The beginning of 2002 was a dark time. My then favorite Internet comedy site, the Brunching Shuttlecocks, was stagnating. It would be weeks between updates, and there was a growing dearth of humor in my life. My friends and I, alike, become moody and dissatisfied with life. One fateful afternoon, however, all of this changed.
Brunching put a link up on its Web site that took us to a strange cartoon of a bizarre shirtless wrestler named Strong Bad who was answering fan mail. And so our love affair with Homestar Runner began.
The entirely Flash animated site revolves around the misadventures of Homestar Runner and friends, a group of vaguely anthropomorphic characters.
First of all, there’s Homestar Runner, who is a terrific athlete, despite being a “no-armed whitey,” in the words of Strong Bad.
There’s his girlfriend, Marzipan, a gentle, guitar-toting, tree-loving hippie. She can often be found singing songs about birds and not liking Strong Bad.
There’s Homestar’s best friend, Pom-Pom. Pom-Pom is a giant orange bubble who speaks in a similarly bubbly manner.
We also have the brothers Strong, Strong Bad, Strong Mad and Strong Sad. Strong Bad is a self-promoting wrestler who delights in plotting capers against Homestar and his “dorky kid brother” Strong Sad. The Cheat, an adorable yellow something-or-another, usually hangs around with Strong Bad and even has his own theme song.
The characters, who also include the Poopsmith, Homsar, Bubs and Coach Z, exist in a childish, middle school-esque cartoon mini-universe populated exclusively by themselves without the intrusion of any elements of the outside world.
This is part of the site’s appeal. It has no political agenda and doesn’t try to tie itself to any real-life issues, save for the occasional Nintendo references. The cartoons do not have to resort to the typical lowest common denominator that pervades much Internet humor.
It’s this clean humor that originally started the site’s burgeoning fan-base at Christian colleges across the country before it caught on in the mainstream. It’s the type of cartoon that you wouldn’t care about showing your parents, and its lack of vulgarity doesn’t compromise the humor in the least.
If you go to this site for any reason whatsoever, do it for Strong Bad. Although we may scratch our heads as to how he can type with those boxing gloves on, his weekly answering of e-mails is one of the few joys left to me in this miserable world.
Homestar Runner, originally conceived as a children’s book, self-published by Matt and Mike Chapman in 1996, has exploded into a self-contained Internet kingdom (lorded over by the stick-of-butter-eating King of Town) since its move to the Internet in 2000. The site is written and maintained by the brothers, now in their late 20s, who currently live in Atlanta.
Some of the true joys of the site, however, are the cookies the Chapman brothers program into the animations. Always be on the lookout for the cartoons within cartoons, little goodies that spring out from the digital Web work with the correct click of a mouse button – they never fail to disappoint in added an additional comedic twist to an already humorous situation.
Hats off to the Chapman brothers, not only have they succeeded in creating a cartoon that stands out from the background of mostly disposable Internet humor. They had given a serious modicum of joy to my otherwise bland and passionless life. In the words of Strong Bad, Total Journalist, “Well, it can only go downhill from here, so . get outta my face.”