Life has classics of many kinds. There’s classic literature, classic rock, and older films are considered classics. But the meme-riddled internet moves pretty quickly, and many of the internet’s original viral sensations have sunk into near obscurity. Hence, much of the nascent Interweb’s original hilarity is entirely unknown to a younger generation. But it isn’t all Hampster Dance and Three Wolf Moon. Welcome back to my segment, Internet Classics. Homestar Runner is a major internet rabbit-hole.
If you’ve never heard of Homestar Runner, you either weren’t online in the early 2000s, or else you just plain missed out. It was easily the best entry in the flash cartoon genre that was popular on the early internet. Its nonsensical and surreal cartoons were full of absurd references and hilarious callbacks. Prepare for a deep-dive.
The Homestar Runner website began as a flash cartoon site run by Mike and Matt Chapman (previously) also known as The Brothers Chaps. Its primary feature quickly became “Strong Bad Emails,” or SBEmails. The site’s cast of characters included the Brothers Strong: Strong Bad, Strong Mad, and Strong Sad. Each week, Strong Bad would answer an email from a fan, usually making fun of the emailer’s punctuation and spelling. Nearly twenty years ago, I watched the emails rabidly, consuming each as soon as it was released. Today’s YouTube variants are largely adequate, but they do lack the interactivity and pizazz of the original Flash cartoons.
I re-watched a few dozen Homestar Runner cartoons in preparation for this article, and managed to come up with my own ten personal favorites to share. I had very much wanted to include “Interview” because it showcases how wonderfully stupid Homestar Runner can be, much in the same way that Homer Simpson’s own stupidity has often been showcased. I’d also wanted to include “Techno”, if just for the music. But we’re down to only ten of my favorites, so here they are:
#10: Strong Bad Email #80: “Stunt Double”
Strong Bad’s movie series Dangeresque is what every movie created by ’80s kids on VHS looks like. It brings to mind what the kids in Super 8 were doing, or perhaps Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.
#9: Strong Bad Email #81: “Date”
This email examines what happens when Homestar Runner goes on a date with his girlfriend Marzipan. It includes two of my all-time favorite bits from Homestar Runner: The Cheat being scared by a cardboard cutout of a bear holding a shark, and Homestar kicking Marzipan under the table while pretending not to know what’s going on. It also includes the dumbest game ever invented.
“Kind of Cool” is notable for one thing: the introduction of Señor Cardgage, the 60-something-year-old Strong Bad clone. He’s described as “extremely sketchy,” and then shown to be exactly that. It doesn’t stop Strong Bad from thinking he’s kind of cool.
This SBEmail is where HomestarRunner.com’s famous Teen Girl Squad originated. When a fan asks Strong Bad to write a comic about her and her friends, he devises this hilarious take on “dumb girls” from the perspective of an adolescent boy. The hand-drawn comic mostly involves the teen girls’ inane antics, and generally ends with most of them dying bizarre and unlikely deaths.
Does Strongbadia have a standing army? Not really. Who would they fight when the opposition consists of Homestar Runner, the painting of a guy holding a knife from SBEmail #9, Strong Sad, Homsar, and a popcorn air popper named Benedetto. It’s so delightfully ridiculous. Highlights include:
- “See if those trees you’re always huggin save you when Gordon Lightfoot’s creepin round your back stair!“
- The Cheat first insisting on being called Firebert
- “I dunno. Maybe there is a goodminton“
- “DO YOU HAS?”
#5: Strong Bad Email #75: “Funny”
This is one that my kids are constantly replaying and laughing at. They like the silly noises and nonsense talk. Me? I’m fond of hushed fearful discussions about the prospect of ketchup bombs.
#4: Strong Bad Email #72: “Crazy Cartoon”
When you take a cartoon that’s already as absurd as Homestar Runner and ask for something crazy, the result is severely over the top. This episode introduces Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes, the insane cartoon featuring “Hey Steve” being chased by a wheelchair. But the best part is the dialogue in The Cheat’s cartoon at the end.
#3: “Cool Things”
Wait. Not a Strong Bad email? Nope, this one isn’t. But it’s just flat out good. At this point, the characters of Homestar Runner have been well developed, and The Brothers Chaps have honed their sense of humor. Jokes abound.
Homestar paints “Cool Tapes” on Marzipan’s wall (because he likes cool tapes, of course) and absurd hilarity ensues. I love the death hole, the “after the fifth grade” jokes, and the bag of four grapes.
#2: Strong Bad Email #58: “Dragon”
The Strong Bad email that created Trogdor would likely be at the top of many lists of this kind. It’s probably the most popular Strong Bad Email in existence. They’ve released a Trogdor video game and a physical Trogdor board game. The song from this episode ended up in Guitar Hero 2, and I was delighted when Trogdor was referenced in an episode of The Magicians.
#1: “Strong Bad is in Jail Cartoon”
My favorite is again, not a Strong Bad Email. But in the vein of Cool Things, this one is just plain good, written by the Brothers Chaps at the height of their powers, with mature characters and non-stop jokes.
The beginning reminds me a lot of the Strong Bad Email “Caper,” but then it just goes. In a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, including pretty much all the characters in the Homestar Runner cast, including Benedetto. And then they kind of tie everything together. Easily one of my favorites. I mean, how can you not love biscuit dough hands man?
Holy cow, I’ve reached the end and somehow haven’t even mentioned Limozeen??!? If nothing else, this proves how insanely deep Homestar Runner’s humor catalog runs. Starting in SBEmail #16, the Brothers Chaps introduced a number of fictitious bands, including Jaranchula, Bigg Nife, and their most famous, the hair metal band Limozeen. Its members Larry, Gary, Harry, Mary, Terry, and Barry are played by the Brothers Chaps themselves and their friends, all wearing long blonde wigs. Since then, Limozeen has been in more emails than I can easily count. They have their own Limozeen coloring book, Thanksgiving E-Cards, and a parody of the “what can we do with this cartoon now?” thing they did with Josie and the Pussycats back in the ’80s, Limozeen, But They’re in Space!
Best of all, the Brothers Chaps organized an actual Limozeen concert back on March 27, 2008. Please enjoy this official video for Because It’s Midnite by Limozeen.