In 1982, Pac-Man was so popular one genre of book was “something, fucking anything, about Pac-Man.” This perfectly describes THE PAC-MAN RIDDLE AND JOKE BOOK. It’s a deconstruction of the entire concept of “something.” This is Plato’s Cave if the shadows on your wall were Pac-Man and everything behind you was Pac-Man. In fact, Plato should have called his stupid allegory “the cave adaptation of THE PAC-MAN RIDDLE AND JOKE BOOK.”
I talked about this book once before in a Cracked article, but never stopped thinking about it. There is not a single sane page within it– not one coherent riddle or joke. This is a decapitated head trying to add the sounds “pac” and “dot” to words with the last of its escaping brain blood.
This one is only to help ease you into what you can expect in THE PAC-MAN RIDDLE AND JOKE BOOK. I don’t have a joke about how Mike Thaler “America’s Riddle King” changed the name of a different video game to make a vague reference to Pac-Man’s own video game. Or maybe I do? Let me try. It’s sort of like if a Star Trek joke book said Captain Kirk’s favorite movie was Star Wars but they meant a star like you’d see in Star Trek, not the “Star” from the title of Star Wars? No, no, I was right. I don’t have a joke about this.
This is the least fun thing I’ve ever seen from the least functional fun delivery system. It is almost suspiciously exactly what I would put in a Pac-Man riddle and joke book if all I wanted to do was hurt children. We all knew what we were getting into, but try to imagine the disappointment of a bright-eyed 1982 Pac-Man fan. They opened this book for joy and saw the inventor of the pasteurization process, punned three different ways with the same word, illustrated by an artist any physical therapist would call, “My quadruple amputee who draws like he’s also missing a fucking mouth.”
Winni-Pac Canadot? More like “Dot-phisticated word-plac!” What’s it like getting annihilated like this, Canada? This is devastating– a masterclass in the power of satire. No matter our politics or beliefs, every lie we tell ourselves gets laid bare once we see something sacred to us get words from Pac-Man mashed into other words.
Nobody tags a joke like Mike Thaler “America’s Riddle King.” Look how he assaults you with his sense of humor. You’re still reeling from “Pac-Pong,” and he adds that, in addition to the pun, you should consider how Pac-Man’s known attributes of eating things and nothing else means he’s bad at the sport name he’s lampooning! There’s not really an industry term for this kind of hilarity combo. It’s the kind of comedy you normally only see when someone says something in Tagalog you can’t understand and then a nurse translates, “The doctor, he say both bullets in your liver. You die here in the Philippines.”
I wasn’t expecting “Pac-Man Goes to the Dentist” to be funny, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the dentist character to immediately reject the joke’s conceit. Why are we here if he doesn’t have teeth? Why would, in a universe where Pac-Men go to the dentist, this not come up until this stage of the dental appointment? This is like saying, “Welcome to the 72nd annual World Fart Championships! I’m Burp Peppers, and thanks for sticking around after the 73rd annual Chili Cook Off!” and having your friend respond, “What? No, I think your name is Frank something and this is an improv show in a bookstore! And it’s not even really that because the guy who screamed ‘fart contest’ is your co-worker! You’re both cops and I’m only here because my parole officer, the fart contest guy, said it would be a bad idea for a convicted child molester to also be an unsupportive friend. So here I am! Do you want me to come up there and, like, make up a song or something?”
Oh, fun; let’s do this one! Number One has got to be Half-“PAC!” And Four is, oh cute! That’s a back-“PAC!” And number 6 is… oh my god. Sperm PAnC? This is a Pac-Man sperm, right? B-but it can’t be from his balls since he’s made of just this one shape, so are you saying Pac-Man himself is one giant testicle? Are you fucking telling me that if Pac-Man turned his gaping mouth toward us, we would see a gnashing swamp of Pac-Man sper– wait. Rat “PAC.” My bad, I see it now. The Rat PAC with, like, I don’t know… Frank Sin-DOT-tra and Sammy BLINKY Junior? PACter Lawford? Dean… Dean Ms.-Pac-Man? Ha ha I can’t do it. It’s why you’re the tops, Mike! The Riddle King, baby!
I think it’s a bad sign when you see an abomination and you think, “Oh, thank God, this creature is part rat, not all sperm.” But these “What Kinds of Pacs Are These?” quizzes continue through the book and only get more perverse and disgusting.
How is Combover Centaur Pac-Man (5) more disturbing than Hairy Gonad Pecked By Bird Pac-Man (3) and Uncircumcised Pac-cid-Man (2). Combover Centaur Pac-Man is not a riddle– it’s a ritual marker for sex druids. It’s the birthmark on a newborn crawling out of a mass horse grave. If a stranger ever handed me this filthy thing…
… I would immediately start fighting for my life. And God help the cursed traveler who finds it on my dead body. My final words to you are these: You have five days to tame The Stallion and his frothing has already begun.
This isn’t all the way “racist,” but it’s as close to the line as I think a Pac-Man riddle book should get.
Here’s the, I guess, official Pac-Man origin? It seems like in 1982 they let writers do whatever the hell they wanted. I’ve written for some big IPs in my career and it’s absurd how many days I spent going back-and-forth with creative directors and their bosses about whether Dolph Ziggler would eat a human heart or if we could make it so Salacious Crumb has three spear-like penises that penetrate anywhere on his lover’s body like a bedbug. Mike just casually adds to Pac-Man’s canon, “he was formed when, I don’t know, a cheesecake came to life and murdered a waitress? suck my ass who gives a shit.”
W-what? So he’s the moon only… only a-also Pac-Man? No. No, I refuse this. As a representative of this Earth, I reject Pac-Moon. I declare whatever -this- is to be the enemy of my people.
Never at any point did Mike Thaler, the author of THE PAC-MAN RIDDLE AND JOKE BOOK, think, “Maybe this one doesn’t work.” If a word had any sound close to “dot” or “pac” in it, it went in. If a word had a “d” or a “p” that was fine too. No thought was given to whether something was funny or clever or appropriate for children. If Mike would have walked past a holocaust museum during the writing of this book, he would haverushed home repeating, “DOTschwitz, DOTschwitz, DOTschwitz, don’t forge– is that a new Pizza Hut? Oh my god, more like Pizza DOT! Don’t forget, Pizza DOT, Pizza DOT…”
I’m sort of being serious. The way Mike handles sensitive subjects with zero context and a childlike understanding of puns is grotesque. It’s like he’s trying to show his wild side in a Marmaduke fan letter. For instance, say someone was famously kidnapped and, after a series of sex crimes, forced to commit armed robbery. What’s the clumsiest way you could handle that with a Pac-Man pun? Oh, that’s an insane thing to try? An unthinkable thing no one would ever do?
Boom. This is why Mike Thaler is “America’s Riddle King” and we’re not. You and I think things like, “What a terrible loss it is when a child dies.” Mike Thaler thinks things like, “PAC-iatric cancer? Whooping DOT? Crib DOTh? There it is. Crib DOTh.”
Here’s a fun look behind-the-scenes of a 1-900-HOTDOG article. That joke is the end result of several minutes of wedging Pac-Man puns into tragic childhood ailments. I was all… “DOT-arrhea, small PACs, PAC-io, unDOTagnosed DOT-ism,” and when I stopped at “crib DOTh” I thought, “Jesus, I’ll definitely come back and soften that. I’m not sure a Pac-Man joke book warrants crib DOTh.” But then I got to this page in THE PAC-MAN RIDDLE AND JOKE BOOK where Mike actually published three of my less funny childhood DOT-sease ideas, and then repeated one of them.
So whether you agree with my criticism or not, here is very literally what happened: I tried to think of a joke the laziest, most humorless, pun-loving piece of shit would write about sick children. That was the task I gave myself. And the author of this book, Mike Thaler “America’s Riddle King,” published, word-for-word, three of the things in my maybe pile. So he’s not the worst writer I can imagine– he’s the deleted drafts rejected by that worst writer. And I’m truly humbled he went beyond my wildest imaginations by writing “Chicken Pacs” a second time, separated only by “Small Pacs.” It’s breathtaking. Beyond any wonder I’ve ever seen.
Psssst, children! Children, do you like riddles? You do? Oh, good! Grand!! Wonderful!!! Listen closely now: What. Pac-Man. Was a famous… murderer. Ha ha ha ha ha haaaa!!!
What? No, not Jeffrey Dot-mer, but that would have been good. No, not the Zodi-“Pac” Killer. No, I don’t mean A-“Dot” Hitler. O-or “Pac”mann Göring. Okay, stop, it’s not any of the Nazis, okay? Oh, it’s not Charles Pac-Manson but that’s better. Who’s Coral Eugene “Dots?” No, it’s not “Pac” Kevorkian eith– holy fuck what is wrong with you kids?
As you can see, most of the book is Mike performing the minimum amount of wordplay to legally count as a pun, but he eventually launches into a stream-of-consciousness story about what would happen if Pac-Man escaped his arcade cabinet. This could be interesting, right? Pac-Man is an immortal being of infinite hunger with no remorse or understanding let loose in a world of a silly writer’s imagination! Anyway, I’m not a psychologist, but from among the limitless possibilities available to Mike, the first activity his author surrogate selects is, “SNEAK UP ON A FAT WOMAN AND EAT THE CLOTHES OFF HER.”
It keeps going with Pac-Man eating a kid’s yo-yo, a leopard’s spots, a clown’s nose… if it’s roundish, Pac-Man takes it from you with no remorse or understanding. Each event is completely without whimsy. Did Mike Thaler ask a kindergarten class to name things that look like dots and think, “These fools are writing my entire book for me!” Is it a cautionary tale of what will happen when we unleash artificial intelligence? Is it the pornography of a man with a dotless fetish? Because it is not fucking anything close to riddles and jokes.
It is a relentlessly pointless series of events until Pac-Man eats a fruit stand. The cops had nothing to charge Pac-Man with when he was harassing animals and women, but they absolutely went after him once he started harming fruit. Pac-Man evades justice because he apparently brought arcade escape tunnels with him into this world, a terrifying hint at how the breach between our realities could have more serious ramifications than simple clown mutilation. And sure enough, the story ends the only way it ever could: an unstoppable Pac-Man heading straight for our delicious sun with no remorse or understanding. Have a nice “DOT,” I guess!
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Timmy Leahy: The PACster of his DOTmain whose PACking a huge DOT.