Monday, April 11, 2011

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) Matthew Inman

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) [Paperback]

 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (and other useful guides) is the first book from The Oatmeal, an eclectic web comic. After a self-titled release, which was more of a magazine publication, the March 2011 edition is a professionally published soft cover book with even more comics and a pull out poster. This book contains all of the web comics published in the first year of The Oatmeal, and over 25 never before seen comics.

For anyone who hasn’t read The Oatmeal before, it’s an excellent web comic covering subjects like web design, copy writing, and corporate recruiting, but also obscure and hilarious topics like “How to Tell if Your Velociraptor is Having Pre-Marital Sex.” Saying that it’s difficult to describe The Oatmeal is an understatement. There is a simplistic and unique art style combined with witty and intelligent writing, but that isn’t very uncommon as most professional comics are well-drawn with good writing.

What really sets The Oatmeal apart is that these comics have a knack of pointing out those little nuances that everyone can relate to, and even when covering a niche subject, it’s presented in a way that is incredibly entertaining for people who have experienced it firsthand, but it’s still pretty funny for anyone unfamiliar within that niche.

There are a lot of list comics, and they have a tendency to break things down pretty well. For example, take computer ownership. “The Three Phases of Owning a Computer” are: The Honeymoon, where “your new computer is capable of anything.” From there it progresses to The Comfortable Phase where “you and your computer are bffs 4 life. You know all of it’s secrets, and it knows all of yours (including your dirty porn habit).” Finally Phase 3: Behold the Dinosaur, “booting up gives you an idea of how long an ice age can last.” That’s more or less the experience, and The Oatmeal is great at pointing out those little things.

Details like your passive aggressive Facebook friend who posts “well rehearsed retorts without mentioning anyone by name” or what it’s like to hug someone with an awkwardly mismatched height, or even the minor differences between a motorist getting cut off who ragingly curses the person that did it versus a pedestrian being cut off and politely apologizing for stepping in the other person’s way and the polite and forgiving response given to the accident. They are little moments that we have all experienced at some point, but never since George Carlin has someone been able to capture and articulate those everyday moments so well.

In his comics that discuss niche topics, they really resonate with people who are familiar with the niche. Copy writers love comics like “Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling” and “How to Use an Apostrophe” which may not sound like funny subject matter, but The Oatmeal pulls them off with spectacular results. Similarly “How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell” provides insight into the web agency world and showcases some very familiar (and annoying) aspects of agency/client relationships. “The 10 Types of Crappy Interviewees” is my corporate recruiter friend’s favorite comic because, like the other comics, the subjects are pretty funny to begin with but when you’ve experienced them in real life they’re really hilarious.

There are also informational comics that just present information about common topics like beer and coffee to more obscure topics like tapeworms and the male angler fish. Some comics are just ideas, like “How to Track, Hunt, and Kill a Unicorn,” that don’t really have anything to do with any industry, but they’re just funny.

All in all this is a great collection, and it’s a great value. The book itself is $14.99 and it comes with the “Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell” pull-out poster which as of this writing is $11.95 from The Oatmeal’s online store, so if you were considering buying the poster, it’s well worth the three dollars to just buy the book unless you’re OCD about folds in the poster or something.

The only criticism I have isn’t for the content as much as the format. Whenever a compilation of web comics is put together for a book, it raises the question “why should I buy this if I can read all of the comics online for free?” The Oatmeal handles it by adding over 20 comics that can’t be found on the site and the free poster which makes it a great value. At the same time, the people who are most likely to buy it are fans of the website which means that they’ve already seen about 70 percent of the book, and after reading the new comics there’s nothing more to check out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great collection, but it would be even better if the comics were supplemented with excerpts from The Oatmeal blog. In their published books, web comic Penny Arcade provides commentary on where the ideas and inspiration from each comic came from, which provides a lot more to read, and I would love to know the origin of things like the Bear-O-Dactyl and “7 Reasons to Keep Your Tyrannosaur off Crack Cocaine.” Maybe if this book does well, a collection of the second year’s worth of The Oatmeal‘s comics will be released with commentary or blog posts. It all depends on what’s next to come out of author Matt Inman’s mind.

Matt is a pretty humble and down to Earth guy. I met him briefly on his tour promoting the book. For someone that has a book that’s in the top 5 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and a blog that Time magazine recognized as one of the best in 2010, he doesn’t show an ounce of ego. At the end of the signing he looked pretty tired, but still took the time to sit down and take an interview with someone about marketing and how he promotes The Oatmeal. On his website and in person he is very grateful to fans, and deserves every bit of the success that he’s earned.

If you like the comics on there’s no reason not to pick this book up. You’ll chuckle at most of the comics, but then you’ll find that one special comic that really resonates with you and end up laughing hysterically, and it will earn a place in your heart.

More details on Amazon 

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