May 2008

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



I thought of one more -- how about, how to avoid those people who stand outside grocery stores wanting you to sign their petition when that's really the last thing you want to do.

It can be a team effort between husband and wife, or, better yet (and more likely to be realistic) the husband shoves the wife toward the petition-signer-getters as bait and dashes out of the way before he can be nabbed too.


What about ways to distract yourself from slamming on your breaks while your girl is putting on lipstick in the car?


I'll clean the kitchen, do the dishes, do the laundry, etc. because if I don't, it won't get done. When I start to suggest to my husband that he help me out he says, oh but I put the new exhaust on the truck, or, I was on my feet all day and you just sat at your desk, so it's my turn to sit down.

Turn that into a strip. I could identify.



That's not the point here but once again, I really think the original Scott's format suit his humor perfectly.
it make me think to the first advertising about two blade razors (you know, first blade pull the hair, and second one cut it)...Let me explain:
Most of Scott's comics start with a "mild joke" (just funny, but not much), then, one or two very funny and when we think it is finished, one little sentence which by fitting exactly with the "mild joke" make the whole thing really funny.

You cannot turn that into a short format.

Moreover, in the small format, Scott's drawings look just like any other drawing... We loose the "drawn over photography" style which is part of the whole.

When you first gave us the link of Scott's site, after the first comic appeared, it just made me wanted to click on the archive button and watch everything (no matter the fact it took hours because of the heavy traffic issues).

When I've seen the 4 comics of this post, I just realized that it would not gave me the same feeling. I guess the 4 frames layout with black borders are not innocent to this.

About the relationship theme, you're saying it is better to have a comic that can be described in few words.
Why instead of asking us for ideas about relationship comics, didn't you ask for a way to describe actual Scott's comic in few words.

My try would be "It's about life counseling for dummies" but I am sure somebody here may find better.

Anyways, it is nice from you to (try to) help a gifted newbie :o).

I was trying to find some relationship situation ideas to not be too much off topic, but I just realizing I was just finding ideas already seen in the great show "Married with children"...
It seems hard to find new ideas on such a topic :o)

Scott (Not Adams)

To extend on the "time to go" theme:

If I'm standing by the door with my jacket on, the time remaining until we leave approaches infinity. The moment I decide I have time to do something interesting, like read a few chapters of "The Way of the Weasel" or finish that crossword puzzle, I find that everyone else is already in the car and yelling for me to hurry up because we're late.


[To me, “time to leave” means “go stand near the door.” To other people, it signals the start of an infinite sequence of events that may or may not culminate in leaving.]

I’ll just extend that to inviting people over. To my husband, if we want to have friends over for a BBQ, we just call them up and invite them over. To me a BBQ requires food to cook and drinks to serve at a minimum. Things that might not be handily in the fridge… or as you would say, “an infinite sequence of events that may not culminate in having friends over” :)

Chief of the Cubicle Police

I think Meyer's comics were a whole lot funnier before you stepped in and started messing with them.

Simply take the 4 panel square format and change it to a 4 panel strip and he's good to go. sheesh!



The problem with you is you are far too rational. I advise the other scott to stay as far away from you as possible. You are screwing up his work. You're a manipulative son of a bitch.


Oh, and PPS: I think some of the funniest moments come from cartoon Scott's expressions. I love frame 2 of How to Open a Snack Quietly.


Maybe Scott and his comic wife could be friends with a comic couple, who would be able to show us the less flattering tendencies of the finer sex. That way the comic would be less autobiographical and Scott's wife could carry on liking him.

PS I love the format of the comic on Scott's Basic Instructions site, which is now a frequently visited favourite.

John D

I was delighted to read Tuesday's blog. It seems as if the experiment has been a learning exercise for you and us, as well as Scott Meyer. There are at least two problems with one's work being theme-based, and both of them seem to be magnified if the theme is by concious choice rather than evolution.

Having a clear theme causes some percentage of readers to say "hey, that's me," but it also encourages others to turn elsewhere unless something else about the strip grabs them. Even the workplace is not a theme that reaches everyone. Most everyone works, but many are not in a position to appreciate the humor of it.

When I was an engineering project manager in Atlanta, Dilbert was my textbook on navigating workplace minefields. Now that I'm sorta-retired, you'd be surprised how many people I'm around who have no clue what the strip is about. In small-town America, human nature is much the same, the things people do to survive the day's tedium still look the same, but my current cohorts can't allow themselves the luxury of amusement. Here, your local Wally is also the assistant coach of your kid's Little League team; Asok's daughter tutors yours in math; Ted is a deacon at your church; and your PHB may also be your landlord. Relationships in small town workplaces are therefore a different dynamic.

(This is my relationship observation, by the way. Kind of hard to condense to three panels, no?)

Yet I think the really important thing is not that a theme limits the audience. As you have since discovered, it builds a wall around an artist whose creativity springs from a naturally free spirit, as seems to be true of Scott.

If Calvin and Hobbes had really just been about "a boy," as you wrote the other day, Watterson would probably have ended up licensing those mean-little-kid-peeing-on-the-competing-truck-logo decals himself. Why not, if the point is to have a theme that makes you popular and you don't mind fitting in that box. It works for some folks. But that strip's theme was nothing less than imagination itself, the broadest possible theme!

I think there is no greater privilege in this Universe than watching a gifted mind at play. What makes Dilbert worth reading is not the theme, but it's the quality of your insights and unmatched turns of phrase ("we golfed as hard as we could until we came up with a new vision for the company") that make it so memorable. Bill Watterson's mind at play was what made journeys into the exaggerated inner workings of a little boy's head (and the incredible artwork that accompanied them) so appealing. Underneath both strips is an honest, unforced kernel of truth driving the artist.

Creativity can be cultivated, but not in too small a greenhouse. The gifted artist's mind will go where it will, and if it takes the rest of us with it on fascinating journeys, all the better. I think Scott Meyer has that ability. Encourage him, but let him define the limits of his world for himself. It may enlarge the world the rest of us live in.


I really enjoy Basic Instructions and I think the format is good, the wordiness works for me... but I'm a reader. "How to remember someone's name" is friggin' hilarious, especially since I never remember anyone's name and think that all men are named Ian.

As for strip ideas, my husband thinks that I have too much stuff (like a frame for the bed so that it's not just a mattress on the floor), but he has 3 external hard drives full of digital crap (i.e. all email he's ever sent, dating back to the nineties).


Decent set of strips... too much hype...

Lots of comic strips have come up online. has been on for a few years now, and is probably the best online example of a diamond in the dirt that I can think of.

Better than Dilbert?? You bet! You know your drawing sucks... why not bring in an artist as a partner? (Oh..oh... I know that one!!!)

Scott Meyers IS good yes... but so great as to plaster him all over 6 posts in dilbertblog?

You've made your point. Now go bug some more atheists or goat-****ing Ghanaians. Why not the news? Falling stock markets and heat shields, an impending Obama-Clinton celebrity deathmatch... those MUST provide you some fuel!


I have to say, maybe the problem with the relationship and format advice is just that you're comparing his work after honing the old format for a year against the first handful of attempts at the new format. It's not apples to apples.

Also, on an unrelated note, I have a thought on your restaurant questions from a while back. Maybe you could partition your meeting space into one-big-table sized rooms. In China, pretty much every restaurant has isolated rooms where, if you show up with a big party, you can have a bit of privacy. It helps keep your conversation across a big table from being a shouting match over the other people in the restaurant. So you can talk to more of your friends/family than just the people next to you.

Basically, the point is to make the meeting room less of a formal 'hey plan your event here' and more of an opportunistic 'you guys are a big group, would you like a separate space?' I guarantee that after people hear about it, when they have a big group, they will start to think of your place as a good spot to go. Also improves the upscale-ish 2-4 people environment by getting the big loud groups out of there.


A lot of the advice skips over the fact that the starting point is a task for which Basic Instructions are required. A problem with the examples is that "How to keep the love" isn't really a task so much as a continuing problem.

So, the task is how to make scrambled eggs. The man cracks egg into the pan. The woman says you have to crack the eggs into a bowl first. Hilarity (hopefully) ensues. With a task orientation, you can depend more on action and reduce dialog.

I think the point about editing is valid. You don't need to say "in a theater" if the picture shows "in a theater".


A man will pay $2 for a $1 item, if he wants it.
A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item, even if she doesn't want it.


my husband locks the doors to his truck every time he gets out of it, even if only for a few minutes.
when i ride with him, i walk over to the truck, knowing that he will have to unlock it with his keyless entry --- but out of habit (i never lock my doors) i pull on the handle to get in the car --- but its usually at that moment that he presses the "unlock" button and then his door is unlocked and mine is not --- then he has to press the lock button, to lock all the doors, then he has to press the unlock button again --- and i usually try to open my door during one of those times as well --- making him start the process all over again ---
his famous phrase is "serenity now"


Wherever we go,both my wife and I wear jeans or Dockers(TM) each of which have 4 pockets. I use 2, sometimes 3 pockets for car keys, wallet, maybe cell phone. My wife uses a huge canvas bag to carry shit she never uses (but might need) with nothing in her pockets. She tries to travel lighter when we go to ballgames, but never thinks to put the two or three necessities in a pocket. When I suggest using a pocket, she looks at me as though she doesn't know the meaning of the word. God's own Truth. All men would agree.

I don't know how to make a strip out of this, but I bet Mr. Meyer would.


"My wife says "should I wear the blue dress or the red dress?" I say "blue" and she says "that's dumb, I look terrible in blue" Why did she ask me to help her choose?

Posted by: Kent"

Say "Neither" and leer.

a) no opinion so you can't be wrong
b) you're still pysically attracted to her

double score.

PS Women DO want to "win" but their idea of what winning is is different. Men want to be "first" or "best" but women want to be "right" or (worse) someone else to be "wrong". The former causes Kent's situation. The latter causes bitchiness.

T Simic

Dear Scott,

Aren't you trying to fix what isn't broken? Basic Instructions focuses on a topic - social aptitude. What's funny is that the main character (the bald bearded guy - Meyer's alter ego?) is socially inept ("geeky") but manages to do things his way. He's the Inspector Clouseau of social interaction.

Why then force Scott Meyer to focus on relationships? If he sticks to all kinds of social interactions he can keep the comic fresh longer, and more readers can identify with it. As for marketing, the topic fits category of "A Slice of Life" perfectly.

As for the wordiness, Scott Meyer could learn to say more with less. For example, if his character is going to procrastinate, he doesn't need to say how he's going to do it (watch Galactica) - just seeing him on a sofa with a remote and beer is more evocative. However, his dialogues are often very cool bits of nonsense - Tarantino-like cool - and he could even consider saving space on drawings to fit the text in. See how Cheap Thrills does it.

And as for the format, the single panel doesn't seem to work. Why not use three panels, without the introductory sidebar? How to Conceal a Yawn, for example, could work as a three-panel strip, without the second panel. No radical changes are necessary.


"Man: "Yeah, I got me a dual processor 500mb G60 with 500GB storage, a Blu-Ray DVD burner, and an infrared scanner."

This got me all excited because I didn't know blue ray burners had come out. That was cruel, Heather, cruel indeed.

Anyway, my 'relationship observation' relates to that horrible moment when you expose the fact you've forgotten something you shouldn't have. My girlfriend is coming to visit me in Paris, where I'm working; she's never been before. I thought I'd take her to a proper french crêperie, and asked her if she'd been before. 'Yes' she replied, 'you took me to one the week before you left.'

There was a long, awkward silence.


"An amusing aspect of my relationship with my wife is how she attempts to engage in irrelevant bartering with me:

Husband: I'm going to the store, do you want to come along?
Wife: OK, but only if we can paint the dining room red.

Posted by: Greg"

She wants to barter with you, Greg. It's one form of attention and some women appreciate it. Try starting off instead. Pick something you want her to do or want to do yourself and pick something else you want to do or don't mind doing (best if it's something you'll do together on at least one of them). Then say "how about if you/we do X I'll go and do Y?". Then haggle.


"How about I go and fix up the garden shed a little. All I need is some paint and some preserver. If you give me a lift down there, I can go get it."

If she seems reluctant, give something up, like "While you're down there, you can have a look at what colours I'll use". At some point, if negotiations are still going, ask for something in recompense for your accession. Then you negotiate about that.

After all that, your wife will feel wanted and important: you've asked her for help and she's been able to get you to do something you apparently don't want to do. You get to do something you wanted to do anyway and all you've given up is nothing you care to "lose".


The shoe cliche - I have to say it once - how much I hate it: I am as womanly as most women, but I have exactly four pairs of shoes (two pairs less than my husband): the brown ones, the black ones, the good ones and the ones for all kinds of sport. There is no connection whatsoever between the x-chromosome and shoes, believe you me! And by the way: it must have been a man that decreed that you must have different shoes for every single sport! :-)

Jason Slater

This is good fun - I've been racking my brains trying to think of one that hasn't already been done - and I've got one.

In my house, when I say "do you fancy a nice cup of tea" I go into the kitchen and make a cup of tea and bring it back in. When she says "How about a nice cup of tea" then it's a journey to a far away land kitted out with emergency gear and rations. Several hours later she emerges from her adventure and I hear "fancy a nice cup of tea?"

Best Wishes,

PS. Feel free to visit my comic - Monk and his IT Junk at

James Wilcock

Does he have the characters right? Going back to Adams rules of comedy the charcters don't seem to fit, they both look like average people. This may allow people to relate but perhaps one of them could be cute in a way and another slightly evil - do they even have to look like humans after all?

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