionable clothing, and dont grow my nails cos then i cant wash dishes (can you believe it??!! true story)

Then he wants to know why i am friends with men, cos they couldn't possibly want anything like friendship, they all want to sleep with me. He has plenty of girl friends though and sees no problem with that.

Then he dumps me, and i say, 'ok, bye!' Then he begs and pleads to have a relationship again because "he's changed". I refused. I had to break up with him three times. Right now he is *still* in "break-up denial" (cognitive dissonance?) and is *still* putting forward "proposals" as to how we can maybe, one day in the future, get back together but take it slow in a totally platonic friendship. Pah!

There must be something humourous in that somewhere...

Chris Crosby

The webcomic PENNY ARCADE ( is likely making more money than most syndicated newspaper comic strips, and has been for a number of years. It fully supports both creators, a business manager, and several employees.

And it only updates three times a week, to boot.


Whenever a man says something to a woman, she looks for the worst possible interpretation, even if you were trying to say something nice.

Richard N

As much as I think you're trying to help Mr. Meyer, I agree with those who say your help has been somewhat harmful. The 'relationships' idea has exactly the pitfalls you say it has. His original work was/is fantastic, and I 100% agree that he should stick with his format and theme.

Too, the market for comics is entirely different in 2007 then it was when Dilbert took off. I never read Dilbert in a newspaper anymore, and recently the Internet has launched more web-based themes and ideas to success then any newspaper has. Cater to the Internet, not the newspapers! 3-5 years from now, how many people will be checking their news online vs. from an hours-old paper? That ratio is growing in online's favor everyday, no?? His real focus should be on how to profit from a successful web-based comic. Lots of potential there imho.


We are invited to suggest a theme for Scott Meyer's "Basic Instruction" cartoon strip.

O. K. How about a hilarious strip which masquerades as a regularly syndicated animated column providing basic instruction for people on how they can improve upon their life situations.

But, wait. Isn't that what Scott Meyer has already achieved?

Lets look at it from this perspective. If I am in the cartoon business, I have to compete for the limited resources of the cartoon consuming public. I have recently come across a new cartoonist that is beginning to get some traction. I discover that people who like my cartoon almost invariably like his work.

I know that most people who by one of my calendars won't buy a competitor cartoonist's calendar, at least not this year. If Meyer is really popular, some potential consumers of my coffee mugs and calendars might buy Meyer's paraphernalia.

I can't allow this to happen. Maybe I can screw with Meyer now, in this early stage of his career, and make him limit his cartoon strip to a "theme" that at least ten other upcoming cartoonists are toiling in. I'll pretend to do this in the "spirit" of mentorism.

This is positively delicious. Meyer crashes and burns, and I look like the good guy who tried to help his career.

Paul Bruner

Honestly I think the problem with it is that he has to pick a side and stick with it though the comic.

That is, if he is going to be on the womens side or the mans. We live in a bipolar society and one side must "win" or "lose"

I think that what makes this comic difficult as your trying to have many different theams in relationships, but the characters aren't clearly defined. They more speak, even in the relationship side, generally with everyone being equal.

I mean you might as well say Wally is as good as Dilbert. You see clear boundary's between the two characters that are always reinforced. You just can't do that in the kind of comic he is making.

Hell, look at Get Fuzzy. It used to be just Cat and Dog, but you start seeing a political scent now. The Cat is an insane republican living under the tooterlige of a tofu clueless liberal.

Well, mabye after he gets in 1000 papers.


Here's an interesting thing I've discovered: I read the comic dialog before reading the setup. I did it twice in a row before realizing it. Maybe the 'setup' paragraph should come at the end? I'd rather get right to the Funny.
Plus.. I find it just a tiny bit annoying that he spaces twice between sentences. He's one of them double-spacers who doesn't realize that the old rule went out with the manual typewriter. But, I guess I can live with that if the jokes get better.


I prefer the four panel setup, not just because it provides more space for the joke, but because it mimics those instructional pamphlets you get on the planes, which is really part of this the charm of this comic, I think. The larger panels also allow for a more room write, and I feel that the text has more importance in Basic Instructions compared to other comics.


Mr. Meyer seems to have sufficiently (and successfully in my mind) hammered out where he wanted to go with his strip prior to asking for professional advice. He has a style in the Wacom look and the 4 panel presentation...and his point of view is sufficiently bent to be unique ,funny and universally identifiable . To place constraints on how he should work or topics to persue (%) is to advise that there are really only 2 or 3 ways of succeeding. His charm lies in making the odd absurd quirks of life funny( without reguard to a continuing or followup strip). Most professional comics ask advice on a bit after they have written it, not before, otherwise it's not really their idea. I would think, judging from the comments so far, the best advice to Mr. Meyer would be: Keep doing what you are doing! It's fresh, let everyone else take the conventional approach(es). Whoever you need me to introduce you to ... just ask!


I had a humorous relationship event happen to me.

I wrote it up in dialogue format in January on my blog:

writing this via phone so please excuse the brevity


I think basic instructions plays mostly to an educated/verbose crowd - that's why the humor works better for the audience when it's wordy. 'We likes us the smart funnys.'
Most of the time, it takes more than 2 pannels to be funny in a wicked and subversive way.

Now on to question of the day...

Here's a relationship (non man-woman) issue I've encountered, which others might relate to:

One of my friends will never meet anyone, anywhere on time, can't be bothered to show up at a designated hour, habiutally 20 minutes late. Our friend lies constantly about how far away he is - and does it without shame, so we all know he's lying when he says he's 5 minutes away and he's really 40 miles away. It's an ongoing saga of being on 'alex time' vs. 'human time'. This shows an inherent disrespect for the time of othes, as he feels his presence is more important and we should all wait for him. If it weren't for the fact that he's a great friend (the kind you know would help you hide the body of an enemy) and funny guy, no one would have anything to do with him. The rest of this group will auto-adjust when talking to him about when we're meeting. ie "We're seeing the 8:00 movie - The newspaper says it's playing at 8:30? Must be a misprint."


Honestly, I believe if Mr. Meyer keeps up in the same vein ("social aptitude") but plays more with the rectangular format (which I like more than I expected) I think the "what it's about" theme will emerge organically. If I were in his position I'd concentrate more on finding ways to fit that smaller space to his existing style and tone, and the rest will come.

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