When asked any question concerning the creative or intellectual
processes that produce the brilliant hilarity of the
flash-animation website Homestarrunner.com, Mike Chapman answers
pretty much the same way: “I don’t know … not tons of
thought was given to it; we just thought it would be funny at the
time.” This spontaneous, carefree attitude explains the
random and whimsical nature of this site. Brothers Mike and Matt
Chapman (ages 30 and 27, respectively) have created the
“Seinfeld” of flash-animation — a cartoon in
which the characters (led by Homestar Runner, a no-armed,
beanie-wearing, endearingly-dumb “whitey” with a severe
speech impediment) write e-mails, make prank phone calls and loiter
by concession stands — a cartoon about, essentially,
nothing.

Janna Hutz

The most outrageous “Seinfeld” episode takes a
backseat to the animated wackiness, whose humor fits in somewhere
between sophisticated sarcasm and childish idiocy. Characters
morphing into their anime alter-egos, dragons burning villages,
poopsmiths, broken cow lamps and cinnamon facial hair are only a
few of the more off-the-wall scenarios. Sure, there are plenty of
quotable TV shows and cartoons, but Homestarrunner.com is unique
not only because it is so contagiously quotable, but because all
the quotes sound so stupid when you look at them from an outside
perspective. And you’ll relish in the confused looks others
who are not “in the know” will give you.

The funny and unpredictable cartoon can only take place in a
world where the characters “aren’t really people and
aren’t really animals and some make little squeaky sounds
instead of talking,” as Mike describes. “We liked the
Batman TV show from the ’60s … we got a lot of
inspiration from that. And videogames … the ‘Peanuts’
… ‘The Muppets’”— which explains why the
site’s so appealing to both the pop and the geek culture
savvy.

Homestarrunner has grown from a children’s book copied at
Kinko’s and distributed among friends to an underground
phenomenon. “Homestarrunner’s our full-time job
now,” Mike explains cheerily. “Fortunately, we make
enough money from T-shirt sales that we don’t have to do
anything else.”

Another indicator of the site’s popularity is the weekly
Strong Bad e-mail. Strong Bad, the “bully” of the bunch
who wears a Mexican wrestling mask and boxing gloves, gets around
5,000 e-mails a day. “Obviously we can’t read all those
e-mails. We randomly go through, locate 500 or so and set aside the
ones we think have potential. And as the week gets closer to the
weekend, we narrow it down to one or two. We make (the cartoon) on
Sunday, usually,” Mike remarks, the night before the e-mail
goes up for the thousands of expectant fans.

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