March 20, 2014

SMBC comic

One of Zach's comics, poking fun at academics. Credit: Zach Weinersmith /


Imagine a proton dressed up for a night on the town. An unusual image, but that’s the sort of thing Zach Weinersmith might draw for his online comic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. And his huge online following is proof that millions of people also think science—and nerdiness in general—is really funny.

Zach strives to give his audience something they don’t expect. “The dorkier the comics got, the more the audience grew…it’s become this feedback loop where the comics have become dorkier and dorkier, but the audience always seems to be willing to come along with me.”

So where does he come up with his ideas?  Creating smart comedy requires a lot of reading from a wide variety of sources. Zach admits that he tries to read 3-5 books per week, including hard science textbooks. 

Of course, making a living by writing online comics wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago.  Now, however, there are multiple ways to interact with online audiences.

Like Leonardo da Vinci finding patrons to support his art, Zach is rolling out a subscription service. People send in money each month and get a small award in return, like a webcasted livedraw or early access to his newest comic. Another bonus—it prevents his site from getting cluttered with ads.

Ultimately, though, it’s about the art.  “I really try not to acquiesce to what I think the audience wants…one of the ways you build a rapport with your audience is by giving them something they don’t expect.”

Zach has also branched out with a side project, the “Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypothesis.” This competition features real scientists giving completely fake theories, such as “The crying game:  infant distress vocalization as competitive advantage during violent conflict.” Winners get a little statuette of Charles Darwin looking unimpressed and bragging rights, of course.

Looking for some laughs?

Visit SMBC or click here for video from the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypothesis.

Sci and Tech, Culture, comics, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, cartoons, Zach Weinersmith

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