Indeed, a chart strips itself of everything except set-ups and punchlines; there are no wordy descriptions or plodding transition to sabotage a concept's momentum. And frequently charts go beyond mere distillation to perform a kind of comic alchemy: While a premise may be too thin to hold up as a traditional essay, a chart, by virtue of its ability to exaggerate a subject's consonances and dissonances through simple spatial arrangement and blatant verbal repetition, can make it funny. Even more than the word processor, the spreadsheet is technology's great contribution to the hack. In the same way that Excel helps back-office place-holders effortlessly manufacture documents that suggest at least some degree of corporate cogency, the chart allows lazy, uninspired gag-simulators to counterfeit wit.

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