Randall Munroe

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Randall Munroe

Randall speaking at re:publica in 2016
First appearance 120: Dating Service
Known appearances 30
I'm just this guy, you know? I'm a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Before starting xkcd, I worked on robots at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. As of June 2007 I live in Massachusetts. In my spare time I climb things, open strange doors, and go to goth clubs dressed as a frat guy so I can stand around and look terribly uncomfortable. At frat parties I do the same thing, but the other way around.
—Randall Munroe, about xkcd

Randall Munroe is the creator, writer, and artist of xkcd. He has a degree in physics from the Christopher Newport University and, prior to his career as a professional webcomic artist, was a roboticist independently contracted with NASA. Since his contract was not renewed in 2006 as they ran out of money to rehire him, he has supported himself primarily through xkcd, selling books and merchandise among other income streams. In his what if? blog, he occasionally posts "scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions". He also has a personal blog, which he calls Blag.

The content of xkcd tends to stem from Randall's thoughts, experiences, and his physics background. He sometimes writes comics in the first-person and even uses Cueball to represent himself (such as in 541: TED Talk). That said it is likely that many of these strips are not factually based on Randall's real life; for example, the My Hobby series appears to be written about Randall's own hobbies, although it is likely that few if any are things Randall has ever done himself. Based on his what if? blog, he wrote two books called What If? and What If? 2. He also published Thing Explainer, where he explains complex topics using only the 1,000 most common words, and How To, where he gives "absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems". His first book, xkcd: volume 0, is a collection of his favourite comics published in 2009.

In June 2011, Randall announced that his then-fiancée had been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. They married in September of that year. As with other events of his real life, the cancer diagnosis was the subject of many future xkcd comics.


Date Event
October 17, 1984 Is born.
September 30, 2005 Launches xkcd.com[1].
2006 Graduated from Christopher Newport University with degree in Physics[2].
October 2006 NASA stops renewing his contract. Started working on xkcd full time[3].
May 2008 Moves to Somerville, Massachusetts[4].
[?] 2008 Gets nominated for "Outstanding Use of the Medium", "Outstanding Short Form Comic", and "Outstanding Comedic Comic", and wins "Outstanding Single Panel Comic" in the 2008 Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards[5].
September 2009 Releases xkcd: volume 0[6].
June 2011 Announces his fiancée was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer[7].
August 2011 Gets nominated for "Best Fan Artist" in the 2011 Hugo Awards[8].
September 2011 Marries his fiancée[9].
August 2012 Gets nominated for "Best Fan Artist" in the 2012 Hugo Awards[10].
September 2013 An asteroid was named after him[11].
August 2014 Wins the 2014 Hugo Award for "Best Graphic Story" thanks to 1190: Time[12].
September 2014 Releases What If?.
November 2015 Releases Thing Explainer.
September 2019 Releases How To.
September 2022 Releases What If? 2.

Speeches and interviews[edit]

Absence from Explainxkcd[edit]

xkcd has inspired a wiki of its own, Explain xkcd, where fans dissect every comic and share their theories, including about Munroe himself. On the talk page for the "Randall Munroe" entry, one user speculated that Munroe pranked Wikipedia editors into putting the fact that he was raised as a Quaker in his bio to illustrate the fake-news cycle of "citogenesis", a concept perhaps explained best by Munroe himself. "No, I was really raised Quaker", he said bemusedly, when I asked him about the speculation. (He hasn’t spent much time on Explain xkcd, believing instead in "the death of the author".)

See also[edit]

  • The About page on xkcd.
  • The Randall Munroe article on Wikipedia.
  • The comics made for [[:Category:A Smarter Planet A Smarter Planet], an IBM corporate blog
  • The science columns for Good Question