How to Summarize a Complex Topic

Two things:

1. As a wise man has often said, NEVER take investment advice from a cartoonist.

2. I wrote this comic pretty much as a challenge. I wanted to see if I could make this particular material work. You'll be the ultimate judge of if I succeeded or not.

Next comic up is the last of the tonsillectomy strips, so, look forward to that.

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Reader Comments (39)

If you have enough monkeys randomly making trades, a few of them will perform better than market average.

Great one as always.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdroid

Yes, I think it works, although panel 3 guarantees that I'll be in hot water if I post it on my cubicle wall.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Was it Scott Adams who said "Never take investment advice from a cartoonist"? And this one totally did work, by the way. Especially panel 4.

Note from Scott: Indeed it was!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Can't get tired of some good ol' mutual fund humor

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMattia Landoni

Complex ideas explained in 4 panels. With the 4th providing a punchline.
Genius.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOtto66

HAH! Love the last panel. Fantastic as always!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah BB

My wife, a former investment analyst, loooooved your strip today. (And so did I.)

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStarFleetCaptain

Bull if I can decide which panel made me laugh harder—2, 3, or 4. Instead, I'll just say that the whole freakin' thing is comedy gold.

Well played, Scott. Well played, indeed.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Either i'm very boring, or this comic was hilarious. I'm gonna go with both.
It started funny, and then steadily got funnier.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterInvisibleMoon

I'm glad you explained your purpose in writing this strip in the text at the bottom. Personally, as someone who doesn't know anything about mutual funds, the first panel perfectly summarizes my feelings about the entire subject and the comic as well. There is way too much text in it, and I still have no understanding of the key concept. If the purpose was "to summarize a complex topic," it was not achieved. It seems like some people found it funny though. I'd like to qualify this post by saying that I love your work and you have now prompted me to look up what the hell a mutual fund is.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercorkleton

I thought it was hilarious.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIB

Every frame is at least amusing, but the third made me really laugh. Keep 'em coming!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTurgid

Some of the human experts bet against themselves to get federal bailouts and artificially lower stock prices so that they can buy out smaller organizations.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGregory Bogosian

I work at a mutual fund company. Our emphasis is on index funds. This will be going on my cubicle wall... in as large a print as i can get out of it.

Note from Scott: Drop me an e-mail. I'm working on making framed prints available, but at the very least I can send you a higher res file.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

"1. As a wise man has often said, NEVER take investment advice from a cartoonist."

Is this a self-reference?

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSsob

It worked. Worked very well indeed!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAC

Honestly, Panel 2 tells you everything you need to know about mutual funds. And Panel 3 tells you everything you need to know about managers.

Aw, dangit Scott, you made me learn two things today!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave H

Scott -

Not only did you meet the personal challenge - please, please, please, please, please, please do more of these and branch as far as you can man. Your sense of humor is so golden, you could make prostate cancer funny.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Also, as a wise man has less often said, never take comedy advice from an investment analyst.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGuido

Scott, since you basically put out a call for nit-pickers in your postscript, I'll make two points. (With advance apologies for the lengthy post.)

1: As a certified pedant, I must say that I really got hung up on panel 1. I know that "I didn't learn nothing about..." was supposed to tie back to "I know nothing about those," but the double negative made my brain yell BDGAAAAA. (sp?) Putting the second nothing in quotes would have assured everyone that cartoon Scott isn't a grammatical doofus.

2: For the sake of humor, this could easily be overlooked, but since you asked... consider this: the "unthinking market vs human experts" choice is wrong. The "market" is not really unthinking; it is the collective thinking of millions of humans all making their own self-interested decisions on whether to buy this, sell that, or sit in a corner in a fetal ball. From this perspective, the choice is between "unruly mob and human experts." Add in the fact that most unruly mobs (as seen on TV) are led by a few extra-bad eggs who manipulate circumstances in order to aggrandize their own position, and you've pretty much explained how markets work.

I thought about suggesting that you stretch your skills by rewriting the panel, basing off that choice. But when I rewrote Scott's first line in panel two as "So you're either betting on the unruly mob or human experts." I realized that very few would understand the leap from 'market' to 'mob' and discovered that you were right all along. But I spent all this time writing this, and I'm not about to throw it away! I'm betting there are a few readers who will understand my point.


PS: I actually wrote something else that I did throw away, because it referenced an obscure joke. I took it out when I couldn't find Basic Instructions on "How To Explain An Obscure Joke When The Listener Doesn't Get It." (That's an area where I really need help!)

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermstrange

I thought it was good. I liked Panel 4.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I'm laughing, but my brain-thinky thingy is full.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Not only did you humorously sum up a complex financial topic in four panels, you multi-tasked the last two panels to provide two stand-alone, genuine LOLs. Comic genius.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermoojen

I love Scott's body language in Panel 3, shoulders slouched, head slightly tilted, apathetic facial expression, grudgingly listening to his co-worker explain something in which he has no interest whatsoever. I've taken a page outta that book countless times.
Although I try to seem interested so as not to hurt anyones's feelings, in actuality, my inner self is standing there just like Scott, waiting for the words to stop so I can get on with my task at hand, which is usually nothing.
Cheers!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLouie G

Everything I know about investing I learned from today's strip. Thanks. I feel better now.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBoltBait

This comic was great, as are all your others. Also, mstrange is a donkey. That is all.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMister Obvious

This should go in every MBA text book. It is comic unobtanium, instructive and fact based (I think...I know that it has been proven there is no such thing as "hot hands" but there are "cold hands" - and there have been assertions that the market predicts weather better than meteorologists...just not sure of the 80%). And there is nothing mutual about mutual funds. The managers get funds whether you win or lose.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergreymase

One word for you my friend: "You succeeded"

Okay, that was two words. One was free of charge, you choose which.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbyevad

"Non-value-added overhead" is how my manager describes himself.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMikey

I cannot wait to use "Yeah, I didn't learn nothing about x because I find it so fascinating." (or at least that in a word arrangement more like how I might order the words I'd use) in conversation. Brilliant!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTV James

It worked for me, but then I don't find this topic boring or confusing. You're right on.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZak

"Managers don't pay for themselves" - true in every situation!

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStefing

I did an analysis of this some years ago, comparing the performance of various sets of randomly picked stocks against that of managed funds. A typical set of randomnly picked stocks performed as well as the best managed funds, and typical managed funds performed as well as the worst randomly picked stocks.

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNigel

Tell me a way I can successfully use this logic to convince my mother of your point, and you shall win a percentage of my forthcoming fortune.

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTachyon

I can't get tired of your humor..great work.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Love the last panel. Fantastic as always! It's funny. regime anti cholesterol

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

The thing is, you describe what "mutual funds" are, but you don't really lay a foundation. I know it has something to do with betting "against the market," but I don't know what that phrase means or how it works.

On the other hand, although I did not laugh at the comic, I was highly interested in the intriguing fashion with which the material was delivered.
That is to say, I was intrigued to learn about the topic, and was slightly disappointed that to understand it, I would have had to already possess some knowledge of it.

So it worked, in that it was interesting, but failed in that the knowledge I received would only be useful as a boon to further learning of the subject, rather than giving me any sort of working knowledge.

March 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAtari

"Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end."— Immanuel Kant latest news

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSid Carriker

"If you have enough monkeys randomly making trades, a few of them will perform better than market average."

Half of them would perform better than market average (assuming they work for free).

Sensemaker

June 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSensemaker

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