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Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 9m
September 9th, 2018
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Executive Producers: John C Dvorak, Adam Curry

Cover Artist: Scott Adams & Comic Strip Blogger

Chapters

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  • 0:00
    good good good good good Adam curry
  • 0:02
    Jhansi Devorah award-winning nation
  • 0:07
    media assassination episode 67 this is
  • 0:10
    no agenda the Khan Valley live the tape
  • 0:25
    I'm John Steve all right
  • 0:26
    [Music] John Steve all right
  • 0:30
    whoa so you're in Italy in fact I am as
  • 0:36
    we speak I am probably nursing a
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    hangover from my sister's 25th wedding
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    anniversary which is still their lucky
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    it's Italian alcohol so it should be
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    good yeah so what we've done here is we
  • 0:49
    put together a couple of interview shows
  • 0:50
    I did an interview with Scott Adams and
  • 0:54
    Jasper alright so Dane Jesper is the CEO
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    of sonic net which is a now he's a he's
  • 1:02
    an independent guy he's kind of David to
  • 1:05
    the the behemoth AT&T Goliath no yeah
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    he's actually stringing fiber just all
  • 1:14
    over the kind of parts of the East Bay
  • 1:15
    in San Francisco and I think a Santa
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    Rosa where this operation is and they've
  • 1:20
    always been the like the low-cost to
  • 1:21
    internet provider we've used them as
  • 1:23
    backup here and why why not his primary
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    are they it's just not business quite as
  • 1:29
    fast right the old version the old DSL
  • 1:31
    stuff was not as fast as Comcast right
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    but this will be a lot faster this is
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    gigabit fiber to the home of tth baby
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    yeah so when that comes in that'll make
  • 1:42
    a little I think they'll now I have to
  • 1:45
    very high speed networks so I don't
  • 1:46
    don't worry as much their parent and the
  • 1:50
    price is gonna be like 50 bucks a month
  • 1:52
    oh that's nice yeah that that's very
  • 1:54
    competitive if that's in line with the
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    well is he also gonna try and sell TV
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    services life uses too if that we touch
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    this morning oh good good good good and
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    just kind of I mean I'm gonna listen to
  • 2:05
    I'm listening I probably have already
  • 2:07
    heard this by the time I get to Italy
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    cuz of course I have a copy listening
  • 2:10
    the plane
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    but has has it been a challenge for him
  • 2:15
    with the behemoths has anyone tried to I
  • 2:17
    just want a little tip there is it and
  • 2:18
    one tried to buy him or muscled him out
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    is not yet but apparently more recently
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    they're trying to pass some legislation
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    to make it tougher on the little guys
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    well that's an American it's very common
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    okay specifically if they were chopping
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    down lines in our break-in cable but no
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    there were no takers saboteurs take us
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    into it well first of all we got Scott
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    Adams the famous cartoonist Bert we're
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    gonna talk about him in a second after
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    the first interview the first interview
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    is gonna be Scott Adams oh you're gonna
  • 2:51
    do Scott Adams first yeah interesting
  • 2:54
    choice okay I like it well talk to me
  • 2:57
    about Scott Adams we all know Scott
  • 2:59
    Adams he's a Dilbert guy and he's does a
  • 3:01
    lot of stuff on periscope and he's never
  • 3:03
    really been interviewed like this and
  • 3:06
    I've known him long enough so I could
  • 3:08
    ask some questions that I don't think
  • 3:09
    other people would do now what do you
  • 3:10
    mean he's never been interviewed like
  • 3:12
    this really good interviews where he
  • 3:15
    talks well you have to listen to this
  • 3:17
    interview but there's a lot of stuff
  • 3:18
    that he doesn't normally talk about
  • 3:20
    first of all I don't think I've ever
  • 3:21
    heard of all I don't think I've ever
  • 3:22
    just a sit-down audio only interview
  • 3:25
    with Scott Adams I don't think I've ever
  • 3:27
    heard that audio only where you focused
  • 3:29
    on just audio I don't think I have
  • 3:31
    either yeah this may be the first but I
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    seriously doubt it and this took place
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    at his house yeah went to his house all
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    right I'll tell you what rather than
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    talk about it let's get into it
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    here's my interview with Scott Adams all
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    right I'm here with Scott Adams so
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    you've been cartoon you made your money
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    as a cartoonist correct and I met you 25
  • 3:54
    years ago at Pacific telephone yeah you
  • 3:59
    were an engineer and you were you were
  • 4:02
    actually the first guy who showed me the
  • 4:04
    Internet the first guy who showed me the
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    wow I didn't realize that yeah we had a
  • 4:08
    loan not the internet by but the web the
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    web right yeah yeah we had a little lab
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    I was working that was my day job and we
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    were showing people this this thing
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    called the World Wide Web and it was it
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    was the most one of the most informative
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    times of my life
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    it was in 93 as I recall that sounds
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    right yeah yeah and Dilbert was out a
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    little had been announced but not hadn't
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    heard out enough that I could quit my
  • 4:35
    day job right but you were the anyway
  • 4:39
    you showed it to me you were impressed
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    but you obviously weren't blown away so
  • 4:43
    much that you went out and bought a
  • 4:45
    bunch of domain names like the smart
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    money did no it's worse than that
  • 4:48
    it's worse than that so we would bring
  • 4:51
    customers in and we'd show them all our
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    cool phone company stuff that wasn't
  • 4:55
    interesting to anybody and they were
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    just their eyes would glaze over and
  • 4:58
    then at the end as just sort of a
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    dessert we'd say oh and there's this new
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    thing coming called
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    we call that the World Wide Web then now
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    the Internet and there were exactly two
  • 5:09
    websites you could get to that's at the
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    Smithsonian and some other thing and we
  • 5:14
    would show them that we could see the
  • 5:16
    website at the Smithsonian and look at a
  • 5:18
    couple of still pictures and people
  • 5:20
    would commander their chairs and they
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    say can I do that and we'd say do what
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    you know touch the mouse and make this
  • 5:27
    they needed to touch it they stood up
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    their eyes got big and they said how can
  • 5:32
    we get this and there was no application
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    and and I remember thinking my goodness
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    this is gonna be huge it has that X
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    Factor where people want it even though
  • 5:43
    it's terrible like early cell phones
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    right everybody wanted a cell phone but
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    they were terrible and I cornered our
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    top engineer in the phone company and I
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    said hey if I wanted to invest in this
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    coming thing this worldwide web internet
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    thing what's the one company I should
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    put all my money in and he looks at me
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    and he goes Cisco I go okay what are the
  • 6:06
    other companies and he goes Cisco
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    he goes everything's gonna be Cisco for
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    the next 15 years or whatever it was and
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    so I did not buy Cisco and it's the
  • 6:19
    worst financial decision I've ever made
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    huh well I didn't buy Cisco either but I
  • 6:26
    didn't have some guy telling me to buy
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    it it was pretty obvious in hindsight
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    you can see what happened all the all
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    the points you could
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    done that it could have done that I
  • 6:34
    could have done this it's the worst I
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    mean just if you had bought Apple when
  • 6:39
    Steve Jobs first showed up and kept the
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    stock right you'd be loaded especially
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    about $10,000 with you making a few
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    million dollars but that having kind of
  • 6:48
    been involved in the stock market over
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    the years the thing is you can't hold
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    the stock that long you just won't do it
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    you'll just say oh it's not going to go
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    any higher than it because you can't do
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    it it's impossible unless somebody else
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    buys the stock and puts it into trust
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    and you don't even know you have it that
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    it's a very problematic so any way that
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    you did leave eventually how long were
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    you there at Pacific Bell well eight
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    years there then before that eight years
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    at a big bank and I was doing Dilbert
  • 7:20
    for about six of those years that I was
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    still at the phone company so I was
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    doing two jobs and writing a book at the
  • 7:27
    same time and we were working day and
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    night you were getting your inspiration
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    from the phone company yeah that plus my
  • 7:35
    memories of the the bank so that the big
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    aha of the the bank so that the big
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    was when I when I moved from a bank to a
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    phone company and you'd say to yourself
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    well they have nothing in common two
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    completely different companies and then
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    you watch that the same management
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    problems the same way people think the
  • 7:53
    same way people treat you it was just
  • 7:56
    shockingly similar and that was really
  • 7:59
    the inspiration behind Dilbert is the
  • 8:01
    realization that these things were
  • 8:04
    universal and there were people trapped
  • 8:06
    in jobs all over who probably thought
  • 8:08
    there's nowhere else that this is
  • 8:10
    happening as this could not be happening
  • 8:12
    anywhere else it's impossible it happens
  • 8:14
    everywhere else it's impossible it happens
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    that was a GE well you had I thought we
  • 8:17
    thought the comic strip was genius
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    because it was the only one that
  • 8:21
    actually addressed kind of day-to-day
  • 8:23
    work a day office working issues
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    everything else was you know was like a
  • 8:29
    it didn't it was cowboy stuff or just
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    stupid animals making punchlines that
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    you know cracking up to or trying to
  • 8:36
    crack you up with him one-liner no III
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    don't want to claim genius and
  • 8:41
    inspiration totally because I'll take a
  • 8:43
    little bit but I also have an MBA
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    and one of the main things you learn in
  • 8:49
    Business School is listen to the
  • 8:50
    customers give them what they want
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    that's the sort of thing that artists
  • 8:54
    don't do and when Dilbert came out and
  • 8:58
    the email was coming out at about the
  • 8:59
    same time or getting popular about the
  • 9:01
    same time people started emailing me
  • 9:03
    because I put my email address between
  • 9:05
    the panel's of the strip and they'd say
  • 9:08
    we we love your comic when dill burrs in
  • 9:10
    the office we don't care for it that
  • 9:12
    much when he's just at home doing
  • 9:14
    generic things which is as you said what
  • 9:16
    most comic strips were about it's just
  • 9:18
    about whatever
  • 9:19
    Dagwood and so I listen to the customers
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    and completely retooled the strip to
  • 9:24
    make it a workplace trip so that the
  • 9:27
    reason that Dilbert succeeded and it's
  • 9:29
    very rare that a big comic will break
  • 9:31
    out is that I applied business
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    techniques to the artistic realm could
  • 9:38
    somebody else do a cartoon and have a
  • 9:40
    breakout nowadays in this market where
  • 9:42
    the syndication is different maybe you'd
  • 9:45
    like one of the last actually succeeded
  • 9:48
    before the door was closed well you know
  • 9:50
    there's only one giant cartoon every ten
  • 9:53
    years or so you know that's it's
  • 9:55
    actually very rare you know there's you
  • 9:57
    can count on one hand the mega cartoons
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    and if somebody were to start down today
  • 10:03
    I'd probably tell them to start on the
  • 10:05
    internet and see if they can get an
  • 10:07
    audience and then if they can try to
  • 10:09
    also get syndicated because for those
  • 10:12
    who don't know us syndication is you
  • 10:14
    sign a deal with a company that's a
  • 10:16
    syndication company and then you they
  • 10:21
    sell it to all the newspapers so you
  • 10:23
    don't have to do all the selling to the
  • 10:24
    individual newspapers so yeah I would
  • 10:26
    start with the internet first see if you
  • 10:28
    can get an audience refine your art and
  • 10:30
    then try to get syndicated next so it is
  • 10:34
    possible you think totally possible but
  • 10:36
    you know the market is shrinking in
  • 10:39
    terms of the physical newspapers
  • 10:41
    yeah but Dilbert's bigger than it's ever
  • 10:43
    been because as long as there's one big
  • 10:45
    newspaper in every market you know it
  • 10:48
    runs in that paper and of course the
  • 10:50
    internet market is growing every day so
  • 10:52
    so it's growing there no matter what
  • 10:54
    where'd you get your drawing skills my
  • 10:59
    mother you get your drawing skills my
  • 11:00
    was a landscape artist and my father
  • 11:04
    doodled little cartoons that were more
  • 11:06
    like stick figures but very funny and
  • 11:08
    their own little weird way so I think I
  • 11:10
    had you know a little bit of genetic
  • 11:12
    advantage there but anybody who's seen
  • 11:16
    Dilbert knows I'm not an artist with any
  • 11:18
    kind of a capital A so it was really
  • 11:21
    brute force and the the first original
  • 11:23
    comics that I submitted if you saw them
  • 11:26
    you'd say there's no way this guy is
  • 11:28
    gonna get hired or syndicated this is
  • 11:31
    looks like an inebriated monkey with a
  • 11:34
    crayon what's what's going on here but
  • 11:37
    it was just brute force I just practiced
  • 11:39
    and until I could do it
  • 11:40
    ooh what do you what kind of sense of
  • 11:43
    humor do you think you have well
  • 11:46
    probably it's a combination of
  • 11:48
    observational plus engineering in other
  • 11:52
    words to make something a look clever
  • 11:55
    you sometimes you have to look at it as
  • 11:58
    an engineer as in what would be the
  • 12:00
    weird way to accomplish this in the in
  • 12:03
    the cartoon realm if you've got a
  • 12:05
    character who's got a problem and it's a
  • 12:07
    cartoon so they they can kind of do
  • 12:09
    anything there's no real limits what is
  • 12:11
    the funny engineering solution and it
  • 12:13
    might involve you know killing somebody
  • 12:15
    it might involve you know aliens who
  • 12:18
    could involve anything so but you have
  • 12:20
    to start as you said earlier was
  • 12:23
    something that everybody goes oh that's
  • 12:24
    like I've been there if you don't get
  • 12:27
    that part right it's hard to get much
  • 12:29
    else right people have to recognize and
  • 12:31
    identify with the situation then you can
  • 12:34
    extend it but you got it you got to get
  • 12:36
    them first I have a theory that your
  • 12:38
    humor is absurdist this explain
  • 12:43
    absurdist and you spot the absurdities
  • 12:47
    in the art and the office environment
  • 12:50
    for example and most everything every
  • 12:52
    punch line you deliver is based on
  • 12:55
    something that's just it's it's beyond
  • 12:57
    the pale and so far as pure absurdity is
  • 13:00
    concerned I I'm gonna agree with that
  • 13:03
    with different words I call it a
  • 13:05
    cognitive blind spots so I'm looking for
  • 13:09
    places where otherwise more people are
  • 13:12
    doing something that the
  • 13:13
    observers would say that doesn't look
  • 13:16
    smart you know I know you went to
  • 13:18
    college you know I know you're smart why
  • 13:21
    are you doing that and that explains you
  • 13:23
    know 75% of management and and you know
  • 13:26
    the reason for that is that people are
  • 13:28
    paid to manage but sometimes there's
  • 13:30
    nothing to do or you don't know what to
  • 13:31
    do and you end up just saying well
  • 13:33
    what's the fad you know yeah I worked in
  • 13:35
    the government so I know some of that
  • 13:36
    from another perspective is still the
  • 13:38
    same you were fired from packed Pacific
  • 13:42
    telephone I'm gonna tell you this story
  • 13:44
    that I was told by one of your old
  • 13:46
    associates all right you remember her
  • 13:48
    Nina yes yeah neither who was the the
  • 13:52
    real-life model for my character Alice
  • 13:55
    in the comic strip yes some boneheads
  • 13:58
    came into the company on some normal
  • 14:00
    kind of a well let's put this guy in
  • 14:02
    because he can he's gonna reorg this and
  • 14:04
    he's gonna do that it's gonna straighten
  • 14:05
    things out and he was naive and he said
  • 14:10
    I guess he went through one I've seen
  • 14:12
    this happen a different operation
  • 14:13
    somebody goes in there they start doing
  • 14:15
    a checklist what does this guy do
  • 14:16
    who's this who is this guy Scott Adams
  • 14:19
    what does he do and nobody was there and
  • 14:22
    I've seen this happen recently to other
  • 14:23
    in other companies where somebody's
  • 14:25
    actually very important to a company you
  • 14:28
    were at the time important the way it
  • 14:29
    was told to me to the salespeople
  • 14:31
    because the comic strip was popular
  • 14:33
    enough that they would drag you out on
  • 14:35
    sales calls as a lure which happens with
  • 14:39
    any company that's got any brains right
  • 14:41
    bring a lure in and oh you get to meet
  • 14:44
    Scott Adams and by the way you can buy
  • 14:46
    some of these some of the gear or some
  • 14:48
    services and this bonehead came in and
  • 14:51
    he just unceremoniously got rid of you
  • 14:54
    and some sort of a cleanup very much
  • 14:56
    like you see in that movie the office
  • 14:58
    and you didn't make a fuss or object or
  • 15:03
    anything you left and then they found
  • 15:05
    out about it they their upper two people
  • 15:07
    that knew better they wanted you to come
  • 15:09
    back and you said you know I don't need
  • 15:11
    to come back I'm gonna stay I'm gonna
  • 15:12
    stay gone and that was the end of it
  • 15:14
    that that's pretty close all I did a
  • 15:16
    little little context to it my
  • 15:18
    co-workers once I started getting famous
  • 15:21
    and started to get a little bit of money
  • 15:24
    with Dilbert it was obvious that I was
  • 15:26
    going to
  • 15:27
    leave and it didn't make sense to keep
  • 15:29
    my day job but they wanted me to stay
  • 15:31
    like as you as you said that was good
  • 15:33
    for sales customers would would come in
  • 15:36
    and they were Dilbert fans and so I
  • 15:37
    helped and they actually made me an
  • 15:40
    offer and they actually made me an
  • 15:41
    Anita the one that I just mentioned the
  • 15:43
    real-life Alice from the comic strip
  • 15:45
    said how about this deal I'll go to our
  • 15:48
    management and I'll say you don't even
  • 15:49
    have to show up unless you don't want to
  • 15:51
    except for these sales calls and
  • 15:53
    otherwise we'll do your work you know
  • 15:55
    we'll do the engineering stuff that was
  • 15:57
    your main work and my co-workers said
  • 16:01
    yeah we're up for that we'll do the work
  • 16:03
    you just come in for the the times you
  • 16:05
    want to basically and I said so you're
  • 16:08
    like a fellow without being without
  • 16:11
    having the designation right in the
  • 16:13
    sense and so Anita took that to the boss
  • 16:16
    you're talking about and made that deal
  • 16:17
    and he said I'm okay with that and he
  • 16:20
    checked with me and I said yeah that's
  • 16:21
    I'm okay with the two but here's the
  • 16:23
    thing I don't want to be a burden so the
  • 16:26
    day that you need that budget you're
  • 16:28
    paying me for something else you just
  • 16:30
    have to ask and I'll leave the same day
  • 16:33
    and one day he was he had some other
  • 16:36
    project that he thought was more
  • 16:38
    important and he called me in and said
  • 16:39
    you know this would be a good day and I
  • 16:43
    said okay that's the deal you just have
  • 16:45
    to ask I don't I don't need a reason you
  • 16:48
    just have to ask
  • 16:49
    and so I I left peacefully and yes I did
  • 16:52
    get a call from I believe it was the CEO
  • 16:54
    CEO were president I think it was a CEO
  • 16:57
    at the time who was surprised to find
  • 16:59
    out that I had been asked to leave ah
  • 17:01
    well it's your version is obviously more
  • 17:04
    accurate than mine but mine's still good
  • 17:06
    here's a good yeah you were 90% there
  • 17:09
    yeah i when it happened I since I knew
  • 17:15
    at the time I thought well this is gonna
  • 17:17
    be interesting because it's because how
  • 17:18
    is he gonna because I thought that
  • 17:19
    cartoon was derivative from the work
  • 17:22
    experience and you're getting daily
  • 17:23
    material just by going to work showing
  • 17:26
    up and I was wondering how you were
  • 17:28
    gonna handle that and you've handled it
  • 17:31
    quite nicely I don't see any difference
  • 17:33
    actually well I was getting literally
  • 17:36
    thousands of emails a day in the
  • 17:38
    beginning with
  • 17:39
    suggestions and it was a huge burden to
  • 17:44
    respond to I tried to respond to all of
  • 17:45
    them back in those days and there was
  • 17:48
    just material coming in and it would
  • 17:50
    always remind me of something I had
  • 17:52
    experienced so I was always looking for
  • 17:54
    that if somebody suggested something I'd
  • 17:56
    never heard of that usually didn't work
  • 17:59
    for me but if I said oh yeah that
  • 18:01
    happened to me then it was a cartoon
  • 18:04
    where I don't see a lot of stuff from
  • 18:06
    you is a convention life you know I
  • 18:11
    there's there's a cartooning reason you
  • 18:14
    don't see Dilbert go to conventions a
  • 18:16
    lot and the reason is I don't like
  • 18:18
    drawing backgrounds okay to draw the
  • 18:21
    convention stuff in the back you either
  • 18:23
    have to be I don't want to interrupt you
  • 18:26
    but since you're now doing everything on
  • 18:27
    the computer can you have like a stock
  • 18:29
    couple of backgrounds you just drop in
  • 18:31
    so you don't have to do it now that any
  • 18:33
    of that work well people would notice
  • 18:36
    the stock backgrounds I do do a stock
  • 18:38
    exterior building that I reuse but yeah
  • 18:42
    I'd have to draw it in the first place
  • 18:43
    and I'd have to change it every time you
  • 18:46
    know but you're right it's a lot easier
  • 18:49
    now with the computer when did you
  • 18:51
    switch I switched let's see if I could
  • 18:56
    remember the year it was probably in
  • 18:59
    that 2004 ish range give or take II hear
  • 19:03
    and it was because I had a problem with
  • 19:06
    my drawing hand I had spasms in my pinky
  • 19:09
    when I tried to draw from overuse it's a
  • 19:13
    weird thing called a focal dystonia and
  • 19:16
    went to the doctor and said what's this
  • 19:19
    what's going on with my pinky I can't
  • 19:21
    draw anymore and by pure luck the world
  • 19:25
    expert literally the world expert on
  • 19:29
    this specific condition lived in my town
  • 19:32
    and was in my my HMO at Kaiser and you
  • 19:37
    know my doctor knew him and and and next
  • 19:39
    thing I know I'm talking to the world
  • 19:40
    expert on this problem and I said what's
  • 19:43
    the cure and he said we don't have one
  • 19:45
    you know basically changed jobs so I
  • 19:49
    agreed to be part of
  • 19:51
    you know the test group they were trying
  • 19:55
    different things to see if they could
  • 19:56
    make some progress but in the meantime I
  • 19:59
    thought well I'm done unless I can
  • 20:00
    figure out a solution for drawing and so
  • 20:03
    I drew left-handed for a while which I
  • 20:05
    can do but it's slower I'm slightly
  • 20:08
    ambidextrous but not terribly in a bit
  • 20:10
    dexterous and then I thought you know
  • 20:13
    I'll bet there's by now something you
  • 20:15
    can draw on the computer that maybe my
  • 20:18
    hand would act differently yeah cuz the
  • 20:20
    the weird thing about this hand problem
  • 20:22
    is that it was actually a mental problem
  • 20:24
    that expressed itself in the hand so the
  • 20:26
    hand was fine and the reason I knew that