Run Devil Run Interview

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Mid-2003, C. Neutron of Run Devil Run Interviewed Mike and Matt Chapman, creators of the Homestar Runner body of work.

[edit] Transcript

If you haven't been introduced to Homestar Runner yet, you've been missing out on what is quite possibly one of the funniest things and certainly one of the best to ever come out of the Internet. Featuring characters that are as well defined and interesting as the best of any classic cartoon character, and situations that are sidesplittingly funny. Homestar is the kind of thing that can exist only on the internet and really is another strong example of the medium as a forum for art rather then shamless commerce.

Even people that hate computers and don't have or use them would be well advised to go to the library and check out the site. You will soon find yourself coming back again and again to check in on the adventures of Homestar, Strong Bad, Strong Sad, Coach Z, Marzipan, The Cheat and the rest.

NEUTRON: Homestar started in book form in '96, how does one go from a little book, to Mario paint to a popular flash site?

MATT: By complete accident. The book and Mario Paint projects were just screwing around. Then Mike and I discovered Flash right around when Flash 4 came out. We freaked out when we saw all it could do. So we downloaded a 30 day free trial and started learning it. When we had a few cartoons we launched the website and nobody came and we didn't care either way. Then somehow people started finding out about. Pretty much just by word of mouth because we never really submitted it anywhere or anything. Then we came up with Strong Bad emails about a year ago and started updating every week. I think that really got folks interested. And comin' back.

NEUTRON: And with the exception of the character Marzipan's voice, everything is done by you two right?

MATT: Yah. Sometimes our millionaire gadabout friend Craig Zobel will help us write episodes or jokes. He and Mike were the ones that came up with the book idea. I worked in a movie theater that summer and they told me to shut up and to go away. NOW who's shutting up and going away?

NEUTRON: The site has received a lot of attention (for better or for worse) from newsfilter site Fark.com do you ever look at that site or the endless commentary that comes with it?

MATT: Oh totally. Drew Curtis and Fark are awesome for linking to us pretty much every week. The comments are hilarious. It always goes from one extreme to the other. It's cool though cause it's like instant feedback. We'll put something new up, and within a couple hours it might be on Fark and folks are commenting on it already. That's why the internet is so great. You just can't do that kinda thing on graphing calculators, y'know?

NEUTRON: Did you ever have any idea Strongbad would receive the level of popularity that he has? For some people it seems like the strong bad e-mails are the focus of the site?

MATT: From the get-go folks seemed to like Strong Bad the best. He's the most accessible across the board I think. Maybe cause he's the character that comes the closest to cussing. Everybody loves a cusser. But we didn't know what we were getting into when we started the Strong Bad emails. Originally, I was going to respond to every email I got and then pick one a week to make a little toon out of. I think I lasted 2 days. And that was when he was maybe getting 15 a day. Now it's like 500 or more. Getting your email picked is pretty much a crap shoot.

NEUTRON: The strong bad e-mails are from real people right? What are they like on the whole and who are they from?

MATT: Yeah, they've all been real. They seem to come from everybody everywhere. 6 year olds on up to 40 and 50 year olds. A LOT of from the junior high crowd though for sure. And folks in cubicles. There's a lotta repetition. People can't seem to get over how Strong Bad types with boxing gloves on.

MIKE: Yes, they're all from real people. For the most part they are not very interesting. I wade through them for a couple hours a week and usually only find a handful that can be used. About 80% of them ask how he can type so fast with boxing gloves on.

NEUTRON: Wasn't there originally a plan to have a site for each character (strongbad.com, coachz.com, etc.?)

MATT: Naw, just Strong Bad, but then the Strong Bad emails came around and he kinda took over the site a bit. Though I think bubs.com would probably be the best site ever.

MIKE: Someday Strong Bad might get his own site, but he's probably the only one.

NEUTRON: What the heck is the Cheat anyway?

MATT: The Cheat is an up and coming flash animator who was really bummed when Kozmo.com went under.

MIKE: The Cheat is a fine looking young man. No, I think he's kind of a leopard/gerbil/anvil type thing.

NEUTRON: I noticed in an interview that you guys mentioned Mudhoney and in e-mail you mentioned Steel Pole Bathtub, so I take it you guys are independent music fans? Who are some of your favorites?

MATT: My car only plays tapes so I've had the big bin of tapes out from high school. There's a lotta SST stuff in there. Those were the days eh? Double Nickels on the Dime.

MIKE: Somebody told me Mudhoney's new album is good. I might have to check it out. Superfuzz Bigmuff is a classic. I miss my Mudhoney shirt. I like The Glands and Tom Waits and the Flaming Lips and Will Oldham and Outkast and stuff.

NEUTRON: Do you ever listen to music while updating the site?

MATT: Sometimes. But we're usually syncing up dialogue or recording voices or music though so unfortunately there's a lotta quiet time. And you have to tiptoe around or you get your name on the board.

MIKE: Our air conditioner is so loud its hard to hear anything over it. I can't wait for it to cool down around here.

NEUTRON: What are your thoughts on being linked from questionably famous indie bands sites (the Oxes, Of Montreal, Self starter foundation label etc. I actually found out about it because of the Oxes) Do you ever check out the music, or find any good bands that way? Ever thought about tapping them for music in the cartoon? (Ala skate party?)

MATT: If we're linked to a band's site I'll always see what they have to offer. The Of Montreal one is cheating though cause I've been friends with their drummer Jamey since kindergarten. We've actually been trying to collaborate with them on some cartoon stuff for a while. It's really cool to be linked by a lot of bands. Sometimes I think of our operation as being like a band that doesn't tour, we just put our stuff online.

MIKE: Absolutely. Hopefully we'll collaborate with Of Montreal sometime soon. We're lucky to have tons of cool musicians promoting our site. I know The Cheat would like to make some videos for other bands.

NEUTRON: Does the website pay for itself?

MATT: Yup, for now.

MIKE: Yeah, through t-shirt sales.

NEUTRON: Why keep it ad free? Not that I'm complaining, any interesting/fun stories from people offering ad revenue for shady products?

MATT: We set out to make our website be everything that most other websites weren't. Ad free was just a given. It's such a gross necessary evil that's so not necessary. We've had a few grody offers here or there. But I think the fact that we have no ads scares the salesmen off. They assume we're legit and not just 2 dudes in a shitty apartment.

MIKE: Not really. I wish there were. We've felt pretty strongly about keeping it banner ad free and pop-up ad free from the start. Its visually less distracting.

NEUTRON: What's the deal with Homsar?

MATT: Homsar is a mistake. He shouldn't exist. Yet somehow he keeps coming around saying stuff like, "Bury me deep, I'm cold and clammy."

MIKE: He's in his own world. Even Strong Sad can't stand him.

NEUTRON: Does Strong Sad like the Black Heart Procession (http://www.southern.com/southern/band/BHP00/)? Or does he stick solely with the Cure and other more 80s downer music?

MATT: He's got a Promise Ring poster in his room and he's really diggin' the latest Thursday.

MIKE: Strong Sad likes 80s downer music as well as emo.

NEUTRON: What brought on the idea of the Easter eggs (the duckpond simulator 2600, 'everybody to the limit', the secret Strong bad menu, etc. ).

MATT: We wanted to have some rewards on the site for anybody that really started poking around. Now they've sort of come to be expected but it's a great way to flesh out stuff that doesn't really belong or fit into a cartoon.

MIKE: I think it was the Strong Bad E-mail titled 'Depressio.' If you e-mail Strong Sad, then he emails back with a secret link. Now, people complain if a Strong Bad E-mail doesn't have any Easter eggs.

NEUTRON: How did the project with Mellowmushroom come about? Have you been approached by any other companies about anything similar?

MIKE: They saw the Homestar site and loved it and pretty much wanted the same type of site. Since we're both in Atlanta, it was easy to work with them. We've gotten a few other inquiries, but none of them really panned out.

NEUTRON: I know you spoke with cartoon network a long time back about doing a television cartoon but they wanted something more situation based. It seems to me most of the appeal of homestar is with the characters, have you talked with any more television networks or anything? Any plans for ever making short filmes, VHS or DVD version of the cartoons for television or the people without computers?

MATT: We'd love to continue doing Homestar without ever having to put him on network or cable television. That's not to say we wouldn't ever want to work with TV people on something else maybe. It's just that Homestar's our baby and there's a pretty slim chance the total package would stay intact if a network picked it up.

MIKE: We'd like to get the stuff out on DVD sometime in the near future. As for TV, who knows. We're not actively pursuing it. The web is so much fresher and more spontaneous than TV.

NEUTRON: Do you yourself store marshmallows in your pocket for secret eating?

MATT: Just a moment.

MIKE: I've been eating a lot of Mounds bars lately. They're so good. So, most of my secret eating has been those. I went through two bags at the beach last month.

NEUTRON: Would you ever sell one of your characters for an advertisement? What would it take?

MATT: Sure, if it was something awesome that fit with Homestar. Like when Bob and Doug MacKenzie started advertising for Molson Golden. That was a given. Of course they should. Nothing shameful there. Say if Waffle House or the Atlanta Braves approached us, we'd wheel and deal.

MIKE: Either Waffle House or Wiffle Ball.

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