August 7, 2008

Interview with Scott Adams

Like many other slaves of Corporate America, I have long held Dilbert as one of my favorite cartoon strips, along with B.C., Wizard of Id, Ziggy, and a few others. Over the years, I have however not read too many interviews of Scott Adams. So, this one at the Freakanomics blog made for interesting reading.

I knew he worked in corporate America for many years. However, this answer to a typical question about the inspiration for Dilbert had an interesting tidbit:

Q: How is it that Dilbert ended up a software engineer? What in your background has given you the insight to understand code monkeys (such as myself) and the endless battles against the legions of the pointy-haired?

A: I worked around engineers for most of my 16 years of corporate life. Dilbert is actually designed after one person in particular. Interestingly, that person is not aware that he is the model for Dilbert. I didn’t know him well and never mentioned it to him.

I am not sure what is more intriguing - that it is based on one person or that the person is not aware of being the model for Dilbert. I think its the latter.

For the most part, the questions are answered in a pretty straight-forward honest way. Then suddenly, the famed Dilbertian humor peeks in. Nice!
Q: How come the blogs in my Google Reader intertwine so much? I subscribed to The Dilbert Blog following a recommendation from Tom Kyte, and I know about Freakonomics from a neighbor. Suddenly, these blogs are not only heavily quoting each other, but Scott Adams gets to guest blog on Freakonomics, and Kyte does the same over at Worse Than Failure.

A: It means your alleged life is nothing but a program running in a computer somewhere, and the author reused code.
Also, this:

Q: Having written so many comics throughout the years, how often do you find yourself writing the same jokes or lines? Do you ever write a comic thinking it’s great, only to realize you’ve done it before?

A: That happens more often than I’d like. For the first ten years of the strip, I probably remembered every comic I made. Now I don’t. Since my brain is wired a certain way, I have a tendency to attack a joke the same way, so I end up reproducing something I’ve already done.

Note that the above interview is an old one - from October 2007. This week, Scot Adams blogged that an alert reader busted him for" creating essentially the same comic twice. In his defense:

After drawing about 7,000 Dilbert comics, you might wonder how many times this has happened before. My best guess is that is has happened at least 70 times, some instances more egregious than others. That's because there are only about 100 different jokes in the universe. All jokes are rehashes of something that came before. The best you can do is disguise them.

And he disguises them very well. Despite having 'retired' from the routine of keeping a regular 8-to-5 job in corporate America, he has been very good at keeping up with changes in the cultures of corporations, new fads, and new modes of interaction in our mundane frustrating work lives. More power to him! I think that he gets a bit too pedantic and full of himself in some of his blog posts but his Dilbert cartoons are one of the few things that make me genuinely laugh.

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