Can you believe Not Remotely Working is the 50 (!!) collection of Scott Adams’ Dilbert? That’s right, the big 5-0. That’s quite the milestone for a comic strip built around the singular concept of exposing the daily grind for what it is: a grind. As long as humans are willing to subject themselves to such abuse, there’s always another Dilbert comic to help keep us distracted. It’s the cycle of life, which sounds nicer than the spiral of despair.
This one packs in 140+ pages of daily and Sunday strips originally published between November 30th, 2020 through October 17th, 2021, picking right up where last year’s The Office Is a Beautiful Place When Everyone Else Works from Home left off. As we’ve come to expect from these boxy collections, paper or otherwise (the otherwise being digital), every comic is fully colorized and chronologically dated. The only thing missing are the cubicles.
And just like last year’s collection this one continues documenting the destructive nature of a truly modern enemy. No, not dimwitted pointy-haired bosses or marketing morons, but the virus itself: Covid-19. More specifically, the world-closing pandemic that saw companies around the globe shuttered and their employees, those lucky enough to still have jobs anyway, logging in and working remotely. Or maybe goofing off. Possibly both. With Zoom it’s hard to tell.
In case you’re wondering just how much of the pandemic has seeped into the daily dose of Dilbert strips, whether direct observations or pontifications, the answer is: surprisingly little. For these office denizens the pandemic is just about absurdity to overcome and mock, an ignominy among many, many others. All this and scant political commentary from its creator, Scott Adams (who’s become something of a controversial phenomenon, too). Sometimes you just need to laugh at how silly and stupid everything in the world seems, and few things do it better than an on-point Dilbert comic.
And there’s plenty of points to peck through here. Bullet points include: how social-distancing and work-from-home appeals to the antisocial, the banality of Zoom meetings, taking advantage of diversity panics, how the crossroads of intersectionality are just train-wrecks waiting to happen, and how not all ‘gain-of-function’ human experimentation is bad (who wouldn’t want a helpful tail?). Will Dilbert marry an Elbonian man just to prove he’s not a bigot? Is reality just a simulation and the Creator a cartoonist? Truly, the pandemic didn’t make idiots; it revealed them.
Not Remotely Working is an interesting celebration of both 30 years of Dilbert, the comic strip, and Dilbert, the idea. Where most daily strips flame out in due course, cycling through a monotony of unfunny gags in lieu of anything clever, Scott Adams remains just as committed to holding the mirror of self-reflection up against our nutty culture to mine endless absurdities we all can relate to, just at our expense. With Dilbert, you can have both comedy and tragedy at the same time; just make sure you’re at the right end of the shtick.