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"I have seen the future of television, and it ain't on television." -- Noted futurologist, dannye

There will be no television left in your lifetime. This site is the reason why.

Not necessarily this site, by itself, but what this site represents will put the TV out of business one day soon. Why would you prostitute yourself to some AOL/Time Warner fiasco run by a bunch of Jews in Suits who couldn't decide what to have for lunch unless they had the tiniest cell phone on the market and four Blackberries and a Palm Pilot to consult? Have you seen what AOL Time Warner's stock has done in the last few weeks? Would you seriously want to be chewing your nails and snorting the last cocaine you could afford, if you were one of the worn-out Hollywood has-beens involved in that debacle? The stress levels flying around these corporate boardrooms would be enough to cause Richter Scale numbers if you had a way to measure them. I don't enjoy watching honest businessmen taking it up the tailpipe; but I do love watching this anal rape.

The question is: Why would you endure this morass of moral depravity and sycophantic sickness if there were "a better way"?

You wouldn't. It would be so much more pleasant and enjoyable to work for yourself, at home.

Matt and Mike Chapman have built a website which does a very good job of showing why the old media is dying. At Homestar Runner (.com, of course) you will find some of the most amusing cartoon characters living in one of the most amusing worlds since Rocky and Bullwinkle. I have no idea who these guys are and I have no idea how old this site is. I do know that I have been laughing my ass off for almost a week delving in every so often to see what's there which I hadn't already seen. I've even been watching some of the stuff I've already watched once, again. I hardly ever do that when it comes to media entertainment.

I also have no idea how old these two brothers are who seem to be the driving force behind this site. There's a Missy Palmer who helps them with the voices. You can often "age" folks by their given names. "Matt," "Mike," "Missy" . . . I'm betting they are not any older than early twenties. If I'm wrong, I'll spend a week with the Poopsmith. He's taken a vow of silence, so I won't have to listen to him bitch. A guy who shovels shit for a living could really spend some time bending your ear about it, if he were a lesser man.

UPDATE: I have recently learned that Mike is 28 and Matt is 24. So I was half right, I guess.

The site has several features, and you might think that it's just for kids. I suppose that it does appeal to some little kids, if they are very, very bright. I could imagine the interest level dipping into the single digits for the very special kids. The main audience, I'd suspect, is young teens. Whoever watches South Park and is amused but perhaps uncomfortable or bored with the level of discourse is the prime target for this site. This does not presuppose a younger audience. I mean, how many times can you hear "goddamn" and "asshole" by little Eric C. and his pals before it becomes tiresome?

The strongest words on this site are "frickin" and "crap" and, at least once, there is the hint of "fuck" with the typing in Strong Bad's e-mail of "what the f.."

But it's good clean fun. And it's as funny as it can be. The humor lies, as with all good theatre, in the characters. The stories are a bit episodic and adolescent, but I dare you to keep a straight face when Homestar Runner sings the opening theme song, after you've been to the site at least once. "Evwebody . . . La de do de da . . . " Just look at how seriously he's forgetting his lines, again.

As you get more involved with the world of Homestar Runner, you understand that the main character is perhaps Strong Bad. He's the Wharfinger of the site. One of my favorite corners on the site is Strong Bad reading his e-mail. He'll take actual e-mail and make unholy fun of the sender. This feature is updated every Monday. (I sent him an e-mail today. If he would answer it, I'd feel like I won the lottery. If you see a Danny E. in his inbox, I've reached another plane.)

Strong Bad wears a Mexican wrestler's mask and speaks in a gruff semi-Hispanic voice. He lives in his own little corner of the site, near a fence with a tire hanging on it. The sign says, "Strongbadia – Population: Tire."

Homestar Runner is some sort of marshmallow dude without arms. His naiveté is his attraction. He's like an on-line version of Underdog or Deputy Dawg or Quick Draw McGraw. There have been a plethora of idiotic cartoon heroes, but none of them were as wonderfully stupid as Homestar Runner. When he screws up a line in the Fluffy Puff Marshmallow commercial by saying "Flushy Push," the director chews his ass, saying, "You said FLUSHY PUSH!" Homestar Runner replies with sincere enthusiasm, "I know! Can you bewieve it?" The director says, "But they're FLUFFY PUFF!." Reply? "I know! Can you bewieve it?" I guess it could just be me, but this is one funny bit.

One of the other hilarious bits is when Homestar hosts a Halloween party and all the characters dress up in costumes. For entertainment, Homestar whips out a flashlight and begins a game of "ghost stowy with the fwashlight." You know, where you put the flashlight up under your chin and tell part of the story, and then pass it to the next person to continue. In his scariest, spooky voice, Homestar says, "There was a gween go-o-o-ob-win. And he . . . looked awo-o-ound. And (I guess) he did a wittle da-a-a-nce." Then, as he's passing the flashlight, in his normally retarded voice, he laughs and says, "Oh, man. That was tewwible." Yes. It was terrible. But it is funny.

His girlfriend (even though he wouldn't really admit to it) is Marzipan. She, too, has no arms. Thus, when she knocks on his door (using her head, which looks as if it was drawn on an oversize thumb), she whimpers, "ouch." She's the little hippie chick who doesn't eat meat and grows her own vegetables. When she picks up a guitar or some other instrument and begins to sing, it is a perfectly fractured hippie moment.

Strong Bad has two brothers. Strong Mad is some sort of box-shaped steroid-swizzling doofus. Watching him run is quite amusing. That's about the end of the laughs with Strong Mad, however. Along with the King of Town, he's one of the weaker characters on the site. His other brother, Strong Sad, is quite a different story.

Strong Sad looks like a Casper who has had way too many burritos over a lifetime. He's bloated and, at Halloween, he dresses up as Mikhail Gorbachev. He sees no humor in this. He sees no humor in anything. He's the one who never "gets it." He'll ruin every party he ever attends (you're thinking of some folks you know, now, aren't you?) and put folks to sleep with his angsty Day Log like diatribes. (Now you have someone in particular in mind, don't you?) He's the Hitchcockian element in the stories.

Bubs is the token black guy on the site. He runs the concession stand and is a dance machine. His joie de vivre is crushed by the time the Halloween flashlight ghost story is ended by Strong Sad, however. Any 'toon in which Strong Sad has a pertinent role will end with great sadness and morbid lines like, "I dream of my own death. Over and over and over and over and over . . . "

Some of the characters are throwaways. Homestar Runner's best pal, Pom Pom, is just a floating mass of something. Water, I guess; since he only talks in burbles. Strong Sad's best buddies are Strong Mad and something called The Cheat. I couldn't even begin to explain what The Cheat is. He's just The Cheat. He cheats at everything, but no one really cares, because he's . . . The Cheat. And then there's Coach Z who seems to be a cross between some Eastern European gymnast coach, Flavor Flav, and some dude from Lake Wobegon.

When I was a kid, some folks had the clever idea of interactive television. It never caught on, but I was there, every Saturday morning, with my Winky Dink set, ready to put the plastic sheet over the TV screen and draw Winky Dink a bridge or whatever he needed to further the cartoon plot. I bet those guys, if they are still alive, are salivating over an interactive cartoon website like Homestar Runner. Why should you have to wait until next Wednesday night to see if there's a new South Park on? Shouldn't you just be able to log on to southpark.com and watch a new episode whenever you damn well feel like it, if one is available?

Oh, I gotta go. Strong Bad has new e-mail. Maybe it's mine!





Several months after I posted this, I was shown this link. It has much more behind-the-scenes information:

http://www.resexcellence.com/hack_html_03/01-30-03.shtml

The Brothers Chapman like to hide various little extras in their skits, often at the end. Many Strong Bad emails have little extras, as well as the feature scenes like "Parsnips A'plenty" (Which features a scene of Strong Bad in hell saying , "Curses! I've gone to hell! How unfortunate!" — Click the "D" in 'The End'). I've found that a good way to find these extra scenes is to click somewhere in the movie and hit the tab key to look for clickable regions that aren't an obvious control.

Some of the extras are very impressive, including small atari-like arcade games, extended scenes, or, in one case of a Strong Bad email that I can't recall the title of, several minutes of audio. If you're watching Homestar Runner stuff and not getting these extras, you're really missing out.

Homestar Runner was invented in 1996 by two Atlanta twentysomethings named Mike & Matt Chapman. After kicking around with some characters on and off, homestarrunner.com hit the internet in January of 2000. Their grassroots following grew throughout the first two years of the decade, and around late 2002-early 2003, the website blew up on the pop culture radar. Mike and Matt were officially living off the 300 orders they got on average every day for t-shirts, they had 300,000 unique visitors every Monday and 200,000 on average daily, plus they had been honored with many awards in the media, including making Entertainment Weekly's "50 Most Creative People In Entertainment Today" list.

The Brothers Chaps (as they are known to their fans) continue to work Homestar Runner independently. Working only with themselves and a few trusted friends, including the "third leg" in the H*R effort, Mike Chapman's girlfriend and the voice of Marzipan, Missy Palmer. The website has continued to churn out updates frequently and The Brothers Chaps still stick to their "no ads" policy and have turned down some offers with television networks due to enjoying the independent feel they have over Homestar Runner. They've evolved to quicktime movies featuring puppets, new side-characters, cut an album with Matt as the uber-popular (and my favorite) character Strong Bad backed up by Atlanta rock act Y-O-U, had a guitar they designed on display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, did four songs with They Might Be Giants (three with puppet Homestar and one that was included in the Strong Bad email "Different Town") and directed the music video for the first track off the new TMBG album, Experimental Film. To this day still churn out great new games, downloads and cartoons with all the guys I've loved for quite some time now.

A list of the main characters is as follows:

The King of Town
Strong Sad
Strong Mad
Coach-Z
The Poopsmith
Bubs
Pom Pom
Marzipan
The Cheat
Homsar
Homestar Runner himself
and of course...Strong Bad.

Homestar Runner has been one of the greatest and most consistent sources of entertainment in an entertainment world that sometimes seems to be scarce of quality and consistency.

It's true, everyone really does love The Homestar Runner.

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