Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Round Two - Write!

OK, the title's not the best pun I've ever made. No, the best pun I ever made was...oh, yes, I promised I'd keep the posting shorter this time.

I came late to the Homestar Runner party. But that's OK, because this party never peters out, or pauls, er, palls, but stays ever mary. Merry. Sorry about that. I mean really late to the party - I remember a friend praising the merits of the site to me way back in the Precambrain Age, by which I refer to high school, and the site got its start in 2000. For whatever reason though, I didn't actually visit it until a year or so ago. Too bad - I could've used the laughs eight years ago. At least laughter doesn't spoil.

Whatever my writing talents, descriptive prose is not my forte. This may be an inevitable conseqence of so many childhood activities and attitudes, including a deeply-ingrained resentment of all descriptive passages in fiction as being boring distractors from the all-important parts where things actually happen. Perhaps that lack of interest in imagining the scene according to the author's specifications has to do with my poor drawing skills. Anyway, it's one thing to have no desire to describe the lavish interior of the mansion the protagonist has just entered and is about to destroy in a whirlwind of a fight scene with his mortal foe, and quite another to be unable to review something thoroughly because of not knowing how properly to assess it. So here's another way this little blog of mine, which I assure you I intend to let shine, can help me out, by forcing me to write in a style to which I am unaccustomed. Back to Trogdor...er, Homestar Runner.

Of course, anyone attempting to describe the workings of homestarrunner.com has a disadvantage going in because it's so bizarre. Probably the best way to tackle the fearsome task of classifying it is as (webimation?) something of an animated, short-based sitcom. A very, very silly animated, short-based sitcom. Although the website is named after Homestar Runner, the real star of the show is Strong Bad, a diminuitive, pudgy...something, clad like a Mexican wrestler, only don't ask him to take off his mask, because it's not a mask. And don't ask him how he answers those emails with boxing gloves on. There are a lot of things to watch and do on the website - short and longer cartoons to watch, games to play, a podcast to download, and who knows what else because I've been too busy with what I consider the lynch pin of homestarrunner.com, the Strong Bad Email, or as he likes to call it, sbemail. What sounds like a relatively static experience - you the reader/viewer send Strong Bad an email on any topic and he answers it - is anything but. Not only is the whole process of reading the email out loud and then vocalizing the answer while composing it animated (and filled with sarcastic commentary by Strong Bad, who has no truck with poor grammar and syntax and likes to play with names, generally at the sender's expense), but every answer is accompanied by another lavish animation in which Strong Bad engages in some sort of shenanigans with his compatriots (not that he'd ever call them that). These include Homestar, who is rather stupid and the most-frequent butt of Strong Bad's jokes, but who has his own sly humor and occasionally gets the best of the situation; Marzipan, the resident female and Homestar's sometimes-girlfriend; Strong Bad's two brothers Strong Mad and Strong Sad, whose names sum them up fairly well, and the Cheat, homestarrunner.com's own Snoopy, who despite being technically a pet spends much of his time producing music videos on his Apple-style laptop, doing DJ-duty at the local nightclub, and helping out Strong Bad in his crazy adventures. There are more characters of course, such as Homesar, whom I won't describe but you should get a good idea of the site's sense of humor when I tell you that this entertaining (albeit one-note) being was born out of a typo from a sbemail.

The emails range in length, but never exceed several minutes. And what you can't really appreciate until you've watched many of them is how much love and care goes into each one - each of these characters is perfectly voiced (Homestar's distinctive speech and intonation is a comedy goldmine in and of itself), and the animation is fantastic: far better than you would ever expect of an independent, non-commercial (at least initially) product. It's not on the level of The Simpsons by any means, but it's always believable and entertaining. There's often original music (or even the aforementioned music videos), not to mention an abundance of easter eggs, special content you can only find by moving the mouse over the screen until it indicates a hidden link (generally a suggestive word or object).

And it's always, always funny. There are close to two hundred sbemails now, and no duds. Most make me laugh (or at least grin like a maniac) all the way through. Everything is permeated with sly, good-natured humor and pop-culture references, all of which is clean. There's the occasinal crude joke but it never gets crass - you won't find any profanity or anything even remotely objectionable, other than sometimes-heavy use of the word "crap." Probably teens and the college-crowd will appreciate the tone of the humor most (Red Skelton this is not), but the jokes are often clever enough to appeal to anyone. At least, I think so. Check out one of my favorites here.

Of course, what you really should do is quit work and family time, and probably sleeping and eating just to be safe, and watch all the emails from the beginning onward. There is some (little) development, and it's my impression that everything else on the site sprung out of the events of the emails. Plus it's the only way you'll really understand the characters, and you want really to understand the characters. Or at least have some laughs. Which the emails will provide.

Guess the note on the names will have to wait. But one of the early possibilities was Blogdor.

The best joke I ever made (recently) was that this posting would be shorter. That was hilarious.

1 comment:

Jennie said...

I can't tell you how much time I spent in high school watching Strong Bad emails. My favorite past time was using my science teacher's computer after class to look up the latest email and watch it while he glared viciously at me from the other side of the room. (Mr. Thurston hated homestarrunner.com with a deep, fiery passion.) Many good times were had. I'm glad you've discovered the excellence. My personal favorite remains the "Virus" email.