Homestar Runner

 By Shamus Jun 20, 2012 52 comments

splash_homestar.jpg

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a huge fan of Homestar, Strong Bad, and the rest of the inhabitants of Free Country, USA. I love the world. I love the characters. I love the music. I’ve absorbed the website about as many times as a person can usefully do so.

I’ve played the videogame adaptation / spinoff, Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People. I regard it as some of the best comedy-adventure games available, right up there with the original Monkey Island. The games are arguably a fulfillment of the website itself – the culmination of a decade of in-jokes and ridiculous lore-building. I can’t objectively judge how well the games would work for someone new to Homestar, but for a long-time fan they were a concentrated dose of humor and ridiculosity.

(I even used the game as an excuse to do my own crossover mashup… thing.)

homestar_everybody.jpg

But the Brothers Chaps are apparently done with the project. It’s been a couple of years since the last major toon, and even longer since we could count on any kind of regular updates. The reason usually given is that the guys got married and had kids. I’m sure that’s true, but as I look over their final stretch of content I can’t escape the notion that besides being too busy to work on it, the creators were probably sick of the whole thing. The final year+ of remashes, re-hashes, computer smashes, mustaches, and diaper rashes looks like a long battle to avoid falling into a rut. Instead of making another email about how Strong Bad types with boxing gloves, they introduced the idea that Homestar was also doing emails all along. The ridiculous number of variations and alternate versions of the same character makes it seem like they were fighting to do something new with the material. It’s like when a sitcom introduces a new character late in its run: The writers have told all the jokes they can think of with the existing cast, and their only choice is to shake things up and hope it leads them somewhere fresh and interesting.

homestar_xeriously.jpg

If this is the case, then I suppose it’s good that they stopped when they did. I’d much rather enjoy the universe as it is than see it driven into the ground with exhausted gags and ouroboros loops of self-reference passed off as “jokes”. I suppose the haters could reasonably claim this is already the case, but it never got to the point where it stopped being funny for me. I’m not happy to see it end, but it was a good run while it lasted. We got over 200 emails and almost 700 toons out of the thing before it went dark, so I guess I can’t complain it died prematurely. (And Matt Chapman even hinted that they might return to it one of these days.)

I’ve been in the mood for some Homestar lately, so as a way of squeezing a little more out of the site I’ve been working my way through the Homestar Runner Wiki, an exhaustively detailed and meticulously cross-referenced archive that covers every toon and character, and makes a heroic effort to catalog every concept, running gags, location, and object. It’s an amazing labor of love, and a great way of finding all the little hidden toons and Easter eggs on the site.

Thanks for all the hard work you put into the wiki, internet people. Also thanks to Mike, Matt, and Missy for creating this confusing, charming, pants-defying little world.


20201252 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. AbruptDemise says:

    Ah, the Homestar Runner Wiki. I remember spending countless hours there (and the main site) when I found out about it, going back and looking at all the easter eggs. Even though the series is ended, it still feels satisfying. They didn’t leave off with loose plot threads – more so because they didn’t really have any – and they didn’t try and come back with new episodes that you had to pay money to watch. I’m looking at you, Bonus Stage.

  2. Dude says:

    …and an extra special thanks for the Strong Bad plays guitar episode. Nothing else–and I mean nothing else–has made me laugh to the point of tears. (Okay, the Behind The Music That Sucks episode about Celine Dion came close.)

  3. Mumbles says:

    There are few things in this world that delight me as much as an obscure Homestar reference.

  4. Sagretti says:

    I used to love Homestar Runner and was sad when I found out it was pretty much discontinued, but I agree it’s good they got out before the quality suffered. Pretty much every animated comedy these days, whether made for adults or kids, seem to run into the problem of running way, way past the point where the creators have enough good ideas left.

    Actually, another reason I’ll miss Homestar is that it was entertaining without resorting to the current trend in animation of cynicism and weird for the sake of weird. I mean, it wasn’t a normal website by any means, but I never got that feeling that the creators were tripping on illegal substances while making everything, and it was definitely very positive.

  5. Hal says:

    Shamus, you summed up my own feelings on it: Miss it, wish it was still going, but glad they didn’t turn it into crap. Sadly, the web is a much different place now than when Homestar and company first showed up; there’s no telling how they’d be received these days.

  6. Draxom says:

    When I was in college my room-mate was a BIG strong-bad fan. He had actually recorded(on VHS) alot of the email segments and would play them every night. According to him it was the only way he could get to sleep. That sort of ran the whole homestar site into the ground for me.

  7. Mark says:

    Matt Chapman is now a full-time writer and director for the TV shows Yo Gabba Gabba and The Aquabats, no doubt drawing on his experience with Homestar Runner, so I imagine that leaves little time for side projects of a creative nature. Not sure what Mike Chapman’s excuse is.

  8. Jeff #3 says:

    There’s an Aquabats TV show? And one of the Brothers Chaps works on it?

    HOLY CRAP! This must be investigated!

  9. Alex says:

    I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I was introduced to that website.

    I feel like I should be picking out a casket or something…

  10. Jimmy Bennett says:

    Man, this reminds me of a story from my current gaming group. I DM a small D&D group (3 players). One session I made a joke about the Strongbad text-adventure game. I said, “You cannot get ye flask.” I got blank stares all around the table. Nobody got the joke. Finally I said, “You know, from Homestar Runner.”

    At that moment one of my players’ loudly exclaimed, “Oh wow, that takes me back to seventh grade.” I knew I was the old man of the group but this really drove the age difference home for me. I didn’t get into Homestar Runner until my fourth year of college and this guy was apparently watching it in middle school.

    I’ll share this extra detail so the rest of you can feel old with me. That guy in my group who was watching Homestar Runner in the Seventh grade? He just graduated from College this week.

  11. HK says:

    I loved this back in the day.

    Its happened several times in my life when I have just started going the system is down and then someone near by just breaks in the beat and within a few seconds we have the whole techno song going. so much fun

    Also I have definitely turned in his English paper once

  12. Spammy says:

    If you want to know how well SBCGFAP worked for people who weren’t familiar with the franchise, the answer is… pretty well. I’d never really watched any of the toons before playing the first episode, and haven’t really done an archive binge at all, but I played through all five episodes and loved them. Every now and then I still say, “Dangerous or… Dangeresque?”

  13. Well said good sir. Homestar Runner was for web-animation what Calvin and Hobbes was for newspaper comic strips. It embodied a look back at an age which had already disappeared (the 80s visual culture, and 60s suburbia respectively) through an odd set of eyes. Really both works were an exploration of human nature more than anything else.

    I think my favorite is still “Virus” email. It’s funny on the surface, it exposes and plays with the conventions of the medium under that, and at the bottom it makes some really potent points about the dangers of personifying computers and getting lost in electronic media.

    What made Homestar Runner so memorable for me was that it was so quotable. There are uncountable phrases which (though funny and sensible in their own context) carried with them a larger context of amusement, frustration, or confusion applicable in many real life situations. Quoting HR became (for me and my brothers) a way to reference a whole conceptual space of comical outrage at the absurdity of modern life.

    Ultimately, it became one huge inside joke. Perhaps “the” inside joke of the internet. And, like Calvin and Hobbes, I’m glad it was put to rest before it became worn out.

  14. Zagzag says:

    This is maybe a being a British 18 year old thing, but I have NO IDEA what any of that stuff you just said is about. I could probably find out fairly easily, what with this being the internet and all, but since I don’t finish exams until tomorrow, I’ll just leave you with my confusion, and put it on my list of things to find out about.

    • X2Eliah says:

      Myeeah, same here. The most exposure I’ve had to this whole homestar thing was watching an episode or two of a silent let’s play of that strong bad game.

      Idk. Felt pretty bottom-scraping mediocre – though I bet it was just nothing more than thematic-reference-fest disguised in a game form.

      • Zagzag says:

        I literally didn’t even know there was such a thing as Homestar Runner before this post. My only exposure to it was reading Shamus’ Stolen Pixels comic thing, and I was just confused when I read that.

    • Cuthalion says:

      [I apologize if this is a duplicate comment.]

      You need to look it up as soon as you get a chance, go the the “sbemail” section of the site, and watch the following:

      “dragon”

      and, if you don’t despise that one

      “japanese cartoon”

      Those were my intro to it and I think are good ones. Plus it’ll explain Trogdor. Who, if you haven’t heard, is a man.

      Well… actually, he was a dragon man.

      Well… actually, he was really just… a dragon.

      But he was still TROGDOOOOOR!.

      (Just watch it.)

  15. Ravens Cry says:

    I’ve never been the worlds biggest fan, but it’s nice to take a bite out of the supreme apple of Internet surreality now and then.

  16. False Prophecy says:

    I haven’t been to HSR in years; I’m actually surprised the site was still going. But it’s still sad to hear it confirmed. Those videos and emails were genius, and although I never played the Strong Bad game, I thought Peasant’s Quest was a brilliant send-up of Sierra On-line games. My girlfriend still has “The System is Down” as her ringtone.

    • Mr Guy says:

      But…but….but….

      If you can hear the ringtone, that is proof ipso facto that the system is NOT down. It’s up. Up, I say!

      This whole exercise is intellectually bankrupt.

  17. Mr Guy says:

    My single favorite thing about SBCG4AP was a line from the trailer. “Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People. But YOU can play TOO!”

    I work this into conversation all the time. “Hey, dude, all the cool kids are going to lunch now. You can come too.” It’s a great semi-stealth put down/obscure reference that keeps on giving.

  18. Shrikesnest says:

    I became a fan of Homestar Runner literally the week that the Trogdor email hit (January of 2003!? Holy hell!), which was early enough in the site that an archive binge wasn’t daunting. Over the years, this allowed me to experience the site in its optimal form, watching the running gags evolve naturally and play off each other. I’m guessing the whole “DNA Evidence” thing wouldn’t be very funny to someone who just looked it up now, but at the time it was something pretty special.

    What I’m most amazed at is the incredibly dense interconnection in a series that technically has no continuity whatsoever. I guess I would say the modern work that most reminds me of Homestar at its peak is Phineas and Ferb at its best – the individual episodes are pretty entertaining, but the real entertainment value is in the massive accrual of references and inside jokes that are eventually hilarious in aggregate, just by the sheer combined mass of them. And all without any ongoing plot or storyline or even terribly deep characterization. Deceptively difficult to pull off as a writer.

  19. Vekni says:

    I cannot begin to express how much I love Homestar Runner and how it helped me keep my sanity during a particularly rough transitional patch of a few years in young adult life. While I’m sad to see it go so long without updates, I can’t begrudge them wanting to (and being able to!) do other things and I’d rather they do what makes them happy than force out crap.

  20. Mr Guy says:

    So, at risk of starting The Thread With No Bottom, let’s consider the flip side. I believe Shamus’ premise is that HSR went out at the right time – before it got stale or beat itself into the ground. What are other similar endeavors that chose the other path – went on way longer than they should have, and suffered for it?

  21. ccesarano says:

    Here I thought they were still updating. At some point during College I stopped checking for updates, and I wish I had kept up. Hearing that they stopped updating is upsetting, mostly because I can’t imagine them doing anything nearly as fulfilling as a profession. Unless it was to move on and create other things.

    I wish they had their cartoons collected on DVD so I could watch it all with my niece in an easier format.

    • Ambitious Sloth says:

      I’m pretty sure they do. In fact it seems that they do!

      Huzzah!

      • ccesarano says:

        Whoo! Things changed since I last looked it up! That or I suck at Googling.

        Either way, kick ass!

        Unfortunately, the first three Strong Bad e-mail DVDs are sold out.

        Now the real question is: do I give them all to my niece as a birthday present or keep them for myself? D:

    • Shrikesnest says:

      In fact, they do. They sell several DVD collections (we’re talking nearly 700 flash videos here, so…) They are divided between the Strong Bad Email collections and The Rest Of The Stuff. I think there are three or four volumes of each. They include all the easter eggs and goodies, as well as several extras only available on the DVDs. I’d throw you a link, but I’m not sure what the rules about commercial links are here. It’s available from their store on the main site.

      EDIT: Ninja’d. Hey, looks like it’s all on sale for half price right now, which means you can get the whole shebang for like forty bucks.

  22. Psithief says:

    I like how deceptively well researched* this is. Hyperlinks forever!

    (*Brief but accurate)

  23. PhoenixUltima says:

    I might draw a lot of hate for this, but I got tired of Homestar Runner WAY before they called it quits. Like, I stopped watching shortly after the “virus” sbmail. Why? Because as odd as it sounds, the series was falling into a weird kind of formula. “Strong Bad gets a dumb email, makes fun of it, RANDOM WACKINESS ENSUES”. And it was a good formula for a while, but it got old eventually. So yeah, I liked HSR for a good while (hell, my default signature for new places is “I’m the captain of the gravy train!”), but it was old well before this.

  24. RCN says:

    I never really saw the appeal of Homestar Runner. I’ve visited the site a few times, to know what the fuzz is all about but… no matter where I tried to look I didn’t find it at all engaging. I guess it is just not my cup of tea… not good when the biggest impression you’re left of most of the characters is unbearably obnoxious.

  25. Urthman says:

    One of many things that impress me about the Brothers C is the way the voice guy not only has distinctive voices for all the characters, he can do Strong Bad doing a recognizable impersonation of any of the characters that’s still totally Strong Bad.

    Of the games, the 4th one about Dangeresque is my favorite if only for the brilliant framing device of the “characters” in the game being acted out in a “let’s make a home movie” spirit by the actual characters. I can’t think of another video game that’s ever done anything like that. Unless you count the way Zelda: Majora’s Mask reused many of the character models from Ocarina of Time to be completely different characters, as if the models were actors playing different roles in each game.

  26. Cuthalion says:

    Shamus, this post makes me actually satisfied that there aren’t any new homestar shenanigans. Thank you.

    (Also, Shamus likes Strongbad! Yes!)

  27. [...] it is official: Homestar Runner is no more. Well, not exactly “no more” in that the site is still there and you can watch all the [...]

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  1. [...] it is official: Homestar Runner is no more. Well, not exactly “no more” in that the site is still there and you can watch all the [...]

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