back to article Randall Munroe: The root nerd talks to The Register

There are a million easy ways to get famous on the internet - or perhaps they're all one way but it's been done a million times. Randall Munroe If you're a budding celeb in search of glory, all you need to do is shoot a sex tape, like Paris Hilton - or maybe do a Miley Cyrus and unleash a vast torrent of semi-clad selfies. …

  1. getHandle

    Good interview

    Love the comics. Now leave him alone!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Good interview

      Exactly. Someone who is famous for what they do, rather than who they are, is to be cherished and respected.

      I get all I want from Randall via his comics and now his book, long may it continue. If I met him in the street and recognised him I wouldn't say hello, it would just be a nice thing to mention when I got home.

      Not like when I saw Vic Reeves on the tube one evening. I made a deliberate effort to completely ignore him no matter what he did to try and attract some attention and recognition (as opposed to leaving him alone out of respect). That must have hurt :)

      1. deadlockvictim

        Re: Good interview

        On the contrary, if I were to meet him (and recognise him), I would stop him, shake his hand and thank him very much for all that he has produced and to please keep on doing what he does so well. I would tell him that I am giving his books and posters to friends and family as presents.

        Finally, I would tell him that he is one of the poets of our generation and that he should be proud of it.

        Gushy sentimental stuff, I know, but if you can't gush as a fan, then who can you gush to?

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Good interview

          "On the contrary, if I were to meet him (and recognise him), I would stop him, shake his hand and thank him very much for all that he has produced and to please keep on doing what he does so well."

          Very much my reaction when I got to meet they fellow behind Ninite.

          I don't know as I'll ever get the honour to repeat that experience (meeting one of me heroes), but should I ever meet Mr. Munroe, I will try to be less of a gibbering idiot than I was with Mr. Kuzins.

          As with Mr. Kuzins, I expect that meeting Mr. Munroe would be an experience wherein the ancient axiom "never meet your heroes, you discover they have feet of clay" would not apply. I expect, from all that I have read, that Mr. Munroe would be humble and awkward, rapaciously curious and stunningly intelligent as he is reputed to be.

          And that, if nothing else, he's accept my heartfelt gratitude. Not for the wit, or the feeling of belonging, or the unity across the globe with other nerds his works have provided. Not for the humour and wit, intelligence, or even for taking the time to let me thank him.

          I expect he'd understand when I said that it is knowing that someone else in this world deals best with confusion, grief, fear, loneliness, anger and even despair through art, thought and seeking to help others. Knowing that Mr. Munroe - how may well be one of the brightest minds of our generation - has the same reaction as I do when confronted with these emotions makes me feel less alone.

          He's a private guy. I respect that. He has, however, shared with us glimpses into the difficulties with which he struggles. That he can continue to be witty, humorous, helpful and kind through all of that is of itself amazing.

          That he occasionally lets us see the humanity of the artist makes me feel less alone.

          My apologies for an inability to express myself appropriately. Better to be mushy here where he's unlikely to read it than to gibber at the man in person.

          1. Marvin the Martian

            Re: Good interview -- but don't ask about the home situation

            Read the comic and he's told you as much as he wants to tell you.

            Particularly 'lanes',

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Whatever else you do...

    Please don't distract him.

    It's bad enough already when Wednesday comes around and he's been too busy to post on time.

  3. Stuart Moore

    Every so often I think xkcd is going downhill... and then he comes out with something genius, most recently the Rosetta comic.

    I do sometimes wonder if he is just trolling though

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "period table"

    Is that a table of punctuation? Or a table from a specific era?

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Re: "period table"

      Or a table about the menstrual cycle?

    2. Notas Badoff

      Re: "period table"

      I think that was an intentional stupid typo joke. Gotta be, right? Right?

      ElReg! You need to proof-read your articles, and not just periodically!

    3. Any mouse Cow turd

      Re: "period table"

      Maybe that's how they say it the states, after all they miss letters off the end when saying maths.

      1. Michael Hawkes

        Re: "period table"

        "...after all they miss letters off the end when saying maths."

        Brevity, wit, etc.

        1. Scott 53

          ...or maybe it won't

          "...after all they miss letters off the end when saying maths."

          No, they are missing letters from the middle of the word when they say maths.

          1. Basil Fernie

            Re: ...or maybe it won't

            Ah, that must be why they say "math" then

  5. ZSn


    The reply about his personal life is not surprising - as has been given away in his comics his girlfriend (now wife it seems) has had quite serious cancer. Not something I guess he would want to discuss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ring

      Also, for someone who is quite private, he chose to reveal it but did it in a very dignified way. Randall Munroe isn't just the nerd's nerd; he is a gentleman, and among so much tat on the web, a shining example.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Ring

        The man is literally - not figuratively - the prototypical gentleman and scholar of our era.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ring

          But is he an acrobat?

      2. The BigYin

        Re: Ring

        El Reg: Tell me about your private life

        Randall Munroe: [Proffers ring-finger, keeps schtum]

        El Reg: sudo Tell me about your private life

        Randall Munroe: Not in sudoers, this has been reported.

  6. Cliff


    He needs to sell out to the Cheezburger Network for monetization and stuff.

    OK, well clearly he shouldn't - that would be hideous, but I do wonder how occasional T-Shirts, posters and maybe now book advances (still very low even for bestsellers) make living wage money. The fact that the strips are not surrounded with ads, deep linking is encouraged, etc., makes you wonder why other sites (*cough* reg *cough*) surround themselves with flash ads and stuff.

    1. 142

      Re: Monetization!

      Well there's only one Randall to pay, but scores of Reg staff...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Monetization!

      With mere silver and gold a man will not be satisfied?

      I guess Randall is satisfied.

    3. The BigYin

      Re: Monetization!

      Maybe he makes enough to be happy? Work-life balance and all that.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Monetization!

        Since he said he left Nasa when his hobbies were bringing in more money, and that was several years ago when he was far less well known, I think we can assume he does OK.

  7. Mage Silver badge


    Great interview.

  8. picturethis

    Someone lost at least 1 geek point

    sudo has been around a lot longer than linux has been around - 1980 vs. 1991:

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Someone lost at least 1 geek point

      Oh yeah, so I guess he has one less than several million now? Wow.

  9. I am David Jones Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Love the guy's work. Not sure I could pick a favourite comic but the 1337 series (starts with always makes me chuckle. And little Bobby Tables, of course.

  10. Florida1920

    He's the anti-Kardashian

    See above.

  11. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Seuss reference?

    Is that a quick trick duck stack in the photo?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seuss reference?

      Not a Seuss reference. It easier to get your ducks in a row if you use a LIFO stack.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Tips hat.

  13. skeptical i

    Hey, Creator? More humans like Randall, please.

    Not too keen on the Karcrashians, but I guess we need some shiny things for the suggestible to follow, as you in your wisdom have no doubt sussed out.

  14. Tom 7

    That bastard gave me OCD

    I think I spent half my life clicking <PREV on his bloody web site!

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Re: That bastard gave me OCD

      Whenever I'm bored, I start clicking random. Always cheers me up.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: That bastard gave me OCD

      Top Tip:

      Click |< then >NEXT, repeat the second instruction for several hours....

      Fantastic stuff all of it, What If? promotes many stimulating conversations at work but we always need to read on to learn the answer.

      Keep up the good work Mr Munroe.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: That bastard gave me OCD

        Especially if you download the app for your Samsung Smart TV.

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Another reader here

    What I especially like is the sheer variety of his off-the-wall-ness

  16. Ashton Black

    Yep, another!

    Love his work! Just bought the audio book of What If? Narrated by Wil Wheaton, of all people.

  17. david 12 Silver badge

    obligitory xkcd reference ...

    I know there must be one, but I'm not scholar enough to find it.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: obligitory xkcd reference ...*

  18. Rilian

    Fun speaker, too

    I recently took the family to his lecture at the Royal Institution in London; a sellout event of course, and great fun although the line to get the book signed afterwards was ridiculously long. When we had to leave early to get our train the RI offered to send us a signed copy in the post, which we received a couple of days later - generous of the RI but I don't like to think how long it took Randall to sign everyone's copies.

    1. My Alter Ego

      Re: Fun speaker, too

      I went to his lecture at the Union Chapel, it was funny and insightful. The queue was insanely long too. People had brought posters, books, etc to get signed. I wish I'd brought my mug (with the chart of programming skill against blood alcohol content) and an indelible marker.

      Not only did he sign everything, he also drew a stick figure on every one - I got cueball (I'm bald), my mate got black hat (he was wearing a beanie). I doubt it was a coincidence and it was an excellent touch.

  19. packrat


    way to tip-toe around the CC licensing... and what he does about scrappers making a living leeching off him...

    or hitting Non-pc topics ( obama, (revenge is mine) Harper, muslims, quebec

    gmos, vaccines, copyright trade treaties..


    on the other hand... live casting the comet landing deserves a medal.


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Amazing body of work, remarkable bloke...

    ...but am I the only one to spot the (surely deliberate) error on page 4 (et seq.) of "What If?" ....?

    The implications of the rotation ceasing and the resultant surge occur on the wrong coastline, methinks.

    Be glad if other navigators on El Reg would check that out for posterity.

    Nice if we were to win a prize....

    I call dibs on a signed copy!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Amazing body of work, remarkable bloke...

      He says every East facing shore will face a huge storm surge, but the preceding sentence mentions the waves traveling East to West.

      1. unitron

        Re: Amazing body of work, remarkable bloke...

        "He says every East facing shore will face a huge storm surge, but the preceding sentence mentions the waves traveling East to West."

        Imagine a wave leaving England and headed for North America. It will be travelling from East to West, and when it gets here, it will hit the Atlantic coast, which "faces" East, if you define coasts as facing the water they abut.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: Amazing body of work, remarkable bloke...

          Doh! I'm a muppet. The OP is in all cases then!

        2. Basil Fernie
          IT Angle

          Re: Amazing body of work, remarkable bloke...

          Earth rotates from West towards East, which is why the Sun rises in the East. Thus on average water in the oceans (ignoring waves, currents) is moving from West to East at the same sort of speed as solid ground at the same radius from the earth's axis of rotation..

          Not having seen the book out here in the colonies, and not being much enlightened by previous commenters, I have to take a guess here that the topic under discussion was "What would happen if the solid bits of the earth (continents, islands etc) stopped rotating about the earth's axis suddenly?" or similar. Clearly the liquid bits would try to continue in the West>East direction that they had inherited by friction and containment from the solid bits (an idea I picked up from a guy named Newton) resulting in a rush away from the East-facing coastlines towards the West-facing ditto, eg from North America to UK and Europe. Storm-surges anyone? Or tsunamis beyond imagining, dumping a large percentage of the oceans' contents onto the previously dryish conintental lands. It would take quite a while for gravity to refill the oceanic basins by draining the floodwaters back to where they belonged, and there would surely be quite a lot of back-and-forth sloshing, but nothing comparable (if any observers were left to compare such things, were the observers regarded in the question as immoveable or moveable matter?) to the primary devastation.

          Good Read Suggestion: Flood by Stephen Baxter, 2008, from Gollancz

  21. Crisp

    Randall Munroe in El Reg?

    We're not worthy...

    We're not worthy...

    We're not worthy...

  22. Indolent Wretch

    Always loved his work. The 4 panel explanation of SQL injection attacks being a personal favourite (Little Bobby Tables). Then he included into one of his cartoons a game a friend and I started at university. I feel I must get serious nerd points for that.

    1. O RLY

      He's had several games in his cartoons. Which was yours? Just curious :)

  23. IGnatius T Foobar

    Randall is not the anti-Kardashian; he's the anti-Zuckerburg

    Randall Munroe is not the anti-Kardashian. He is the anti-Zuckerburg. xkcd is exemplary of what can be done on the Internet: entertain, communitize, inspire, all without any flash (or Flash), without blinking ads, without messing with people's heads, without creating networks of "friends" that hate each other.

    The Internet (interblag, tubes, etc) needs more XKCD and less Faecesbook.

    1. Michael Hawkes

      Re: Randall is not the anti-Kardashian; he's the anti-Zuckerburg

      I wouldn't say he doesn't mess with people's heads, after all...

      We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus. This is not the algorithm. This is close.

      ... appears on every page.

  24. IsJustabloke

    I have only this to add...



  25. imanidiot Silver badge

    My favourite

    The fourier transform cat.

  26. David Roberts

    A whole new generation??

    Since when did it become "generational" to enjoy XKCD?

    I think XKCD is great but I thought the interview was a bit lame.

    I got the impression that given Randall didn't seem to want to talk about personal stuff and everyone reading here probably already knows about XKCD then there wasn't a lot to report back.

    Apart from "Hey - I met Randall Munroe!! How cool is that?"

    However really no need to go down the "Whole new generation" route as if only people the same age or younger can relate to XKCD.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A whole new generation??

      I relate to xkcd and age > 26. Just saying...

  27. Rick Giles

    I like Randall's work

    just as much as the next geek, but c'mon, 'the root nerd'?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: I like Randall's work

      I nominate Randall over the likes of Bill Gates any day

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if you want to watch?

    Check out the TED Talk he gave.

  29. Mike 16

    One for every purpose

    Once upon a time, I whipped up a little editor plugin to invoke the xkcd search with a selected string and insert the url of the appropriate comic. Back when mail user agents allowed one to specify an editor for composing messages, and email services were able to be used by general purpose mail user agents, rather than having an app for each service, if not each address.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon