The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show Interview - 7 July 2014

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Matt was interviewed by Jeff Rubin on The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, during which the two discussed his work on Homestar Runner and "in the industry". In addition, Matt revealed some information regarding the future of Homestar Runner.


Offensive content Warning: Language that may be considered offensive by some readers follows.
To view a censored version of this page, see The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show Interview - 7 July 2014 (censored).

JEFF RUBIN: Hey everybody, welcome to the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show. Today I am extremely excited because on the Skype-a-phone I am talking to the man who, along with his brother, made Internet history by creating, writing, animating and voicing the classic cartoon: Homestar Runner. A big Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show welcome for Matt Chapman. Welcome to the show, Matt.

MATT CHAPMAN: Hi, Jeff. Thanks for having me on the show.

JEFF RUBIN: We have so much to discuss. I think I told you this but like I had a poll and I asked people just who would they want to hear on the show and there's sort of an eclectic mix of guests on this show, it's a pretty open-ended question, it could be anyone. And you won. People are— you know, this cartoon, you recently released one in April, but the cartoon is what, ten, fifteen years old now?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah we started in late '99, early 2000's. So yeah, we're getting up there. We're almost able, we can get our learner's permit, I think.

JEFF RUBIN: Ok well let's start at the beginning. This is 2000. I mean, how did you get into animation? Is that something you always wanted to do?

MATT CHAPMAN: Uhh, n... I mean, not, eh, really. We screwed around with, you know, Super 8 stop motion stuff and terrible, terrible quality VHS stop motion when we were kids.

JEFF RUBIN: This is you and your brother?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, yeah.

JEFF RUBIN: And what— when were you kids, what kind of equipment, like what era is this? What kind of equipment did you have access to?

MATT CHAPMAN: As we started out with Super 8 cameras, so you can actually do full-on stop motion, frame by frame, which, uh, which was cool, but of course we were terrible at it. But we did, you know, you make your Hot Wheels go around a track, I remember animating with M.U.S.C.L.E.s, which were these little pink figurines.

JEFF RUBIN: Yeah I remember those guys. They were like wrestlers kind of.

MATT CHAPMAN: I think one of those in the sandbox in the backyard. The big climax was vinegar baking soda volcano at the end that melted some of the M.U.S.C.L.E.s.

JEFF RUBIN: So even when you were little, you and your brother were into animating, into cartoons.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, I mean it was more, you know, if animation was the thing that we had access to doing easiest at that time, that was what we did. And once, you know, once the video camera was basically set up on like a tripod in our basement, and it was one of those old ones that was tethered to the VCR. Once that happened then we started making much more live action stuff, so it was sort of like whatever was sitting around that you could make content with, we would just pick that up and start making some kind of terrible content with it.

JEFF RUBIN: Is it just you and your brother, or are there other siblings?

MATT CHAPMAN: Uh, there are other siblings. We have two sisters and an older brother, the older brother— We're close with all of them, the older brother was probably the most influential as far as our style and our terrible 80's metal music preferences.

JEFF RUBIN: I guess that's what older brothers are for, to like show you, you know, to get you into all the cool stuff.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, exactly. And he definitely, he basically funded our video game habits from the late 80's all the way up until, you know, basically we moved out of my parents' house in the late 90's, so.

JEFF RUBIN: Was it clear to you even then as a kid, maybe in high school at least, that that was what you wanted to do, that you wanted to create things?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, definitely. I mean, by the time I got to eighth grade, I was gonna— it was either I was gonna go out for track or not, it was literally like the night before. Okay tomorrow's the physical, and you go and you know, tomorrow's like the tryouts for track and everybody else in my family had done track, and athletics and stuff, and I just decided like at the last minute that it was like, I dunno if this is what I want to do. And my parents were super cool and for the next birthday I got a video camera, and so that's kind of like from then on, alright, I'm gonna be doing, I gonna make something hopefully for a living, at some point. Be it with a video camera or a computer or a pen and paper or a whatever it was.

JEFF RUBIN: I'm so impressed that you knew exactly what you wanted to do, you recognized what you were good at, you recognized your passion in eighth grade.

MATT CHAPMAN: Well I wouldn't— Definitely not good at it, I'll correct you there. {laughs}

JEFF RUBIN: Well there's a few fans on the Internet who would beg to differ. I mean, did you imagine yourself as an animator, as a writer, as a director, or you just wanted to make things?

MATT CHAPMAN: I definitely, in the early days I wanted to be, I wanted to make films. I wanted to go to film school, which I ended up doing. But like, I was like, "I'm gonna make movies!" And then again like I said, I kind of realized over the course of it, once I started making, you know, terrible demo tapes of music on my answering machine in college, I realized I was satisfied with making content wherever you could sort of squeeze it into the world. And then, so when my brother and I finally found Flash (a friend introduced us to it in the late 90's) we were kind of like "Oh, this is great! Like we could easily tell stories with this and not have to do anything but sit in front of our computer for a few hours!"

JEFF RUBIN: When were you in college? Like, especially with relation to when did Homestar Runner start?

MATT CHAPMAN: So that started right after college, so I was in college from '95 to '98 or '99. And then my brother, I moved home and lived, you know, was living with my folks, and then Mike moved home. He dropped out of a Masters photography program at LSU, and then we, once we moved in together, we were kind of like "We should start doing some stuff like we did when we were kids!" And Flash and then Homestar Runner were the first attempt at that really, and we just stuck with it.

JEFF RUBIN: All right, so now we are up to Homestar Runner, for those that don't know, what is Homestar Runner? How do you describe it to people?

MATT CHAPMAN: Ahhh... this is the reason why we would never, never be able to make a Homestar TV show or movie or whatever because we're terrible at marketing it or describing it in any way. It's a series of web cartoons featuring weird, non-human characters that all live in a weird world where there are no adults or normal places or roads or sidewalks. And it all sort of moves from left to right. And they all kind of like each other and hate each other at the same time. And there's only one girl.

JEFF RUBIN: Why is there only one girl?

MATT CHAPMAN: Cause my brother's wife, or back at the time girlfriend, could kind of only do one voice.

JEFF RUBIN: Haha, so you and your brother, you're doing everything. You're doing the writing, the acting, all the voices.


JEFF RUBIN: I mean, where did this start from? Cause I guess it's not like a show, like you're saying, it's not a show with a central conceit, with like a core premise or anything. I mean, maybe the most popular feature was just answering email, right?


JEFF RUBIN: So how did it start? It seems like it grew very organically.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, I mean that's the one thing that's like, again, why it would never, there's no way you could ever reproduce this if like— Cause we did pitch, we pitched a version of Homestar Runner in like the year 2000 to Cartoon Network, which you know back then there was no Adult Swim. It was sort of in the late or maybe even after Space Ghost had gone, I think the Brak Show was coming up. They had just started Courage the Cowardly Dog.

JEFF RUBIN: Yeah, I feel like, I feel like Adult's Swim like 2001 or '2, I remember the launch of it pretty clearly.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah so we were sort of before that. And we definitely didn't fit with what they wanted to do, and we tried to pitch it as like a "Hey! There's this character Homestar, he's like an athlete, kind of like the captain of the football team! But he's kind of dumb! And then here's Strong Bad, he's like a wannabe Darth Vader!" And like we tried to make a bible and make it sound like a pitchable show, and of course they passed on it, which was good, and then we decided to keep going with it. And so, without you know, we just, like you said exactly, we were able to just let it grow organically and just keep trying new stuff and be like, "What do we like doing? What is fun to do?" And then once anybody started watching it on the Internet then we had that feedback to go from too. It's like, oh what do people like? Oh, they like this character the best, let's have that character answer emails and make fun of people! So that was all again, in like, you know, 2000, 2001.

JEFF RUBIN: That's such a unique thing to the Internet, the idea of like, "Uh, we'll try this character." And kind of figuring it out and letting it grow organically, versus television, where you need a pilot, you need a series bible, you really need to like plan the whole thing out. And as far as I can remember, as far as I can tell, you guys like one of the first people to do that, to go through that process of growing a series. You probably didn't even realize what you were doing.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, absolutely. No, we totally didn't. The first two years of it were just like, this fun thing we were doing in our spare time, like you know, it was no different for us than making some weird zine at Kinko's or recording a crappy album with our friends on a four track, you know. It was just another one of those like, hey we're making this thing. But for the first time ever, it was like, oh more than our friends are looking at this and we're hearing from more than just, you know, five to ten people that they like it, or don't like it, or whatever. You know, it was like because it was on the Internet, it was the first time we ever had, could gauge that it's like, "Oh! People are watching this and seem to like it. So maybe we'll keep doing it."

JEFF RUBIN: One of the kind of neat things about YouTube is that view counter I feel like really democraticizes, I dunno if I used that word correctly, the content. You know, when you see something that has like several million views, you're like "Oh, this is popular, there's something to this. Maybe I should stick around and watch this." And you know you can just see how popular something is, and I think there was a sense that Homestar Runner was very popular, it was going viral before that was really a word. But how popular was it? Like I've got no— were there millions of people watching it? A thousand? I just don't even know.

MATT CHAPMAN: We, I mean we intentionally— First of all, we didn't know because we didn't have, there was no Google Analytics in the early days, we had no real indicator. We were just paying thirty bucks a month for a Yahoo web hosting account that I think was supposed to give us like maybe a gig or maybe like half a gig of transfer a month. And we finally got a sort of like anonymous email, cause their customer service was notoriously terrible at that point so it was really hard to get a human being on the phone. And we got sort of an anonymous email with our stats in it, that was just like, "Hey, you guys might want to consider something else." And that was it. It was like someone on the inside was, I think maybe was a fan of Homestar Runner, and before— instead of like charging us a ton of money for the overages we were doing, just gave us a little like, "Hey here's what you're doing, maybe take this to another web host and look at other options." And we realized we were doing like multiple terabytes of transfer, instead of the half a gig that we were paying for. So we still hadn't— I think it's how I learned what a terabyte was, I don't even knew that storage or data could get that big at the time. So that was like I said, that was 2001 or '2 or something, and so then we realized, like oh crap, like we should probably find something, find a way to host this economically. So we started looking into that, and then shortly thereafter I remember it was a fall where it seemed like kids got back in school, and I think it sort of went from, early on in the game it was just like white collar people that had worked in cubicles, those were the only people that knew what web cartoons were, cause they were the only people with the T1 connections to watch—

JEFF RUBIN: Right, right, this was an age where not everyone was on broadband. I love the pre-YouTube Internet, it's like my favorite topic in the world. I'm loving this.

MATT CHAPMAN: You were still 28.8 or 56k modem, most of the people at that point. So that's why we in the early days, there's still, you can still find cartoons on the website with loading games, that was like, "Play this game while the cartoon loads!"

JEFF RUBIN: Well the cartoons, they weren't, were they video files? Like they weren't video files as we know them today, like they're not, like you couldn't just upload them to YouTube tomorrow if you wanted to, right?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, they're— I mean there was Flash, it was the actual Flash. I mean YouTube still runs on Flash, some sort of version of it, but it's like, it was what's called a .swf {pronounces it "swiff"} file was just you export straight from Flash and you could embed it in an HTML file. So yeah, it wasn't like a QuickTime thing and there was no play bar or pause button or volume control, it was just like, you controlled. And we had to control all that, and again, we didn't really know, were just learning as we went. So we didn't really know how to present it, so it's just like, "Okay, crap! We made this file and it's two megs so it's gonna take somebody on a 28.8 modem, you know, a half an hour to download, so we'll make a minigame for them to play while they wait for it to download." Which was a kind of hilarious time to be on the Internet.

JEFF RUBIN: Yeah, it's interesting like all the technical skill that you had to have that like someone who is making a cartoon today, would not have that. You wouldn't need to learn the word terabyte or gigabyte to make a cartoon today, you pretty much just upload it to YouTube and you're done. Are there other things like that, that you were doing, that you wouldn't have to do today?

MATT CHAPMAN: Uh, definitely. We had to teach ourselves, basically had to teach ourselves HTML and how to author in Flash if we wanted to do any sort of interactivity or games. We had to learn ActionScript which was Flash's programming language.

JEFF RUBIN: So you were learning this to make Homestar. Like you didn't know this and then decide to make Homestar Runner, you were learning it to make Homestar Runner.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, we basically like, you know, my brother had done some Photoshop in college and that was about it. I had done like software, uh excuse me, like video editing, like AVid, I don't even know if I had ever seen FinalCut actually so. We had some experience but we basically taught ourselves Flash, HTML, Photoshop, Illustrator, ActionScript, like whatever it took to get a cartoon on the Web. You know, audio editing software, whatever it took to get a cartoon on the Web in the year 2000, we had to sort of teach ourselves how to do it.

JEFF RUBIN: Do you look at people now, you know, people who have it so much easier, and you know, shake your damn head?

MATT CHAPMAN: {laughs} Not really. I feel like it's this, there's a different learning curve, you know, and maybe the best part for those people is that the learning curve is more like, "Oh! How do I make my characters better? Or how do I shape my story or my joke? You know, my humor?" That's what they can concentrate on faster than, we had to concentrate on some technical logistics before we could get into like content questions, so it's probably better for them actually. I dunno, I like to be a grumpy old man sometimes, but it feel like those kids, it's like "No, take advantage of it! Go nuts if you can."

JEFF RUBIN: You know, the same way that we're talking about this being a pre-YouTube Internet, also a pre-social media Internet. Do you have any sense of how these things got passed around? How they spread?

MATT CHAPMAN: Like I said, I mean definitely it started with just the people that had the fast connections, that could watch this stuff. Which like I at the time was working customer service for MindSpring which then became EarthLink, and you know that's how I even knew what Flash was, was because there were other dudes like in tech support that were, you know, watching Flash cartoons. And then I feel like those people started passing it down to their younger siblings and then right, you know in the early 2000's, was when I feel like computer labs in universities really started to take off, or like more, you got a computer in your dorm room with a decent connection and that kind of stuff. And I feel like that's really when it exploded, when it got to like college students. And, cause I remember, I think it was like 2002, we started selling hooded sweatshirts, and all of a sudden we were like doing all these orders, we were running the things out of our parents' basement at that time, selling the merchandise, and it just kind of like exploded and we were all super busy packaging hooded sweatshirts to send to college students. So I feel like that really was just straight up word of mouth, and you know, got around universities and work places and whatnot.

JEFF RUBIN: How long was it between starting the show and, you know, that word of mouth starting?

MATT CHAPMAN: Uh I mean, it was— we quit our day jobs in 2002 or— yeah, 2002 or '3, is when we like— our dad basically was like, "You should quit your day jobs and make cartoons for a living!"

JEFF RUBIN: Very un-dad-like statement.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, maybe the best. Especially he was like you know an accountant in a CFO, to hear that advice from somebody like that was basically the coolest thing you could ever hear. Yeah, so it took about two years of doing it as like a labor of love thing, for word of mouth to get around, to when folks were buying enough t-shirts and whatnot for us to start doing it full-time to pay the bills.

JEFF RUBIN: But you were doing it full-time to pay the bills.

MATT CHAPMAN: We did. We started, in like I said from 2002 to 2010 when we took our little hiatus, that was all we did, was just Homestar Runner full-time.

JEFF RUBIN: Was that satisfying? That must have been, I mean, that's kind of the dream, right?

MATT CHAPMAN: Oh, yeah. I can't imagine I'd— currently working with like you know, cable children's cartoon networks in California and it's like, not to bag on those people, but you know, nothing has topped. Basically, even the stuff I did out in California, in the industry, quote unquote, never came close to touching how awesome it was doing Homestar Runner full-time for a living.

JEFF RUBIN: Was there an episode that like, was the tipping point? Was there one that got spread around the most, that you know, made the show in your mind, or was it a gradual thing?

MATT CHAPMAN: Once we started doing Strong Bad Emails every week, it was right when I'd been living in New York and we were doing it. Mike was in Atlanta and I was in New York, and then I moved back from New York and we decided like "Hey let's start doing something every week." And so that's why, we'd done a few Strong Bad Emails at that point but we decided like, "Oh that's the easiest thing we could do, we could do one of those a week." And so that was like 2002. So once we started making it every week I feel like just the weekly updating of Strong Bad Emails was really when it started to go crazy. I remember like, it was either the techno one where he does like, makes fun of techno music, or the one where he makes fun of like squealy guitar players, it was like of those that was sort of lampooning of some very specific niche. Those were when where it really started to— It felt like, you'd meet someone later on, "Oh, I saw that actually! Some guy at work showed me that cartoon." And so, the more, the harder we made fun of people, the bigger it seemed to get. So then we really concentrated on just ragging on whoever we could.

JEFF RUBIN: Now Strong Bad, Strong Bad's almost like the Fonzie of this show, in that the show is called Homestar Runner, so theoretically should be Homestar's show, but I feel like, at least for me, and maybe this is just me, but Strong Bad is probably what when people hear the words Homestar Runner, I feel like Strong Bad is the character they most, that leaps to mind first. Is—


JEFF RUBIN: Is that right?

MATT CHAPMAN: Oh, definitely. I mean, we spent, I mean that's largely what we did every week for eight years was making new Strong Bad cartoons, so yeah that's totally fair. And that's— we don't have any problem with that, it's if Strong Bad or Trogdor or whatever it is is all anybody ever remembers us for, it's like, "Hey, I'll take it. That's fine with me." I always have a soft— Homestar's a much more fun character to write for and to perform, I've always felt like.

JEFF RUBIN: Why is that? What's the difference between Homestar and Strong Bad?

MATT CHAPMAN: For me personally, I dunno, maybe it's just because the voice, Strong Bad is a little gravellier and sort of hurts your throat after a while. Though it's easier to be an asshole obviously, but it's almost easier and more fun to be an oblivious asshole which is kind of what Homestar Runner is, like he doesn't know he's being a huge jerk all the time but yet he is. So I dunno, it may be because like Strong Bad sort of became everybody's favorite, I always sort of felt sorry a little bit for Homestar and started pulling for him a little harder.

JEFF RUBIN: Was Homestar then your favorite?

MATT CHAPMAN: I would say if I had to pick an actual favorite character, I would say that, we sometimes make these old timey cartoons where we fake like Homestar Runner was around in the 20's or 30's and make black-and-white weird old timey cartoons. And I would say old timey Homestar Runner might be my favorite character.

JEFF RUBIN: Where did these characters come from? Like are they based on anything? Was there a nugget of Strong Bad that you remember starting with before he became who he is?

MATT CHAPMAN: Um, yeah, a little bit. I mean there's— the main characters came from a, like I was talking earlier about just making weird zines at, you know, the copy shop or whatever. My friend Craig Zobel and my brother Mike made a little zine called Homestar Runner— The Homestar Runner Enters the World's Strongest Man Contest back in like 1996, and it was intentionally supposed to be like a weird children's book that didn't make a lot of sense and was kind of weird, and its moral was a little strange. And so, that had, that's where Homestar, Strong Bad, The Cheat and Pom Pom all came from.

JEFF RUBIN: Oh, wow. So they all have like these— they go back.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So there's these like, you know, hilariously drawn versions of those characters and it wasn't like it— it was sort of supposed to be funny but it's like, you just read it and you're like, "Huh, all right. I just read that, I guess." You don't really know what you're reading, and so then when my brother and I started doing Flash animation we were like, "Oh, we should— what if we used those characters from that, you know, little book you guys did?" And then very quickly, like you said, they started sort of evolving into something else. But there are like, you know, there's weird, weird things we'll look at the past, like sort of the dynamic between— Strong Bad has two brothers, Strong Sad and Strong Mad. And there's a little bit of the dynamic me and my two brothers in there. I would be the Strong Sad, my brother Mike would be the Strong Bad, and our brother Donny would be the Strong Mad, who's the oldest. Ah, it's not exactly one to one, but there's definitely a little bit of that brotherly dynamic in there.

JEFF RUBIN: Now one of the pieces of merchandise that really stands out to me, there was that Strong Bad video game, Strong Bad's Really Cool Adventure Game...

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People.

JEFF RUBIN: Yes, that's the one. Which was with TellTale, who was of course gone on to do that great Walking Dead game. Were you guys involved with that?

MATT CHAPMAN: Uh yeah, we were incredibly involved with that. They were super cool with letting us have a ton of, you know, influence on it and final say on almost everything. If anything maybe we were too involved— {Jeff Rubin laughs} But it was super fun to work with, they approached us, which we were super like, I grew up— TellTale was founded by guys who used to be at LucasArts and places like that, and I grew up playing Monkey Island and Sam and Max Hit the Road and those games, so to hear from those guys was super cool and like, it was very validating to be like, "Oh, if there was anybody I would make a point and click adventure game with, it would be those guys who made those games I played growing up." And then those guys emailed us and said, "Hey, are you interested in doing something?" So that was super fun. It was a ton of work. We realized that in terms of the lines of dialogue and the amount of sort of jokes we did in those five little mini-episodes, we did maybe like three years' worth of, you know, content all in the space of like the six months or however long, like the year that we worked on those games. So it was cool but very taxing, I remember having to look into weird herbal remedies for my throat, because I was doing like, you know, several thousand lines of dialogue for Strong Bad a day.

JEFF RUBIN: So Strong Bad, that's just your voice? Cause I feel like, on South Park for instance, I feel like Cartman initially was Trey Parker doing that voice, but at some point they figured out how to just put it into a computer and tune it down. But Strong Bad, that's all you, that's all your vocal cords.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, yeah, we never— Uh, I don't know if there's any voices where we pitched me up or pitched me down. All the main characters for sure, I could, you know, sit there and have a conversation with those characters back and forth.

JEFF RUBIN: If you wanted to do that, I'll like, I'll stand back and stop asking questions for a minute.

MATT CHAPMAN: {in Strong Bad's voice} You should start asking questions, cause what am I— who wants to listen to me ramble on about nothing in particular, man? Ask me something!

JEFF RUBIN: So— okay! I felt like, I really felt that, like I really felt like I had to ask him something immediately, like he was yelling at one of my emails or something. You mentioned like, that this was this great thing, it was popular, it was your full-time job, in many ways... in some ways, at least, it was more satisfying than, you know, industry work that you would go on to do. So what was the hiatus in 2010? What made you guys decide to take a break?

MATT CHAPMAN: It was mainly just, I was— I just had my second daughter, and then we had started, it was right at the ten year mark which felt like a nice, big, you know, if you're gonna take a break like ten years felt like a nice time...

JEFF RUBIN: Yeah you could take one I guess.

MATT CHAPMAN: take a breather. {laughs} And then during that time we decided, "Hey, let's start talking to some of the people who we've heard from over the years in the industry, and see if there's something there that, you know, to work on or try to grow." And so we started talking to people out in Los Angeles, and then some of that stuff started to actually move forward, so we were like okay, if we want to keep pursuing this we kind of need to put Homestar on hold to try to put all our weight behind that stuff. And so that's what we started doing, and I ended up actually moving out to Los Angeles for a few years and we got to do a bunch of cool stuff and work with a bunch of cool people and work on a bunch of cool shows.

JEFF RUBIN: What shows did you work on? Cause I think people would love to know.

MATT CHAPMAN: When I first got out there, Mike and I both wrote and directed some episodes of the children's show Yo Gabba Gabba! And then I got to write and direct some shows of— the creators of that show had another show called The Aquabats Super Show, which is a sort of televised version of their crazy surf punk band. So that was really cool to work in live action, especially live action with like, we got to blow up motorcycles and have crazy monster costumes and make weird, almost Power Rangers-y fights. So that was awesome. And then after that, when I started working at Disney, we— I got to work on the show Gravity Falls, Wander Over Yonder, and even, they're doing these Mickey Mouse shorts and I got to just sort of brainstorm with those guys a little bit, which was super cool.

JEFF RUBIN: It's cool, these are all... Um, you know, I'm not— I'm more up on children's TV than most people my age, but not one hundred percent in. But those are all shows I've heard good things about, you know, like these are not just random shows, these are really well regarded shows, and some of them I think you can see some of the influence of Homestar Runner. Because to me, like when I think of Homestar Runner, I think it's very, it's like proto-Adult Swim, you know? Like the randomness, and the pop culture, and the video game jokes. People were not making video game jokes, it's hard to— I know this is impossible to believe, but people, I swear to you, no one was making video game jokes in the year 2000. They weren't that popular, it wasn't that mainstream yet.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, we always felt weird about making them too, 'cause we felt like they were played out, 'cause like we had been doing— my senior year in high school, I got to make the senior class t-shirt, and I made it an Atari logo, and it had a joystick on the front. And everyone hated it. And I remember feeling terrible that I ruined the class t-shirt, so we were already being stupid and nostalgic about retro and old-school gaming in like 1995. And so then when we started making those jokes on Homestar, we were kinda like "I don't know, people will probably think this is just lame and played out," and then, you know, over a decade later to see that people like 8-bit stuff and old-school Nintendo and old-school PC games and stuff, it still has become it's own weird subgenre of everything, of animation and comics—

JEFF RUBIN: Just a major pillar of the Internet, I would say, is videogame jokes.

MATT CHAPMAN: Right. So it's funny that we thought we were doing something that was played out in 1995, but obviously that stuff had length, so that's good.

JEFF RUBIN: Yeah. You mentioned that you were talking to Cartoon Network before Adult Swim existed. Would it be easy for you to imagine Homestar Runner on something like Adult Swim, which is— probably the main thing is that it's just more random, for lack of a better word, it's a little more scattershot?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, potentially. I mean, I feel like the good part— the thing about the Internet is, you get that interactivity and that sort of immediacy. Adult Swim comes close to that; they can have crazy, short production turnarounds, I think, and air something that was just finished a few hours ago and then put it on the air. So it's probably from an anything-that-is-broadcast-on-TV standpoint, they would probably be the ones, I would hope anyways, willing to air something closest to what our website was like. But at the same time, there are those things— that's why YouTube for us is weird, because we want to just put all of our cartoons on YouTube, but then all of our cartoons have like hidden stuff in them, and these things that are harder to do on YouTube or impossible to do on YouTube. So it's weird, like I don't wanna just be stuck in the early 2000s Flash animation scene, but there are things that were staples of our style of— not storytelling, but whatever, just conveying our weird entertainment to you, that are specific very much to that time. And so it's funny that we're finding it hard to find some modern version of that, that we could kind of check all the checkboxes on like, "What makes a Homestar Runner cartoon?" or "a Homestar Runner experience?"

JEFF RUBIN: Was that one experience you had with Cartoon Network, was that the only time you tried to develop it into a show? It's hard for me not to imagine that in a time when Internet shows— this is like dot-com bubble— Internet shows are just this new phenomenon. It's hard for me not to imagine that there were a ton of people who were like, "There's something on the Internet that's popular. It resembles a TV show; why don't we put it on this TV thing we have?"

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, I mean, there was— so that pitch, that's the only time we ever formally pitched "The Homestar Runner TV Show" was whatever year that was, 1999 or 2000. There was a time when in like '02 or '03 that we heard from some folks, so this was sort of post dot-com bubble bursting, but we heard— we went out and talked to Nickelodeon and talked to Disney back then, and it was sort of apparent— they were super nice, and we were kind of like, it was more of a thanks/no thanks, where they were like, "Hey, we'd love to make your show, but you can't talk about cold ones, and Strong Bad can't say 'crap' and 'sucks'," just these few things that were like, not that it's so funny that he says "crap" and "sucks", but it was sort of like, to have to censor our cartoon which was already fairly... not family-friendly, I won't say it like that, but at the same time it wasn't South Park, and to have to then— the price of it being "All right, now you have to get a bunch of network notes and it can't be what it was on the internet" was kind of not interesting to us at the time. And then especially once we started doing it full-time and it was paying the bills, it was like, "Well, why would we go do anything else when we can just be the masters of our own destinies or whatever?"

JEFF RUBIN: Man, you guys are so ahead of your time. Like, that's a thing people are doing now— you hear stories about people making livings on YouTube. But 2000, 2001, 2002? That's so unheard of. When you told people, "We don't work for a company; our job is we make cartoons on the Internet," did they look at you like you were telling them that you were flying a jetpack to the moon or something?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, I mean most people just— it's funny, they just sort of didn't hear that. Because I would meet people years later that we had told that to back when we first started doing it, and they'd be like, "Oh wait, you do this full-time?" And I was like, "Yeah, I told you that in 2003, man!" And they'd be like, "Oh, I just didn't assume you could do this full-time." And like— so when we would tell people that, they just didn't believe it or their brains just sent it right out the other ear, and kind of would forget that we said that we were doing it full-time. And it wasn't until anyone else started making a living, or at least getting noticed on the Internet, that they were like, "Oh, okay, they might be one of those people." But yeah, so it was funny. It definitely would surprise people when they'd be— they just assumed that it was like, "Okay, you must have a day job, and you're supplementing it with this," or "You're doing a bunch of freelance on the side," and then when we tell them "No, we're lucky enough to this solely as our source of income," they would just be like, "Okay, I didn't hear what you just said. Goodbye, I'm leaving."

JEFF RUBIN: And was that income from ads or was it merchandise? Or something else I'm not thinking of?

MATT CHAPMAN: No, yeah, we never did any ads.

JEFF RUBIN: I mean like Google Adsense. I'm not sure if that even existed then. Now you don't have to do anything to do ads on YouTube; you just check a box. But I don't even know what you would've had to have done to do ads. I mean I guess it would've been shitty banner ads.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, it would've been banner ads, which it's hilarious, we made the conscious decision, I remember when we were first putting up the website, I think you could, with the Yahoo! hosting account we had, I think you could just add banner ads if you wanted, and we were intentionally like, "Man, we hate banner ads! Banner ads are the worst thing about the Internet and they're gonna go away any day now, so we're not gonna put them on our website!" So no, it was all just from merchandise sales. We never did any advertising because that's a thing we always hated about the Internet. We were like, "TV needs these. Why does the Internet need these?"

JEFF RUBIN: It's amazing that you were moving just enough pure merchandise that you weren't even selling the show. The show was just an ad for the merchandise.

MATT CHAPMAN: Well, sort of. We were actually pretty bad, like I said, our Dad helped us out in the early days and he was always sort of bugging us to push the merchandise more than we ever were. We were always sort of, maybe, a little too punk rock about trying not to sell out and not to push the merchandise to where lots of people would be fans of our stuff for years and not know that we even sold t-shirts or CDs or DVDs.

JEFF RUBIN: Man, a Homestar t-shirt in the early 2000's, that's such a great way to make friends. Cause if you see someone else that recognizes that shirt there's a really good chance you two are gonna get along.

MATT CHAPMAN: That's, yeah, we've heard a few stories of couples that, that's what they got— that's what they met over was somebody wearing a shirt, or met over laughing over a Strong Bad e-mail and then ended up getting married and then we'd get a, they would've bought one of the baby Trogdor shirts that we made for their baby that they had, and they'd be like, "Look, Homaster Runner brought us together!" It's sort of a wonderful byproduct that never ever would've intended.

{Left off at the 34:33 mark}

{Starting again at the 35:33 mark}

JEFF RUBIN: Are there people that still access the website? I mean, I looked at it this week and it's fun. Are there people that still access the website? Then I'll tell you what I thought when I looked at the website.

MATT CHAPMAN: I would assume so. I mean, yeah, we do have Google Analytics now so we check it. I mean, we've always tried to stay— we want to make sure people are looking at it, but at the same time we never wanted that to influence what me made, you know? Like we didn't want it to be like, "Oh, nobody's looking this week! That means we need to make more 'blank' kind of cartoons!" So we know that people are still watching it. When we did that April Fools Day update this year it got way more, like, way more people looked at it than we ever even imagined would have at this point. So, people are still checking it and our goal is, we did that thing as a test to get back into doing it. We'd love to start making stuff again now that we're— I've recently moved back into the same town as Mike.

JEFF RUBIN: Definitely want to hear about that, but before I forget, let me tell you what I thought when I looked at the website, because this is what makes Homestar Runner so cool. There is nothing else like it and there probably never will be again. Because, in addition to making the cartoon, you also had to build the player for the cartoon. So that's why you have all these interactive touches and this way you took advantage of Flash as a medium. If you're making a cartoon today, I'm not saying no one does this or you can't do it, but it's pretty crazy if you're making a cartoon not to just put it on YouTube or Vimeo or something like it. But you guys had to build the website.

MATT CHAPMAN: If you go to the site now it's kind of a mess. If you were going every week back in 2004 to 2006, then you kinda knew where things were and you knew here the new stuff went. Now from just a user experience stand point and an information architecture stand point it's a total train wreck. Which, we figure if we actually started doing stuff regularly again we would probably have like the museum version of the site which is as it stands now and as it's been for the past twelve years or whatever, and then a newer version that has a front page that's maybe a little more 2013— I'm not gonna say that it's 2014, we'll maybe go as recent as 2013 as far as interface. Cause yeah, it's kind of a hilarious, it's like a little time capsule almost of the early 2000's.

{Left off at the 37:54 mark}

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