Title text: 'But what's the buzz about the film?' 'We're hoping it's distracting.'
This comic depicts an entertainment news television program. Hairy, as the news anchor, notes that "all Hollywood" is in town, meaning there are a lot of members of the film industry. The event is a movie premiere, a common place for reporters to interview celebrities, actors, and other people related to entertainment.
Megan represents the reporter at the premiere reporting for the television program. The red carpet is a tradition whereby a long red carpet is laid out leading to the entrance of a theater as a symbol of elegance. Movie stars are said to "walk the red carpet" when they arrive and do interviews and pose for photos along this carpet, most famously seen at the Oscars.
When asked the ambiguous question "How do things look?", instead of reporting on the premiere and the movie stars arriving, Megan reports on the bleak long-term outlook for the Earth as we know it. She states than in about 800 million years the Sun will become so hot that the Earth's oceans boil away. According to the Wikipedia article this will though first happen in about 1.1 billion years. But the 800 million years may have been the best estimate back in 2012 when this comic was released, see for instance this article from 2013 that states 850 million years. (The loss of oceans will still happen long before the sun turns into a red giant in about 5 billion years).
When Hairy then asks how the stars are reacting (meaning how the movie stars are reacting to this news about the oceans), Megan instead replies that the stars are reacting with hydrogen fusion, the nuclear reaction of actual stars like the Sun, thus again ostensibly mistaking the intent of the question. All astronomical stars eventually die when there is not enough hydrogen (or other heavier atoms) to continue the fusion process that keeps the stars stable.
Hairy then clarifies that he (of course) meant the movie stars, but Megan keeps being bleak in her reporting as she notes that they also won't last forever, and by the way no one else will. She is of course right as eventually everyone dies, just as the stars will eventually die, but of course much sooner for any living human, movie star or not. This reminding people that they will soon die is a common thing for xkcd, apart from the whole segment of comics to make one feel old, there is a specific example in 1393: Timeghost and even more so in 926: Time Vulture.
In the title text Hairy ask about the buzz about the film. The buzz here refers to ongoing discussion of the movie, analogous to a continuous humming sound. Megan exclaims that she hopes this buzz distracts people from the apparently grave news she has already reported.
Also, since "premiere" etymologically means "first", the title might be a pun on the comic number, which only consists of four ones (1111).
The joke of Megan answering a question in an interview in an unexpected manner was used again in 1302: Year in Review.
- [The setting is a standard entertainment newscast. Hairy as the news anchor in the studio sits behind a desk, resting his hands on the desk, starts off the segment with an inset feed to the right where Megan can be seen in front of a crowd behind her. The title of this segment is shown below the feed.]
- Hairy: All Hollywood is in town for tonight's star-studded premiere! We go live to our reporter on the red carpet.
- Hairy: How do things look?
- Title: Red Carpet Report
- [Megan switches to full-screen. Megan is standing in front of a full crowd of Cueball heads who are behind a line held up be sticks, one of which is visible behind her. She holds a large microphone up to her face.]
- Megan: Bleak.
- Megan: In 800 million years the aging, brightening Sun will boil away the oceans, and all this will be blowing sand.
- [Switch back to initial framing with Hairy moving his arms further away from himself and Megan now with the microphone visible.]
- Hairy: Oh. Um. ...Sounds pretty grim. How are the stars reacting?
- Megan: Hydrogen fusion. But it won't last forever.
- Hairy: I mean the movie stars.
- Megan: They won't last forever either. None of us will.
- Title: Red Carpet Report
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