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Eric: Seriously, don't you imagine Jennifer Connelly is sick of talking about that movie? She was sixteen when it came out, and now she's over twice that age!

Girly 347

(From Girly! Click on the thumbnail for full sized Sombraro!)

There is an art form to stupidity.

Seriously. I don't mean writing a stupid webcomic. That doesn't take art. However, David Letterman once said that it was really hard -- really really hard -- to write intelligently about stupid people. It was an art form unto itself. Stupidity can be a medium. He was referring to Beavis and Butthead at the time. He thought that show was one hundred percent brilliant, during an age when most media watchdogs and critics thought it was terrible because it was so stupid.

It wasn't stupid. Beavis and Butthead were stupid, but Mike Judge was not. Whether you love or hate Beavis and Butthead, you have to acknowledge that Judge knows comedy. He knows funny. He knows how to write stupid people.

And so, in a very different way, does Josh Lesnick.

The people who inhabit Girly are generally pretty stupid. Not all of them. Generally not the protagonists. But there's a reason Otra spent so much of her time in the early days firing people into space strapped to rocket ships. People were stupid. And of course, those people were just as happy to be fired into space. When Otra didn't fire them into space, it disturbed them. They knew how this was supposed to go.

Which brings us to today's Girly.

For those who don't know, Otra is being confronted with one of the classic logic puzzles. "One of these guards always lies. The door he stands in front of leads to death. The other one always tells the truth. The door he stands in front of leads to life. You have one question you can ask, and must choose the right or wrong path based on that answer."

The classic answer (well, one of the classic answers -- there are a few) is to ask one of the guards "what would the other guard say if I asked him if your door was the correct one?" You see, if the guard you ask is honest, he would say that the other guard would claim the door led to death, because that would be a lie. If the guard you ask was the liar, he would lie and say the other guard would claim the door led to life. In either case, you can safely assume the opposite is true, and that tells you, logically, which door is the correct one.

Yes, they did this riff in Labyrinth. Why does everyone have to bring up Labyrinth?

Anyway, Lesnick plays the riff... but then turns it on his head. Because at least one of the guards is stupid. He doesn't see anything wrong with wearing a gigantic sombrero before the riddle is posed, so of course there's a glaringly obvious difference between the two.

Stupidity is painted in broad strokes. I admit it, I giggled for quite some time after I read this one, because it's just so dumb. Especially -- especially when the other turtle head has told Tibby ("Tibby, my Tibby, my heart is a mess... I don't have a protective shell over my chest...") not to wear a sombrero for the riddles! Jesus H. Christ on the Half-Shell, how stupid can you get?

The answer is, extremely stupid. But only when a smart person is doing the writing.

Nicely done, Mister Lesnick. Nicely done.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at February 6, 2006 1:04 PM

Comments

Comment from: Pseudowolf posted at February 6, 2006 1:52 PM

But does it get a biscuit? An intelligently stupid biscuit?

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at February 6, 2006 1:55 PM

There's also props for the blocking to be had. In the early panels, the tops of the heads are cut off, which LOOKS like it's just a standard device for indicating the sheer size of the turtle. It's so big, it doesn't even all fit in the frame. But then we see that it was ALSO to hide the sombrero. :)

Comment from: Doublemint posted at February 6, 2006 1:59 PM

Unless both guards are lying, like in that one Samurai Jack episode. Then you're screwed.

Comment from: Matt Blackwell posted at February 6, 2006 2:01 PM

I'd like to thank Eric as "Tippy" has now earwormed itself into my brain, replacing the Burger King jingle about tender crisp bacon-cheddar ranch sandwiches that had been lodged in there. Muuuch better.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at February 6, 2006 2:03 PM

Why does everyone have to bring up Labyrinth?

Ursula Vernon, ladies and gentlemen.

Comment from: thok posted at February 6, 2006 2:07 PM

Actually, the full-fledged version of the question is that you don't know whether the truth teller is guarding the door or not, and only one head answers at a time. As the problem is currently posed, you could always ask the "Are you wearing a sombrero?" question and the two heads would give different answers.

That said, what's biscuit-worthy about this is that Lesnick does a great job of blocking off the sombrero until Otra pops the question. Which, of course, Dave Van Domelen has already mentioned.

Comment from: thok posted at February 6, 2006 2:08 PM

Edit by Way of post-the two heads would give different answers if neither was wearing a sombrero.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at February 6, 2006 2:11 PM

The point being, that if only one answered, but one is noticeably different than the other -- say, by wearing a sombrero -- they would still give an answer that made it painfully obvious whether they were lying or not.

Comment from: Eytan Zweig posted at February 6, 2006 2:53 PM

Well, in the original puzzle (which dates back way beyond Labyrinth), the point is that it's not enough to tell the two apart - you need one of them to tell you which is the safe path. In Lesnick's version of the puzzle, you are told in advance that telling them apart will answer that question, so it makes it a lot easier. Even without the sombrero, all you need to do is ask "are you to the left of your companion?"

That said, who gives a damn? This is a joke. It's certainly very funny when you read it. The fact that it doesn't actually stand up to deeper scrutiny doesn't make it any less so.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at February 6, 2006 2:55 PM

Well, in the original puzzle (which dates back way beyond Labyrinth), the point is that it's not enough to tell the two apart - you need one of them to tell you which is the safe path

Thus my answer, above. It's specific to "is this door the safe path." By referencing the other guard in your question, you automatically make it so the answer is the opposite of the truth.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at February 6, 2006 3:06 PM

Yes, they did this riff in Labyrinth. Why does everyone have to bring up Labyrinth?

I remember it from the Doctor Who serial Pyramids of Mars.

Yes, it's hard but rewarding to write stupidity well. It's also just as hard and rewarding to write unusual intelligence well, which is why we love Narbonic and Shlock Mercenary. Gawaine and Gaheris - and to a limited extent Arthur - are re-teaching me the former, but AKOTAS hasn't got a case of the latter yet.

Comment from: Darrin_Bright posted at February 6, 2006 3:07 PM

Same kind of puzzle shows up in a Dr. Who episode, although I can't recall if I saw that before Labyrinth or not. "Pyramids of Mars" has a 1976 air date, I think, so that's well before Labyrinth in 1986, according to IMDB.

When I did some research on this puzzle, all I could find at the time was a similar logic puzzle involving three statues, dedicated to the God of Truth, God of Lies, and God of Diplomacy.

I'm not sure how far back the "honest guard/lying guard" puzzle goes back... probably before folks started writing things down.

Comment from: Tangent posted at February 6, 2006 3:22 PM

"She said down!" :D

Damn that was a frakking awesome movie. I've heard rumors of a sequel that would be using Jennifer again as a mother... trying to save her OWN child (or children?) from the Goblin King.

Nice to see you're back in form, Eric. :)

Rob H., Tangents

Comment from: Eytan Zweig posted at February 6, 2006 3:29 PM

Eric - the point I was trying to make is that this is not the riddle that the classic answer to whom is to ask one of them "what would the other guard say if I asked him if your door was the correct one?" - that riddle requires you to find the path, and in a way in which it won't matter if you found the truth teller or not. Here, you must find the truth teller. That's not even a real riddle - it's always possible to ask a question that tells you that ("is the sun shining?", "am I a dolphin", etc.) Tibby may be stupid, but his wearing the sombrero made absolutely NO difference as to Otra's ability to answer the puzzle.

What's funny about the strip isn't that Tibby sabotagued the riddle, because he didn't. What's funny is that the strip is well-written enough that you don't think about the fact that he didn't, and buy into the fact that wearing the sombrero mattered. That, and the sombrero is silly.

Comment from: Eytan Zweig posted at February 6, 2006 3:32 PM

Eric - the point I was trying to make is that this is not the riddle that the classic answer to whom is to ask one of them "what would the other guard say if I asked him if your door was the correct one?" - that riddle requires you to find the path, and in a way in which it won't matter if you found the truth teller or not. Here, you must find the truth teller. That's not even a real riddle - it's always possible to ask a question that tells you that ("is the sun shining?", "am I a dolphin", etc.) Tibby may be stupid, but his wearing the sombrero made absolutely NO difference as to Otra's ability to answer the puzzle.

What's funny about the strip isn't that Tibby sabotagued the riddle, because he didn't. What's funny is that the strip is well-written enough that you don't think about the fact that he didn't, and buy into the fact that wearing the sombrero mattered. That, and the sombrero is silly.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at February 6, 2006 3:34 PM

You know, if he was cleverly stupid, he would have done something like name the sombrero Jacob. That way, he could throw everyone off, because he's not wearing a sombrero. He's wearing Jacob.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at February 6, 2006 3:34 PM

What's funny about the strip isn't that Tibby sabotagued the riddle, because he didn't. What's funny is that the strip is well-written enough that you don't think about the fact that he didn't, and buy into the fact that wearing the sombrero mattered. That, and the sombrero is silly.

In this, I concur.

Put another way... Tibby was stupid, and his stupidity was funny. Because Lesnick's good at this stuff. ;)

Comment from: Trevor Barrie posted at February 6, 2006 3:43 PM

The classic puzzle is overly cluttered with two guards. You could have only one guard who either always lied or always told the truth (but of course you don't know which) and the puzzle is still solvable.

Comment from: DarkStar posted at February 6, 2006 3:47 PM

Wednesday, you are talking in non-sequiturs again. I can't for the life of me figure out what Ursula Vernon has to do with Labyrinth.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at February 6, 2006 3:54 PM

Wouldn't you assume that my statement echoes something that Ursula has said? From context, anyhow? :)

Comment from: Jin Wicked posted at February 6, 2006 4:11 PM

Please buy the Girly T-shirts.

Especially the marshmallow kitty one.

Comment from: Nich posted at February 6, 2006 4:15 PM

Something I just realized reading this:

In the first panel, the left head (truth) says two paths, which is true. But then the right head, revealed to be the liar, says "One leads to glory ... the other to PERIL."

Which has to be false. So Otra herself is being played for a fool here, because there's not any glory or peril to be had on either road, which makes it not so relevant which path she chooses. Now that's funny.

Comment from: quiller posted at February 6, 2006 4:20 PM

Hey Eric!

Why is this posted in roleplaying games?

Comment from: Ford Dent posted at February 6, 2006 4:25 PM

I read strips like today's, and then I think to myself, "You see? This is why you keep reading Girly. It's because of stuff like this."

Comment from: Archon Divinus posted at February 6, 2006 4:54 PM

But then the right head, revealed to be the liar, says "One leads to glory ... the other to PERIL."

Which has to be false. So Otra herself is being played for a fool here

Read the second panel. They start off bothing telling the truth, but then one starts lying.

Comment from: Nich posted at February 6, 2006 5:02 PM

Oh, duh.

SEE FOLKS STUPIDITY IS FUNNY

Comment from: Doublemint posted at February 6, 2006 5:17 PM

Ahhh... The Pyramids of Mars. I forgot about that one.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at February 6, 2006 6:11 PM

Why is this posted in roleplaying games?

I missed unchecking it when I checked off "webcomics" under categories. It should be fixed now.

Comment from: thok posted at February 6, 2006 6:14 PM

Which has to be false. So Otra herself is being played for a fool here, because there's not any glory or peril to be had on either road, which makes it not so relevant which path she chooses. Now that's funny.

Actually, given that this scenario is clearly supposed to be somewhat suggestive of the original rainbow and teddy bears or hell and demons choice that led to Winter getting the Teddy Bear curse in the first place, I find this an interesting observation.

Comment from: larksilver posted at February 6, 2006 8:10 PM

Poor Ursula Vernon always gets e-mails and comments that her work "reminds people of Labyrinth." Which wouldn't be so bad, except that it's so dang original on its own that comparing it to a movie, even a good one, so many years after its release, has got to be ever so frustrating for the artist.

I'm totally jazzin' on her current mushroom people. They're freakin' adorable.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at February 6, 2006 8:29 PM

Archon: Yep. They say they start off telling the truth, but once it's time for The Question, one will only tell the truth and one will only lie. It's all there.

Comment from: baf posted at February 6, 2006 8:51 PM

Thing is, understanding that the sombrero is superfluous, and that the same question would have worked regardless, makes it even funnier. Because that way, they're [i]both[/i] stupid.

Comment from: Tyck posted at February 6, 2006 9:41 PM

Y'all's is making me feel dumb. Every time I encounter the lying guards riddle, my brain freezes up. I don't know why; it makes perfect sense.

Look at the pretty pictures! Giant two-headed turtle..in a sombrero. That's worth the price of admission. If there were a price. 'course, I like turtles and am very easily amused; I'd have laughed at this without the sombrero.

Comment from: miyaa posted at February 6, 2006 10:41 PM

Somberos are always funny! Even native Mexicans will tell you the Somberos are funny!

Besides, the joke wouldn't go over so well if one of them was wearing a skull cap.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at February 6, 2006 11:32 PM

I laughed out loud at this one, and I very rarely laugh out loud. I had to explain it to my dad, and he laughed, too, though he doesn't read webcomics. (Not even mine)

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at February 6, 2006 11:42 PM

Everyone should read girly as many times as possible as man I love that comic.

And yeah, this is a particularly funny one!

Comment from: Archon Divinus posted at February 7, 2006 12:17 AM

I've always hated the traditional answer to this riddle, just because it always confuses me. I think the best way to deal with it would be to punch one in the face, then ask if I just punched him in the face.

That'll teach him to be a cliche.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at February 7, 2006 12:54 AM

She could have also asked "Are you a big freakin' turtle with two heads", which she probably would have if one wasn't wearing the sombrero. Because Otra is NOT stupid at all.

And everyone brings up Labyrinth because for a lot of people, that's the first time they ever heard that riddle. I'm pretty sure it was the first time that I heard it anyway.

Comment from: Godspiel posted at February 7, 2006 1:53 AM

In the first panel, the left head (truth) says two paths, which is true. But then the right head, revealed to be the liar, says "One leads to glory ... the other to PERIL."

Which has to be false. So Otra herself is being played for a fool here, because there's not any glory or peril to be had on either road, which makes it not so relevant which path she chooses. Now that's funny.

There's an implied conjunction in "One leads to glory ... the other to PERIL." If the (whole) statement is false, that only means of the parts that they can't both be true. Both could lead to Glory, both could lead to Peril, both could lead to something other than Glory or Peril.

Of course, the implication of conjunction could itself be a lie. Quick, someone consult Hofstadter....

Comment from: Godspiel posted at February 7, 2006 1:58 AM

...

Speaking of stupidity, please ignore what I just posted. Pretend you didn't read it.

Do I look fat in these pants?

Comment from: DarkStar posted at February 7, 2006 10:48 AM

Now that I think about it, there have been some good uses of this bit in the past. Sure, Labyrinth was the first, but the best use (and subsequent destruction) of it that I can think of was in the 10th Kingdom (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0207275/). The 10th Kingdom is a 6 1/2 hour, made for TV movie about a father and daughter from New York who get stuck in a land of fairy tales.

Anyway, they are sneaking into the castle near the end. It's getting close to climactic and what to they happen across? Two doors. And a toad. And the toad tells them, in his toady voice, "One door leads to the castle and one door leads to certain death. You may ask me one question... But I always lie."

So the characters start thinking about the question they have to ask, but before they get a chance John Larroquette (playing the father), who has had about enough of this fairytale crap, freaks out and throws the toad through one of the doors. Which promptly expoldes. So they take the other door. Comedy gold.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at February 7, 2006 8:48 PM

I'm the only who first saw this sort of puzzle on the back page of Discover Magazine? Raymond Smullyan came up with about two dozen variations on the theme. Crazy.

Also, Tibby would not lie. Tibby is friend to all children.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at February 7, 2006 11:49 PM

There is a new Gamera movie coming soon. The child who found Tibby is all grown up, and his son gets involved in the new Gamera's life....

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