Tastes Like Chicken Interview

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In June 2003, The Brothers Chaps were interviewed by Wayne Chinsang of Tastes Like Chicken.

[edit] Transcript

Offensive content Warning: Language that may be considered offensive by some readers follows.
To view a censored version of this page, see Tastes Like Chicken Interview (censored).

WAYNE: I know Homestar Runner started off with a book you guys put together for a few friends, titled Homestar Runner Enters The Strongest Man In The World Contest. How did it progress from there to get where it is now?

MIKE: Well, the original story was from 1996. Matt was in school in Tallahassee, and I was in school in Athens. And for the next three-and-a-half years, nothing happened. It would pop up here and there; we'd write a little story or come up with an idea. Then we did that Mario Paint theme song video that's on the site.

MATT: We did that for our older brother for Christmas one year.

MIKE: We did that in '97 or '98. But, for the most part, nothing happened. We were busy in school, making movies and art and crap like that. We moved back to Atlanta at about the same time, in late 1999, and we wanted to create a project to work on together. So we chose Homestar Runner. We discovered Flash, and we were blown away by how easily you could make good-looking cartoons.

MATT: What we thought were good-looking at the time.

MIKE: {laughs} Right. So that started in January of 2000. And you can find the progression from there on the site.

WAYNE: So, you both did other stuff before. Mike, you used to take photography?

MIKE: Right.

WAYNE: And, Matt, you went to LSU for film?


WAYNE: FSU. Sorry.

MIKE: I went to LSU for one year.

WAYNE: Cool. That shows how good I am at researching shit.

MIKE: {laughs}

WAYNE: So, do you guys still do photography and film at all, or do you just not have time for it, since Homestar Runner has totally taken over?

MATT: We don't do it on the side. We try and incorporate the skills we learned in our schooling onto the site. But I don't have film projects I'm working on, and Mike's not working in a darkroom.

WAYNE: What type of photography did you used to do, Mike?

MIKE: I did color stuff. The program I was in at the University of Georgia was primarily fine art oriented, as opposed to commercial—

MATT: Olan Mills studio portrait-style.

WAYNE: {laughs}

MIKE: My degree was for to be an artist, not to be a professional photographer. And that's when I dropped out of grad school. I didn't have the desire or the skills to be a commercial photographer. I did all natural ambient light settings, used 35mm, and had 30-second exposures. So my style was not applicable to earning very much money, unless a lot of people were going to be buying my art.

WAYNE: Did you stick mainly to 35mm? I ask because my degree is in photography as well.

MIKE: Oh, nice. We had to take a medium and large-format class. But the only camera I have is a 35mm. And then in graduate school I started using a lot of disposable cameras and Polaroid.

WAYNE: Yeah. Getting away from what people think photography is.

MIKE: Exactly.

WAYNE: I hear ya. So did all the schooling and training prepare you for the world you're in now? Because I went to art school, too, and then I started the paper. But I knew nothing about the business aspect of it, which I think is equally as important as the creative aspect.

MIKE: Right.

WAYNE: So do you feel that what you guys got out of school prepared you for where you are now? Or did you have to learn a lot on the way?

MIKE: We didn't learn a lot of the business crap. But I definitely feel that what I learned in art school is applicable, whether or not it's just the actual visuals: composition, colors, and crap like that. Just in making stuff that looks pretty and appealing to the eye.

MATT: Yeah. But in terms of the preparedness, we've just been winging it for the last three years, for the most part. Just taking stuff as it comes. We're prepared for doing the creative stuff, sure. But in terms of the business, we're just making it up as we go. We didn't set out to,.. you know. It's not like we were like, "We're going to make a cartoon on the web so that TV people will come to us, and then we'll pitch a cartoon." We weren't trying to make it something that we were going to support ourselves on either. We were just making it as a hobby. But then it was like, "Oh crap. A lot of people are buying t-shirts, so I can quit my job." We're definitely learning as we go. And as far as business goes, we've got a business dude. So we learned a lot of it peripherally. We like big, broad strokes of it, instead of the boring, meeting-type crap. Don't give me any hand-outs. {laughs}

WAYNE: {laughs}

MATT: Our dad and our business guy both are very good at making lots and lots of spreadsheets,.. which they'll show you.

WAYNE: {laughs} So, you guys just started off doing it for fun and just to do it, but was there any one day or time in particular when you just stopped and realized how huge it had become?

MIKE: It was more of a gradual rise. I think the biggest spike came in September 2002.

MATT: Yeah. That was right when I quit my job, and it was just in time. Kids had just gotten back in school, like college and stuff, and I don't know if it had been brewing over the summer or what, but we definitely saw a huge spike in terms of traffic to the site and selling shirts. We started getting more emails, and Strong Bad started getting more emails. So that was the biggest in terms of there being a jump. But everything else has been gradual. We just learned last month that Beck links to us on his website. So that was really fucking cool.

WAYNE: Awesome. Yeah, we interviewed Marilyn Manson last October—

MATT: {laughs} Awesome.

WAYNE: —and we were trying to do this whole Manson issue, because I had interviewed Charles Manson, which was the easier of the two interviews to get, if you can fucking believe that.

MATT: {laughs}

MIKE: Of course.

WAYNE: So, thanks to a friend of mine, Cyril, we ended up doing this interview with Marilyn Manson. And he ended up putting a link to our site on his site. So I was checking the web stats every day, and we were averaging, at the time, somewhere around 2,000 hits a day. But one day I go to check the stats and we had jumped to 40,000 in one day.

MIKE: {laughs}

WAYNE: Yeah. It was crazy. So, you guys have somewhat of a pseudo-celebrity status right now, but you don't have recognizable faces, because the characters are what's put out there. Do you like the privacy of that? Do you like being these guys that a lot of people know about, but yet remaining faceless?

MIKE: I think it's nice, to a degree. But one of the drawbacks of it is that, up until recently, we hadn't really met any fans face-to-face. We get emails from people, but it's nice to meet people. Like, if you're in a band, you're playing in front of people, so you get to see the people and talk to them. You get to interact with them in a more real way than just email. But I don't think if people knew what we looked like we'd have to worry about people recognizing us or anything like that. But it is nice to meet people. I don't want to continue to be faceless and not let people know what we look like.

WAYNE: So, kind of in line with that, kind of the way (Mike) Judge is to Beavis and Butt-head, John K. is to Ren and Stimpy, or Trey and Matt are to South Park, the Brothers Chaps are to Homestar Runner. Does it bother you guys that, with anything you do after this, you'll be referred to as the "Homestar Runner guys"?

MIKE: {laughs}

MATT: At this point, no. I'm still proud of it. Actually, you know, I'll be surprised if they call us the "Homestar Runner guys" and not the "Strong Bad guys".

WAYNE: Yeah. That's true.

MIKE: {laughs}

MATT: I'll welcome it if they call us the "Homestar Runner guys". Or they might call us the "Trogdor guys", which would be more accurate at this point. But that's what's cool about doing it ourselves. It's not like it's going to sell-out; it's not going to be like,... A few weeks ago, me and Mike went to Target and we were in the pool toys section. And there was an entire wall of SpongeBob pool toys. They had every kind of thing you could think of, and it didn't even look like SpongeBob; it just had pants and was yellow. And that's just disgusting. And if that was out there, and people kept calling me the "SpongeBob guy", I'd probably be pissed off.

WAYNE: Exactly.

MATT: We're always going to maintain this level of integrity. I think it is something that we'll always be proud of, so if that's all they remember me for, that's cool. And, hopefully, we'll end up doing other stuff, too. But at this point, I stand by it.

WAYNE: With that being said, you guys have made a lot of conscious decisions with the site, like no ad banners, and it doesn't resort to swearing to get a joke across. What are the reasons behind the decisions? I mean, no one wants to say, "I want to sell-out and have my shit all over Target." No one is going to say that, although a lot of people will do it.

MIKE: {laughs}

WAYNE: But what are the reasons behind keeping the site ad-free and making it clean enough for kids to view?

MIKE: The ad thing was something we decided early on. The site is a window within this black screen, so it already separates itself from your browser. And we did this to make it in its own world, and not relate it to anything else. We didn't want any distractions, whether it was a banner ad or pop-up crap or swirling things all over the place. Once you're there, you're there. And you know that everything you see there, you're supposed to be seeing.

MATT: Yeah. We don't even link to other sites. People will come to us and say, "Oh, we linked to your site. Will you link to us on yours?" And that's really cool, and we're not trying to be dicks about it, but we're just trying to keep the site as a whole experience. Once you get to Homestar land, you're in there. And, plus, it really goes back to the state of the web, which is actually worse now, in terms of ads and crap like that. But when we first started doing it, we were looking around at other Flash cartoons back in late '99, and there were ads everywhere. And you couldn't even tell what was the cartoon and what wasn't. So we decided that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it like that. And then, in terms of the wholesomeness of it all, at the time we started, everything on the web was South Park rip-offs and gross-out shock humor.

MIKE: "Look at this little cute cartoon character! It says swear words!"

MATT: Yeah. "He says 'fuck', and looks like a country boy!"

WAYNE: {laughs}

MATT: So we were just kind of sick of it. It's like, South Park did it the best without ripping it off. So it was just more of a personal challenge.

MIKE: It's really just more of our style, too. It wasn't a super hard decision to make. We probably would have been doing it like this anyway. We've always leaned toward the more subtle type of humor, as opposed to over-the-top.

MATT: But when we get our sketch comedy show, dude, there's going to be so many swears!

The remainder of the interview is under copyright, but can be viewed at the official site of the interview, listed under the external links.

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