Writing textbooks must be dull, especially if the author has zero interest in the subject they’ve been hired to write about. When employed as a writer, you give people what they want: if they want comics, you write witty captions; if melodrama’s required, you invent storylines heavy with love triangles, amnesia and tragically long-lost relatives; and if you’re hired to produce educational school material for textbook learning—well then that’s what you produce.
Or maybe not in every case. Some writers can’t resist adding comic relief or some personal witty touches to their otherwise dull manuscript for Advanced Calculus for the Superhuman Mathematician, Revised Edition, for example. To show you what we mean, here are 15 fine examples of hilarious images found in school textbooks.
15 An archer’s target
Illustrators draw pictures as they see fit. Maybe trampoline boy didn’t even need to be a boy on a trampoline in this illustration. He also could have been depicted in any position other than being comically poised to take an arrow to the rear—(of course, the kid should get hit on the part of his body where he’s most likely to take an arrow and survive. If the artist were to depict the arrow pointed at the boy’s head or heart the picture would be no joke, right?) Maybe the arrow will sail through the boy’s feet as he flies through the air and no vital organs will be jeopardized by this stupid experiment. Yeah, that must be it because any other explanation is totally twisted.
14 Clearing the palate with a baby panda
Here’s an honest author acknowledging that the subject at hand can get tedious, so they’re inserting a cute photo of an adorable baby red panda to clear the intellectual palate of readers, so to speak, before they move on to the “APIs” (whatever that is). Shouldn’t all textbooks take a page here and there from “Cute Overload,” with baby kittens or the most squee-worthy stills from last year’s Puppy Bowl to break the dry monotony of endless learnin’ for their readers? What does a baby panda know about HTLM5? Nothing, that’s what. And they don’t need to know a thing because they just need to stay still long enough for their picture to be taken, so that we may momentarily die of cuteness before returning to our lessons refreshed.
13 Textbook sobriety test
You know how if someone explains a joke, it’s not funny? We apologize in advance for attempting to explain this one, but textbook pictures are made for study and discussion, right?
Okay, so this is a double vision drunkenness gag. Dad’s holding up four fingers on one hand and two on the other and part of his caption reads: “If I told you there were four (policemen), that means I am drunk.” So we guess Dad’s drunk because at least one of his hands says there are four policemen. (Like, is this a math problem?)
Solution: drunk Dad sees either two or four policemen and the kid definitely sees only one. So, maybe subtract Dad’s fuzzy policemen to solve the equation of how many cops have gone into the nearest donut shop.
12 Egypt is in South America? Who knew?
Some historians speculate that South America was actually discovered by explorers much earlier than ancient Egypt. Although this image seems to be a blunder by some modern atlas maker, their gaffe is actually prescient because it’s in the minds of some academics that the people who built the pyramids (where they sent their overly-coddled pharaohs off to the great beyond in such plunder-worthy style) could also potentially have constructed ships designed to reach distant lands. That’s not such a long shot, right?
Imagine being an explorer in ancient times? Like when they believed Earth was flat? Sailing the endless ocean with no land in sight and nothing but water for days, worrying about when you’ll finally sail right over the edge? Good times.
11 Justin Bieber has been thinking about you a lot lately
We suspect that maybe this blurb about Biebs’ “medial prefrontal cortex” was written by a closet Bieber fan whose own medial prefrontal cortex is secretly gaga over Justin and since it isn’t really socially acceptable for adults of a certain age to gush over teenage boy singers, they do it indirectly where they can—like through the otherwise dry school textbooks they’ve been commissioned to write. Either that, or the writer’s trying to appeal to Beliebers, who were going all Beatlemania crazy over the young singing superstar at the time this was written. The problem with using trendy stars like Justin as textbook examples is that they become dated, and when they’re has-beens in 20 years, readers will have no clue who he is.
10 The mutant hand counts its many fingers
So this is an interesting diagram illustrating what looks to be learning to count in a foreign language. Numbers are important in this world. We use them to gauge particulars such as knowing the time, how far away other places are, quantifying how much things cost, how much money we have in the bank and so on. Yep, numbers make the world go round for many. It’s all well and good to learn to count in any language, but what is with these multi-fingered hands in the above diagram? Was the illustrator raised near a nuclear power plant? Did they hold hands for the first time with their two-headed, eight-armed, 14-fingered and four-thumbed first love? Can they count to 10 on one hand?
9 Tiger’s seen some stuff...
Romeo Phillion was a Canadian man who spent 31 years in prison after being convicted for the murder of an Ottawa firefighter (his conviction was later overturned). As we can see from the above picture, Phillion kept his pet cat, Tiger, with him while he served his time. You know how prison’s supposed to be: spitting at guards through the bars and getting shanked in the showers. We should also mention the riots, bad food, noisy neighbors and orange scrubs.
Tiger the cat’s definitely seen some stuff from his litter box in the clink. Other inmates’ pets have stolen his treats and slobber all over his catnip toys, but Tiger refuses to squeal on them because he doesn’t want to be branded as a rat.
8 Michael Phelps was born to swim
The swimming superstar spermatozoa named Michael Phelps swims a whole lot faster than the school of slower competitors lagging behind him, according to this diagram of an ovum about to get fertilized. Is Phelps swimming freestyle or is he doing the classic butterfly stroke with that powerful dolphin kick that he’s so well known for? The drawing is too small to really tell. Maybe he’s swimming this final relay in true IM style, cycling through all the classic strokes: butterfly, back, breast and freestyle while swimming circles around all his other competitors, also vying for glory. This won’t be a photo finish as Phelps continues to extend his dramatic lead to four full body lengths before he even touches the wall.
7 Jesus and his entourage
This guy gets shut right down. Where to go from here? That’s a pretty strong no and doesn’t no mean no? Like once someone says no to something, it’s kind of a dead subject and you don’t carry it much further (if at all) because, well, it’s not polite to persist when someone says no. Leave whatever subject alone and move on to the next topic.
We’d love to see the next frame of this comic. Maybe Jesus’ BFF invites Ronny to hang out with him and Jesus at the pool hall, library, drag show or chariot race. Ronny starts keeping an eye out for a hipster with shoulder-length hair who always wears a sackcloth and sandals and who may or may not have an entourage.
6 Creepy hand in the rubble
If you’ve ever seen the classic 1976 movie version of Carrie you’ll probably remember the scene at the very end where Sue Snell (the upper class, popular girl who tried to be kind to Carrie) goes to lay flowers at the ruins of Carrie’s burnt home as sweet music plays. When Sue reaches over the rubble to lay the flowers, a bloodied hand reaches out and grabs her forearm. The movie ends with Sue screaming as she wakens from her nightmare.
Maybe this illustrator was inspired by that scene, or perhaps by the idea of gangsters disposing of bodies in dumpsters or something morbid like that, and here they exercise their black sense of humor just to see which students are really paying attention.
5 When your body goes to war with itself
Sometimes your head says one thing and your heart says another. Usually, the head is sensible and reminds you to take new relationships slow and see how things go and don’t rush into anything. If you’re a young person with lots of living ahead of you, it’s best to put off emotionally invested intimate relationships until you feel ready. Sometimes, however, other parts of your body feel ready before your head feels ready. Sometimes you have to remind your b*ner that your head is not ready to go all the way with whoever, and that instead of getting all tangled up in teenage infatuations, you need to study or practice hard to win that sports or academic scholarship. Then, you curse your stupid brain for never letting you have any fun.
4 The calmest Sharknado we’ve ever seen
Maybe this isn’t quite like the Sharknado movies because there’s only one shark depicted in this illustration and it isn’t exactly raining sharks here. Also, this cartoonish shark rides pretty high in the water where in reality, sharks are opportunistic stealth hunters who typically swim up from the deep undetected to suddenly seize their victims’ using their ferocious jaws. Notice how the swimmer calmly swims into the beast’s mouth with no resistance whatsoever? Cartoon girl casually witnesses what for most would be an incredibly traumatic event likely to produce ongoing nightmares, lifelong shark phobia and PTSD (Post Traumatic Shark Disorder). She seems totally unfazed, however, and even seems to remember the horror fondly. Sociopathic cartoon girl even appears to be smiling during the shark attack.
3 The physics of Batman
We’re not exactly mathematicians, but it looks like Batman’s mass is 80.0 kg and the enemy’s is 70.0 kg. Batman drops 5.0 meters from that high window toward the ground swinging against gravity. Batman will use whatever momentum this calculates to to kick his enemy’s yellow-bellied gut with his stylish boots right about the navel, knocking the wind out of him and knocking him over like a bowling pin.
Batman tries not to live out loud; he tries to lay low and stay incognito most of the time. Sometimes, he throws Bruce Wayne’s money around, spending exorbitant amounts on designer capes, super-shiny black plastic masks with pointy Mousketeer ears and thigh-high patent leather boots that are low-heeled because one can’t properly fight crime wearing stilettos.
2 Meet the SquarePants family’s sponge-headed stepchild…
This author seems worried that we’ll mistake SpongeBob SquarePants for a human in this photo. Well, what if this textbook author’s wrong and SpongeBob does come from this family? Maybe he’s this dad’s oldest child from a relationship with a kitchen sponge. Or maybe SpongeBob is the product of an illicit romance between the mother and a car wash sponge. It left its sloppy, soapy buckets for her, but eventually Mom and the deadbeat car wash sponge broke up. Then, Mom married a wonderful, regular human man who’s a good dad and he’s adopted SpongeBob, embracing him as his own. SpongeBob now has his own room in their new house and is great with his little brothers. Whenever they spill a drink, he’s right there ready to help.
1 President Van Buren tipples hard cider
Why is the 8th U.S. president Martin Van Buren gagging on hard cider in this picture? It’s probably not appropriate for a U.S. president to get drunk in this day and age—especially not after the invention of atomic bombs (no one wants an inebriated person’s finger hovering over the panic button). That said, politicians from the earlier days like Van Buren, who lived in times where combat weapons were cannons and muskets which could only fire a bullet or two per minute, never had to worry about any weapons of mass destruction, so it was probably okay with their constituents if they indulged in a few shots of hard cider to get through an otherwise dull President’s Ball or State of the Union address.