33: Self-reference

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I think about self-reference a lot. Example: this comment.
Title text: I think about self-reference a lot. Example: this comment.

[edit] Explanation

Self-reference is a situation where something (a comic, a drawing, a musical work, a novel, a mathematical theorem) refers to itself in some manner. This can be a powerful technique in art, music, mathematics and computer science (it is the basis of recursion).

In this comic, Cueball promises not to use self-reference for humor, and then realizes after a beat panel that, since this comic is referring to the series of comics he is part of, he is using self-reference, thus breaking his promise.

Without the last panel, this comic wouldn't be funny, and therefore wouldn't break the promise about using self-reference for humor. But with it, and his realization that he is breaking his promise, it does break that promise.

And the title text is just another humorous self-reference.

Self-references has been used most famously later in 688: Self-Description, but was already used in 6: Irony and also in other comics.

[edit] Transcript

[Cueball standing alone.]
Cueball: I promise to never again squeeze humor out of self-reference.
[Cueball standing alone - beat panel.]
[Cueball standing alone.]
Cueball: God dammit.

[edit] Trivia

  • This was the 35th comic originally posted to LiveJournal.
  • Original title: "Friday's Drawing - Self-reference"
    • Randall had some issues around this time. The Friday comic from the week before (and also this week), came out on a Saturday.
    • And this comic is a Monday comic, released on a Monday morning.
  • There were no original Randall quote for this comic.
  • This comic was posted on xkcd when the web site opened on Sunday the 1st of January 2006.
    • It was posted along with all 41 comics posted before that on LiveJournal as well as a few others.
    • The latter explaining why the numbers of these 41 LiveJournal comics ranges from 1-44.
  • One of the original drawings drawn on checkered paper.
  • The web comic Comic JK made this spoof of the comic:
comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


  • This comic is not exactly clear to me. What is the self-reference, or what is the humour? TheHYPO (talk) 14:29, 21 August 2012 (UTC)
    • I added a bit. Does that help clarify? Of course, one of the hallmarks of self-reference is that clarity tends to be lost. Blaisepascal (talk) 14:44, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

What if I don't find this humorous, then he's not squeezing humor! -- 00:09, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

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