Dilbert Creator Scott Adams Presents His 10 Favorite Strips

Dilbert Creator Scott Adams Presents His 10 Favorite Strips

JENNA GOUDREAU OCT. 9, 2013, 6:12 PM 14,194 12

Dilbert, the well-known comic strip by cartoonist Scott Adams about the office everyman and his crew of incompetent colleagues, was the first syndicated comic that focused primarily on the workplace when it launched in 1989. Five years later, it had become so successful that Adams quit his corporate career to work on it full-time.  It wasn’t a straight line to success. Early versions of the comic were rejected by several publications, including The New Yorker and Playboy. It wasn’t until an editor at United Media saw it and recognized her own husband in the character that it finally got its start, says Adams in his upcoming book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.” Ever since, the comic has explored topics like the inefficiency of meetings, the uselessness of management, and the absurdity of office politics. Exclusively for Business Insider, Adams looked through the archives and shared his 10 favorite Dilbert comics. Below, he explains why he chose each and counts them down to his absolute favorite of all-time.

10) Oct. 10, 2009: “Dream job”

dream job

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“This comic causes the reader to imagine a funny future in which Wally will only pretend to do the assignment. Humor sometimes works best when one suggests what is coming without showing it. People laugh harder when they need to use their imaginations to complete the joke. “I also like comics in which characters are unusually happy about something trivial, evil, or selfish. That juxtaposition is always funny to me. “Another technique I often use involves characters saying things that should only be thought. That creates the inappropriateness that gives it an edge.”9) Sept. 24, 2009: “Opportunities”


Courtesy of Scott Adams

“Management-by-slogan usually comes across to employees as ridiculous and condescending. That, in part, is what makes the staff in this comic so uncaring about the boss’s house burning down. The ordinary evil of regular people is always funny to me. It’s easy to relate to it.”

8) Nov. 12, 2009: “Roll a donut in front of the cave”

caring about work

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“A common humor technique involves juxtaposing something of immense importance with something trivial. The pairing of things that don’t belong together makes your brain “sneeze” in the form of a laugh. In this comic, Wally is comparing his digestive system to Jesus rising from the dead. A dash of spiritual inappropriateness gives it some seasoning.”

7) Dec. 3, 2009: “Reusable presentation”

wally's presentation

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“As I mentioned, I enjoy humor that highlights the selfish nature of people. We all relate to it. If you have a job, you probably spend some part of each day trying to disguise your selfish motives as win-win scenarios. And your attempts are probably as transparent as Wally’s.

“I also like jokes that involve inappropriate solutions to problems. This one has both. When you can layer two humor triggers in the same comic it almost always works.”

6) Dec. 9, 2009: “Catching up to competition”

catching up

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“This one works because you never see the pointy-haired boss’s reaction, but you can imagine it vividly.

“Keeping true to the major theme of Dilbert, this comic highlights the uselessness of management. If you’ve ever had a boss, this one probably hits home for you.”

5) Jan. 7, 2010: “Synchronizing excuses”

you against god

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“I very much enjoy mocking common sayings. Often those little nuggets of wisdom make no sense whatsoever, but we’ve heard them so often they feel as if they do. Good things might come to those who wait, but so does starvation.

“This comic is also an example of what I call an ‘engineered solution.’ Wally has cleverly synchronized his excuses to the thunderstorm. I find cleverness to be funny when it is in the service of selfishness.”

4) April 13, 2010: “Asok’s snout”

asok nose job

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“Here I’m juxtaposing an ordinary workplace lunch with the ridiculousness of Asok having a dog snout. Dilbert and Wally take it in stride. That’s the first humor level, but it wouldn’t be enough to make it work.

“The second level is that we all know people who value form over function while being oblivious to how others view them. When you shine a light on irrational human behavior it usually triggers a laugh reflex.”

3) Sept. 27, 2010: “Brain golfing”

brain golfing

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“If you attend meetings, you probably spend a lot of time thinking your own thoughts while your coworkers drone on. This comic is funny to me because the boss is revealing his selfish thoughts, and also because ‘brain golfing’ is a funny combination of words. I figured most golfers could relate. I doubt I’m the only person who brain golfs.”

2) Dec. 2, 2010: “Old Johannsen”

old johannsen

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“Wally is the worst employee of all time, but he’s likeable in his own way, so we enjoy seeing him get a win at the expense of the pointy-haired boss. And I think everyone who has a boss also dreams of becoming indispensable. It’s easy to relate to Wally’s glee in the third panel.”

1) Nov. 9, 1993: “Unix programmers”

eunuch programmers

Courtesy of Scott Adams

“This might be my all-time favorite Dilbert comic. When I was on the speaking circuit I always used it to end my talks to thunderous laughter. It’s naughty, clever, and it has a point of view. And it makes the reader imagine what happened before that moment shown in the comic and what might happen after. It’s rare to pack so many elements in one comic.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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